Swastika alarms

My peace of mind was disturbed this morning while reading some news about China.

The legions of bureaucrats who administer the communist party there are very persistent and patient in their endless control-freak proclamations.

While Marxist/Leninist ideology may have provided the operating principles for the People’s revolution of 1949 and the ensuing economic plans—the “great leap forward” and the “cultural revolution,” the modus operandi for Chinese nationalism has been quite different since Mao kicked the bucket in 1976.

It seems that the revisionism so meticulously implemented by the CCP since Deng took over is all about making money. The socialist version of capitalism has replaced the old abusive, now discredited Maoist doctrines. Many report that “to become rich is glorious” in China these days. And the “communist” party has jumped aboard this synthesized communo-capitalist bandwagon that so effusively fuels statist economies.

As you may suspect, however, and as current surreptitious reporting reflects, not every citizen in China is supportive of the party’s obsessive micromanagement. Notable among the many groups of Chinese dissidents today is the Falun Gong sect. It’s a contrarian movement that grows, in spite of official oppression, in leaps and bounds at an astoundingly prolific rate since its founding by Li Hongzhi in 1984.

This is what I was reading about, and watching on the NTDTV videos, this morning.

Having originated in the heart of China, the Falun Gong practitioners are a growing worldwide collection of gentle people. I know you’ve seen them in public parks or plazas–moving very slowly, controledly, in group-coordinated movements. Collectively, they look like a gathering of Jet Li karate enthusiasts played on one-tenth-speed. Their ancient qigong exercise discipline dates back to China’s Tang Dynasty, our middle ages. The devotees love to gather in public places in the major cities of the world and project their dance of grace upon surrounding air. I am actually quite pleasantly entertained whenever I encounter its gentle presence somewhere.

The peaceful movement was tolerated in China during the 90s; but its organizers, eschewing state control, chose to depart from official party partnership in 1996. Since that time, the Chinese government’s criticism of Falun Gong practice has escalated to blatant oppression, with imprisonment and torture for many practitioners.

It’s a sad, but predictable, development in a police state. The control-freak bureaucrats do not tolerate anything that remotely challenges their imposed groupthink. As I learned more about these persecuted Falun practitioners during my viewing of their videos this morning, my sympathy for their bold dissidence was interrupted when I saw the swastika on an interviewee’s breast. And I later noticed two more swastikas—one on the cover of their seminal book, the Zhuan Falun, and the other on a stage curtain at a public lecture by the founder, Li Hongzhi.

While the display of the swastika is perhaps no big deal to people of the Orient whose cultural heritage includes Buddhism and Taoism, the sight of it in the video disturbed me. A soft-spoken woman’s informative account of persecution was quite moving and persuasive, but upon noticing that crooked sign badge on her breast, I was distracted; its stark outline alarmed me as much as, or more than, her dire testimony about the cruel CCP imprisonment and torture that accompanied her belief/practice.

It reawakened the fears I had experienced last summer while viewing religious shrines in Sichuan province of China, where I saw the crooked symbol prominently displayed.

The use of swastikas does not set well with this ole boy from North Carolina.

My neighbors and relatives had bled and died to defeat the Third Reich that had been publicly driven by that symbol’s odd power. Yes, we know that Hitler usurped the strange thing and used it for his own demonic purposes.

But getting an unexpected visual on it works on you. Those critical associations do not just dissolve into some kind of rational acceptance. I find myself thinking that these people—all the millions of them, perhaps, should find themselves another symbol not possessing such destructive history.

But you and I both know it ain’t gonna happen.

I suppose that would be like asking a mountain of culture to move.

Or a volcano.

This world confuses me more every day. I don’t know whom to trust, between swastika-toting pacifists in China and Nazistic Israeli aggressors in Gaza, it all seems so upside down, not to mention the manipulated employment statistics in our own country.

I feel a little threatened by it all.


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