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  • J.A. Willoughby

Santa Claus And Swastikas!? - It's fake! Nope. And it was printed in the United States.

Whoa, team! Halt, Donner und Blitzen!

“Is that a grouping of evil swastikas I see surrounding one of our most beloved, happy, generous and cheerful mythical figures??”

“Why, yes, it is – swastikas that is. As for the 'evil' part, well - ”

“Oh, so it must be fake, then. Someone is trying to make some political point and traumatize and confuse our children in the process!”

“No, actually, it's authentic. And it is from an American newspaper dated December 18, 1924.”

“Whaaaaaat?? How is that even possible??”

“I am glad you asked that question...”

So where did I get this confusing and mysterious Christmas advertisement, you ask?

It was under the old sheet linoleum in my great uncle's house.

“OMG! WTF?? Why? Was he a Nazi hiding this from the U.S. government!?”

No. That's what you did with newspapers back then when you put down new linoleum. The newspapers kept the underside of the linoleum from sticking to the floor boards. This is a part of one such newspaper, along with many others laid decade by decade, on top of each other. When I pulled it up, it was like a time capsule right under my feet. Also, in the same house was a decorative piece of felt that my great aunt was sewing into a quilt top along with other decorative happy symbols.

“Wait!” you say? Okay, you did ask where the ad came from, right? Well, I guess I'll have to go back a bit further to tell you how it got printed in an American newspaper in the first place. Strap in, we're going for a ride back in time. Way back...

Long ago and far away, somewhere in space a galaxy started spinning. In the process of doing so, trailing its “arms” as it did. Much later still, it is common belief that ancient tribes saw this image in the night sky all over the planet, and, thinking it a message from a powerful heavenly host, scribbled it in the sand and on cave walls from Eurasia to the Americas. It was a new symbol, one from above. And it was perceived as good.

The symbol, now known as the swastika, was seen not only by a few of the ancients, but was found spread across the globe – and even carved in rock in the western United States. Thousands of years later, it still retained its ancient message and was used by eastern religions as a sign of prosperity, good luck and good will, being carved unto temples and used as adornments on armor and swords. It was in such stead as a “good” decoration or design that in 1924, here is the United States, is was seen as happy enough to frame Santa and his sleigh in a customer's advertisement. It was used as a simple border, that's all.

The same can be said for other simple images or petroglyphs of ancient origin. The five pointed star, first seen on pottery dating from around 3500 BC, was through the centuries depicted as a good and an evil symbol, depending on which religious group you talked to. At one point, Christians said it represented the Five Wounds of Christ (if you discount the crown of thorns as a 'wound'). After The Inquisition it was viewed as a symbol of Satanism and devil worship. But it's still only a star - anyway you look at it. The roundel insignia, a rising sun and hinomaru of Japanese culture are all still really only ancient symbols that were appropriated for use by world governments for their use on flags and as markings on their war machines.


The United States Army 45th Infantry Division SSI (shoulder sleeve insignia) used

U.S. Army 45th infantry division insignia 1920-1939

the symbol. From 1920 the swastika was proudly worn by the Oklahoma-based division as a shoulder patch to honor Native Americans, many of whom served in that unit, and saw it as a good luck symbol. The patch was officially changed to the "Thunderbird" in 1939 because of the adoption of the same symbol by the NSDAP of Germany prior to WWII. The division fought with distinction in many campaigns during WWII and the Korean Conflict. It was disbanded in 1969.

What has changed? And why are those symbols perceived differently now? Because they were all misappropriated for political purposes. Wars happen because politicians fail. They fail on their ability to represent adequately and to solve problems. In recent times, they do the opposite – they create new problems. In the process, history – which is typically written by the victors – is rewritten, edited, suppressed, demonized. In recent years it has been a political trend to legislate against or attempt to eliminate altogether "offensive" symbols. The earliest I remember witnessing this was about thirty years ago when the swastikas were removed from the box art of model airplanes.

The concept is called negationism: the editing or rewriting of historical texts and constructs for the purpose of suiting or adhering to a particular political agenda. And it's not the first time in our world history that simple iconic ancient symbols were attacked, reused, misappropriated, condemned or otherwise manipulated by a relatively small group of people seeking control of the masses.

Will the swastika be forever linked to the Nazi Party of almost a century ago and be remembered as a symbol of 'evil'? Most likely - if we continue to allow the few to control the minds of the many. And in the process, our children's history will forever be negated and inaccurate. But it doesn't have to be.

If you choose your educators and politicians wisely, your children and grandchildren will have a much broader perspective on the world and the events contained therein – instead of harboring fear and living in torment of “evil offensive symbols” their entire lives, like their ancient cave-dwelling cousins did. Those ancients' beliefs, most of which originated and were propagated from the ignorance and superstitions of their tribal leaders, beget a symbol of good luck and good fortune from their “heavenly or celestial host” watching over them.

In the end, our current (originally published Dec 2015) “tribal leaders” continue to appease the few who are tormented, using and reinforcing their power, calling for these symbols, these shapes, to be abolished and taken out of the lives of the under-educated, minimally self-governed, ignorant and superstitious populace. Our tribal leaders are still doing their job: using their power by defining a simple ancient symbol or symbols and, in so doing, controlling a population – only now, the message has changed from “good” to “evil”. The thing is, the swastika and simple symbols like it are the same symbols of good fortune that were drawn on those cave walls thousands of years ago - or shared a space with Santa. The art hasn't changed - but it continues to receive "bad" reviews. ~ JW

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