Dear Readers: Remember the letter from "R.K. in Bel Air, Md.," asking me what he should do with the hand-knitted afghan that had a swastika in the middle? I told him I would throw it out. My response created a firestorm of criticism from readers all over. Keep reading for more detailed clobbering:
From Scottsdale, Ariz.: I disagree with you about what should be done with the afghan that had a swastika design. After living in the Southwest for many years, I learned that the swastika was used by the American Indians, as well as ancient cultures before them, as a symbol of life. Americans should teach their children that the swastika is an ancient religious symbol, respected by many early cultures.
Morrisville, Vt.: I am 12 years old and want to tell you that the swastika was originally a sign of peace and power. Actually, the word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit word, "Svasti," which means well-being. It was originally used in India.
Tempe, Ariz.: My old high school in Hibbing, Minn., has a hallway lined with tiny swastikas. Everyone in our school knew the symbols represented friendship.
Toronto: The swastika has been found on ancient Byzantine buildings, Buddhist inscriptions, Celtic monuments and Greek coins. It can be bent either clockwise or counterclockwise. Hitler preferred the clockwise pattern. The counterclockwise form was used among the Indians of North and South America.
Orange Park, Fla.: Your column in the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville showed both ignorance and prejudice. Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf" in 1925. He rose to power in 1933. There is no question that great-grandma's knitted afghan pre-dated Hitler. I hope you will fess up publicly.
Fayetteville, Pa.: The swastika (counterclockwise) is part of the Footprint of the Buddha, and embodies good fortune and virtue. In the written Chinese language, the swastika is commonly used to represent the number 10,000. Since the afghan was knitted long before the Nazi era, I highly doubt Granny was a closet fascist.
Concord, N.C.: A tribe of American Indians, the name of which is unknown to me, used the swastika as a symbol of good luck. If you will go to the International Automobile Museum in Reno, Nev., you will see some 1920s-era cars with swastikas on the radiators. The symbol is white on a black background.
Philadelphia: Hold it, Annie! Don't let those folks in Maryland throw out the afghan. Send it to me. I have been knitting for years, and will figure a way to transform the swastika into a wonderful design that will look like a beautiful flower.
Choctaw, Okla.: The swastika has a sacred and noble heritage among American Indian tribes going back centuries. It was the symbol for the Thunderbird, also known as the Phoenix.
Ontario, Canada: The swastika forms a combination of four "Ls," which stand for Luck, Light, Love and Life.
Eastlake, Ohio: The swastika is actually a cross with tipped wings, also called a "fylfot" when sitting squarely. The Nazi-era swastika was tilted on one corner.
Chicago: Please, please, don't let that couple throw out the afghan with the swastika. Suggest that they send it to the Chicago Historical Society. The folks there will showcase it properly.
Dear Chicago Friend: I have strong ties to, and great respect for the Chicago Historical Society. While they would have little interest in this afghan, they suggested the couple contact their local historical society. The origins of the swastika notwithstanding, it now represents the emblem synonymous with Adolf Hitler. We are talking about a madman who put 6 million Jews in gas chambers, and, I might add, many Catholics and Protestants, as well. So, pardon me if I am less than rational on this subject.
To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.