Friday, May 28, 2010

Symbols: Painful Denotations

RVCBard highlights some epic stupidity (via this one). Yup, that's what racism and ignorance look like. Not much to say that doesn't fall under "WTF" and "Fire Her."

I did notice RVCBard's note at the end:
Now I'm just waiting for the day when "God Hates Fags/Dykes" posters aren't homophobic and hateful, but ironic. Funny, even.
I have to say, personally, one of the greatest mysteries that never got solved for me when I was in Europe is, why is the Swastika a symbol of everything that is evil and hate-filled, and the Hammer and Sickle is just an amusing bauble of a by-gone era? It's not because Hitler was more evil or more crazy than Stalin -- I mean, whether or not one wins over the other, they both concentrate practically lethal amounts of murder, hatred, and paranoia. It's not because of time -- Hitler is more distant in memory than the excesses of the Soviet Union (which was rounding up people and invading nations even until the 1980s.

And I mean, it's the same for me. I must admit that I am not offended by the hammer and sickle -- I have the odd ironic t-shirt.

And it's not the I'm-Jewish-so-Nazism-affects-me-more-directly thing; after all, most of my family was wiped out by the Polish and Russian pogroms, whereas they largely avoided the Holocaust. It's not an American bias either -- in the Czech Republic, you can still buy Soviet hats and military garb, whereas if you tried to find a street vendor to sell you Nazi paraphernalia -- good luck.

I'm at a loss to understand why, universally, swastika = ARGH and hammer/sickle = meh. Was it Gorbachev? Did he mystically rehabilitate the hammer/sickle by letting the USSR end with a whimper rather than a bang?

So I don't know if we'll ever be able to laugh about God Hates Fags. There was a short period where the KKK was supposedly laughed at after being used in a children's radio show of Superman (although Wikipedia is not convinced), but this lady's numb-nutted behavior notwithstanding, a burning cross remains not a punchline.

Of course, with some effort, you can still have a Producers-style laugh at White Supremacy's expense. Here's Esquire quoting Neo-Nazis who endorse Obama:
"White people are faced with either a negro or a total nutter who happens to have a pale face. Personally I’d prefer the negro. National Socialists are not mindless haters."


Ian Thal said...

I think that the difference is that despite the evils of communism, the hammer and sickle still represent the best ideals of that movement: that of the dignity and solidarity of all workers. Even in much of the United States, there is some recognition of the idealism of the movement.

The symbol supports ironic statements because it represents both the highest ideals and most horrific atrocities of the movement.

That said, there's a pub in my neighborhood named "The People's Republik" and I will not go inside because of those atrocities.

CultureFuture said...

Maybe... but still, on East 4th Street there's a place called KGB Bar... it's not as though the KGB represents any "high ideals," but nobody would open a bar called "Stasi Bar" or "SS Bar."

I think you may be onto something specifically about the hammer and sickle when it comes to the hipster embrace of ironic communism, but I feel as though that irony wouldn't be humorous in the Eastern bloc.

Ian Thal said...

"I feel as though that irony wouldn't be humorous in the Eastern bloc."

Precisely why I won't patronize The People's Republik. I know far too many people who grew up in Warsaw-pact countries.

But leaving aside the sort of unreformed communist who still engages in apologetics for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, there are a great many people for whom that Bolshevik nostalgia amounts to "right ideals, wrong leaders" an argument much harder to make with Fascism and Naziism