A group intent on “rehabilitating” the swastika had a genius plan Sunday afternoon: flying a banner with a big ol’ swastika on it over a portion of the shoreline, where it was spotted by beachgoers in Long Island, Rockaway Beach, and Coney Island. No possible way that could be misconstrued! Nope!
The tweets started coming in around 11:30 a.m., when sunbathers looked up in the sky, squinted, and said, roughly, “What in the fuck?”
A swastika peace happiness banner with flew by at the beach……. #what
— Melissa Pike (@MelissaaPike) July 21, 2013
Just saw a plane fly past the beach with a swastika flag
— Dylan Sarnataro (@ItalianDylann) July 21, 2013
At the beach a plane dragging a banner that says “swastika = peace + love http://t.co/gp5eLKkgNP” just flew by…what the actual f
— Erin Armo (@gottarunERINS) July 21, 2013
Good question, young lady! We’ll tell you what the actual F. Sunday was the fourth annual “Swastika Rehabilitation Day,” according to ProSwastika, the site on the aforementioned banner. The gist of the “holiday,” if we can call it that, is that before the swastika was a Nazi symbol, it was a Sanskrit one, and it’s simply not fair to let the mean old Nazis appropriate the whole thing.
We’ll let the ProSwastikateers take it from here:
The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika (in Devanagari, स्वस्तिक), meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- (cognate with Greek ευ-, “eu-“), meaning “good, well,” and asti, a verbal abstract to the root as “to be”; svasti thus means “well-being.” The suffix -ka forms a diminutive, and svastika might thus be translated literally as “little thing associated with well-being”.
The swastika symbol is one of the oldest symbols on the Earth and can be found in all religions and traditions, on all continents!
“We want to fully rehabilitate this symbol that’s so dear to billions of people,” Thomas Kaenzig explained in a press release on the site. He’s the president of the ProSwastika Alliance. He also believes in aliens.
Really. To make this story weird, in addition to being kind of offensive: The people behind the Ill-Advised Swastika Plane are part of a “UFO religion” called Raelism. Kaenzig is a Raelian Guide, one of the top levels in the group’s spiritual hierarchy. The swastika is apparently special to the religion “because it intertwines with two interlocking triangles to form the Raelian symbol,” according to their highly enjoyable website.
Raelianism was founded in the ’70s (of course). Their spiritual leader is Rael, previously named Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon, a French former sports car journalist whose encounter with an extraterrestrial being in a volcano park led to the founding of his new religion. If this io9 piece is anything to go by, Swastika Day is probably the least weird thing they’ve done lately. They believe life on earth was created an extraterrestrial species called the Elohim. In 2002, they claimed to have cloned a human baby . In 2006, they announced plans to build a special Pleasure Hospital in Burkina Faso, designed to rebuild the clitorises of women who underwent female genital mutilation. They support the rights of topless people. They put out a lot of press releases.
It’s all probably quite well-meaning. But still: once the Nazis touch something, we’re just not sure it can be untouched. Might have to just let this one go, guys.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 23, 2013