Friday, September 28, 2007


Several decades ago the Navy built a barracks complex designed to make efficient use of the available space and to provide convenience for the troops. Recently, somebody noticed that a Google satellite map of the complex shows it to bear a vague similarity to a swastika, so the Navy has allocated $600,000 to modify or disguise the shape. Stories at and,0,2973328.story?coll=la-home-center .

The swastika has been a symbol of peace and good will for many centuries. It appears in Hindu art, Grecian urns, Navajo pottery, Inca basketry, Persian rugs, monks' robes, cathedral floors, Celtic monuments, Nordic runes, Gothic architecture, and many other places.

For a short period during the twentieth century, the swastika appeared on the flag of an oppressive regime in Germany, the only known evil use of this symbol in all recorded history. For this reason it has now become a reviled symbol of hate. We have short memories, don't we?

Somebody's symbol of good will is likely to be offensive to somebody else. A five-pointed star (with a single point on top and two on the bottom) inscribed in a circle is a good-luck symbol to a certain minor religious cult but a symbol of evil to certain gospel-gobbling Christians. Another five-pointed star (with two points on top and one on the bottom) with a goat's head fancifully inscribed in it is another such symbol. There have actually been cases of people fired from their jobs for wearing simple ordinary jewelry containing one of these symbols.

The traditional Christian cross is a shape that was first introduced as a crucifixion device in 64 AD and therefore couldn't have been used to crucify Jesus. Exactly how it came to be the standard Christian symbol, nobody knows. It may have originated as the symbol of something else. Anyhow, it's offensive to people who remember Christianity as the main oppressive ruling regime during the Middle Ages. Wear a small cross as a piece of jewelry while visiting a Muslim country and see what kind of reception you get!

I'm sure I could find, amongst my earthly possessions, at least a dozen things whose shapes are offensive to somebody. All I can say is, sorry, but go stuff it. I can't reshape all my possessions to satisfy everybody.

I see no reason for the Navy to spend so much as a nickel trying to remodel its barracks complex.

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