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December 31, 2007


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Once saw the American swastika in a sign logo at an Internet cafe in Bucharest, part of a "nations of the world" thing.

I must find that bicolor toilet paper printer. You can get novelty black-and-white TP made, but it's not the same.

I've worn a uniform with the traditional winged swastika insignias, like everyone else who worked at the Air Force HQ.

I didn't find it bothersome, and neither did the Israeli officer delegation that visited the HQ once.

But other people have other problems.


J. J.

Whoa. Really? The Finnish air force uses swastikas on its insignia?

I am, I must admit, surprised. When did that begin?

Ah, the internet. Found my answer: adopted in 1918, abandoned in 1945 under pressure from the Allied Control Commission, although regiments and other units kept the symbol.

Intellectually, I understand it. Not Nazi, predates 'em, Von Rosen's good lunch charm, gotcha.

Emotionally, it gives me trouble. Given my personality, I strongly doubt that would change if I were Finnish, although I am sure that I could put aside my misgivings.

I would bet a very large sum of money that those Israeli officers found the symbolism /very/ bothersome, but that they were able to put aside their misgivings. If I'm wrong about that, tell me. The world is full of surprising things, and one should update ones theories to fit the facts. But right now, I have a theory about Israeli military officers that predicts: "They were warned to repress any anger that they might feel about the symbol and told that it predated the Nazis."

That is a very different thing from not finding it bothersome in the first place.

I'm still surprised that the Finnish air force didn't dump the symbol completely. It doesn't have particularly deep roots; less deep than, say, the 45th Infantry, which did indeed get rid of it.

"We don't care if it's come to symbolize killing Jews and torturing dissidents; we had it first," seems a rather, well, odd attitude.

What am I missing, Jussi? Are Finns --- and yourself --- really that indifferent to the symbol's international meaning, or is there something you're not saying?

(Yes, I shoved the guy. Completely unprovoked, other than the shirt, I am ashamed to admit. But I don't begrudge myself the reaction, only the action.)

Yes, I shoved the guy.

The question is, did he shove back, or did you have the sense to knock him down hard enough that he didn't dare? :^)

In fact, Bernard, neither. I think that being accosted by a white guy yelling in Spanish was so unexpected that he didn't know how to react. Mike and Tom then deserve credit for interceding and protecting me from my own worst instincts.

Pat was involved in another incident, in which he found a more constructive way of protesting, which involved explaining, purchasing, and destroying the offending garment.

Third time was at a concert in the Foro Sol. By that point, I had realized that nothing was intended and no longer reacted with that punched-in-the-gut reaction.

Of course, as the owner of a hammer-and-sickle tie (given to me by a student) and a Che Guevara T-shirt, I must cop to probably having produced similar reactions in others.

"I must cop to probably having produced similar reactions in others."

Hey, it happens. I showed up for ROTC PT one time with a Pancho Villa t-shirt.

Actually, Noel, those Israeli officers were already quite aware of the history of the symbol, and not the slightest bothered by it. They were educated fellows, and knew the difference. I don't know why, but many aviation buffs across the world are interested in the history of the Finnish Air Force.

I suppose that their Israeli background may have also made it easier to accept the symbol. Why, they were also from a small country with a blue-white flag and a history of succesfully defending its independence against rather massive odds, no?

Besides, the symbol is different enough from the Nazi swastika. So I don't really know _why_ they should have been disturbed by it.

Also, even though the Air Force insignia has its own special history, the symbol actually does have deep roots in Finland. Much like with the Native Americans and Buddhists, you can find the symbol from old Finnish national costumes, inscriptions of Kalevala, and so on. The "Lotta Svärd"-organization, the Women's Auxiliary Defence Organization also used it as their symbol, and the old members of the organization still wear this insignia:


The Presidential regalia also includes the symbol. I remember that this caused certain problems when Kekkonen met de Gaulle. The French have, as one might expected, also commented on the Air Force symbol:


As for "indifference"... as stated, it's not the swastika of the NSDAP. Why should any of us be bothered? And yes, Noel, if you're not able to recognize the difference and still feel bothered by it, I think that it's really your problem.

("International meaning"? Apparently, this is once again one of those very exclusive definitions of "international", where the opinions of the "right" people do matter, and the opinions of those others don't. I thought that you had visited Nepal once?)

Since you're already in Spain, would you think that it would make any sense to immediately associate Semana Santa with the Ku Klux Klan? They also practice Crann Tara at some Scottish festivals still today, you know.


J. J.

Jussi, this is bad.

You are not trying to convince or explain. You are trying to show off your superiority. You may not intend that, but it is unbecoming nonetheless. /Especially/ when dealing with somebody whom you know.

I am a little angry at that, since I consider you a friend. You can imagine what my response to your snide and supercilious tone would be if I didn't.

The worst part, the part where you insult /a friend's/ intelligence and pretend to be both stupider and less empathic than you clearly are, is when you write, "The symbol is different enough from the Nazi swastika. So I don't really know _why_ they should have been disturbed by it."

I call bullshit, and I am angry that you would pull out this sort of pretense-of-incomprehension and dancing-with-details ploy with a friend.

You should know when to turn off the snark. This is very bad.

Hm. In that previous message of yours, you ventured to make a guess of the attitude of the Israeli officers. You also said that "if I'm wrong about that, tell me". Well, I did tell you, and I don't think that this part of the answer was insulting in any way. As I said, these people were familiar with the history due to their own profession, and they were able to tell the difference.

You also expressed surprise that the FAF didn't dump the symbol completely, because it "doesn't have particularly deep roots". I politely corrected you, and pointed out that the symbol does have deep roots, and appears also in many other contexts. For that matter, the insignia would have been kept even in the airplanes, had it not been for the Allied Control Commission's specific demands.

... and then, you proceeded to make a new projected interpretation of "We don't care if it's come to symbolize killing Jews and torturing dissidents; we had it first" and described it as an "odd attitude".

(I leave it for the outside observers to judge who was actually pretending to be more stupid and less emphatic than what he clearly is.)

And after I've provided that comment with the answer that it deserves, _you_ are now getting angry, and criticize me of "not turning off the snark"? This is irony. Quite frankly, Noel, if you really have such a short fuse, you should be a considerably more careful in your own statements, because, well, you reap what you sow.

As I said, the symbol is quite different enough from the NSDAP swastika, and the history of the symbol is also different. As it is, even the Finnish-Jewish women who served in the Lotta Svärd organization in wartime still wear their swastika-styled insignias in public, and they do it with obvious pride. That's just the way that things happen to be; it's a traditional symbol.

As for "not trying to convince or explain", can you guess how fed up I am with this idea that the country that I live in should be under some obligation to construct constant apologias regarding the Second World War, just so that people here and elsewhere could feel better? Especially when this attitude spreads even to old heraldic symbols.

Where's the _need_ to "convince or explain"? As I said, the symbol is different, its history is different, and that's it. Local traditions, just like with Buddhism and Hinduism. Your previous claim of "international meaning" is superfluous, when in the real world, even the European Union was forced to drop the proposed ban on swastika due to the opposition of the Hindu groups in Britain.

Call bullshit if you want to, and be as angry as you want to. I've provided an answer already, and the presumption that more should be given to satisfy a feigned indignation only makes me tired.


J. J.

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