This post is a little more personal and difficult than I thought it would be. But then again, core values shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Some quick background: There are amazing and beautiful designs in woven goods that are found in archaeological sites. And while we might think we know what a symbol meant to a people over a thousand years ago, symbols morph over time. Our modern history and modern climate only has one interpretation of a swastika or any host of similar bent-armed, four-prong symbols: It only means support for white supremacist and nazi group values.
And while highly advanced weaving techniques are admirable and worthy of pursuit, weaving any type of swastika shape and using that woven item in current day America will *always* carry the stigma of Nazi history.
Some people did just that: They commissioned hand-woven and hand-sewn clothing. Someone wove an accurate representation of a grave find from the 6th Century. Someone else hand-sewed some garments and attached the woven trim. And the recipients of the clothing and weaving wore the outfits and were photographed in them.
And then people started asking publicly (on the internet), was this a good idea? Should the ceremonial face of our group be seen in outfits adorned with swastikas?
There were several types of replies, also posted all over the internet (primarily on Facebook).
- (a) I’m personally hurt because I identify with a group that was/is discriminated against by those who still carry swastikas.
- (b) HELL NO, we should never look like we endorse racist and hateful symbols that are currently in use by groups that advocate violence and the eradication of other humans.
- (c) Wait, why is everyone so upset? This symbol is from *history* and we are an historical club that values learning and research! We didn’t mean anything racist, we just wanted to do *ART* for art’s sake!
- (d) Hey, stop picking on the artists and calling them nazis. You’re being a nazi for picking on them.
It went downhill from there.
But what really surprised many of us is that it seemed like a painful ripple locally, and then we were working towards solutions that would make most everyone happy again. (Well, maybe not “happy” but at least satisfied with the response.) Then the impact of our local ripple came back from the far reaches of *every* known “kingdom” throughout our society.
And the ripple that came back? A complete tsunami.
Screaming voices on the internet were DEMANDING the resignation of the two leaders in question, and even calling for their absolute ban from the group. Rumors abounded. Accusations flew. And the regional leaders resigned.
Then we had a new response group.
- (e) See what those terrible whiners did to us? They made this happen! Those whiners ruined everything! I hope they’re happy now that everything is ruined!
Um, excuse me? The people who first asked, “Um guys? A swastika? Really?” are the ones who ruined everything? No. Bad behavior ruined things for a while. Rumor and internet comments ruined things for a while.
You know the rule of thumb that says, “Don’t read the comments on the internet” because that’s where the worst of humanity shows itself? Here’s the fatal flaw when you apply that to Facebook: The entire premise of Facebook is in the Comments. You *could* try to avoid reading the comments, but then you’re not actually reading what’s going on in the discussions.
Now I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened. And I’m trying to find the love I had for my hobby. I love making yarn, spinning, weaving, and natural dyeing. But I was soured against some of my old textiles acquaintances. Some of them did not impress me “in the comments” on the internet. I chose to unfriend several because I was distressed by their conversations and did not want to have to emotionally bear the weight of their behavior anymore.
There were a lot of people for whom I used to enjoy doing event planning and administrative tasks so that everyone would enjoy the events even more. But I was soured against their accusations, defensiveness, and their anger. I watched a lot of arrogance, white privilege, and ignorance play itself out in the arguments. I don’t feel charitable toward whole groups of people, and I feel the loss of that old innocence of mine.
So, if I don’t want to spend time with some specific people anymore, do I even have it in me to spend time with the other people still there? There were FAR MORE people for whom I lost respect than I ever expected. Sure, some of them I wasn’t surprised at all. Some behavior was consistent. But other behavior was a surprise to me.
It is very likely I need to take up my own blame: Sometimes I assume that just because we’re in the same hobby, the same club, that we share some of the same values. And it hurts when that illusion is shattered.
I don’t know if I can find my way completely back. This entire experience will never leave me. I will never be the same.