One of things that, if the issues were not so serious, would be comical about the recent spate of actions by neo-Nazis and white supremacists is how they try to hide their true intent under innocent-sounding explanations. For example, we suddenly find that the people who oppose the removal of statues of Confederate heroes are really just ardent devotees of history, and their only interest is in making sure that the history of the country is accurately represented. Advocating racism? Oh, heavens, no! How could you possibly think that? Then there are those who want to wear or fly the swastika symbol. They stoutly deny that they are doing so to promote Nazi ideology but insist that it is merely a religious symbol.
Consider how Keith Lipiec, who got into trouble with his employer for flying the Confederate flag on his truck at his job worksite, defended his actions.
Lipiec claimed that he didn’t have any political views on what happened in Charlottesville.
“Yeah, some guy ran over a whole bunch of people, so be it. It happens every day,” he said.
“There’s good and there’s bad [with the flag] — same as the swastika, and the Nazis, and that flag. That was stolen from the religious people that actually believed in that symbol and everybody mistakes it for Hitler and the Nazis, and it’s not even true.”
Poor Lipiec, unjustly vilified when all he wants to do is correct historical distortions and restore the swastika to its rightful place as a religious symbol before it was ‘stolen’ by the Nazis.
It is true that the swastika originated as a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. But the Nazis thoroughly obliterated that association a long time ago. The swastika today, unless seen on ancient temples and documents that predate the Nazis, is undeniably associated with that ideology and, like the Confederate flag, is an unavoidable symbol of racism.
Gerald Horne, a professor of history at the University of Houston, told CBC News in a previous interview that the Confederate flag was flown in 1861 when southern states were trying to secede from America because they thought incoming president Abraham Lincoln would abolish slavery. This clash was one of several factors leading to the U.S. Civil War.
The flag was symbolic of preserving slavery, and that meaning remains today, Horne said.
“The confederate flag stands for slavery,” Horne said at the time. “It stands for backwardness. It stands for reactionary politics. It stands for going backwards.”
If people want to be associated with those symbols, they should own the meaning.