Matthew R. Larson, Mayor, City of Snoqualmie Washington – [email protected]snoqualmie.wa.us
Bob Larson, City Administrator, City of Snoqualmie, Washington – [email protected]
Joan Pliego, Media Contact, City of Snoqualmie, Washington – [email protected]
Leif Nesheim, Editor, Snoqualmie Valley Record – [email protected]
Sonia Krishnan, Reporter, Seattle Times – [email protected]
To whom it may concern:I went to Snoqualmie recently to participate in the Snoqualmie Railroad Days parade. Originally I had planned on going because another organization had a group in the parade that I wanted to see. When I called to get directions, I mentioned to the person that talked to that I had an art car, which represents Ganesha, the Hindu God of Removing Obstacles (pictures of my car can be seen at http://snurl.com/wb4x). They suggested that I should be in the parade as well. I was unsure if they understood what an art car was, but they assured me that they were looking for unusual things to be in their parade, and they assured me that I would be welcome.
So I went, registered for the parade, got assigned a number, and parked my car in the parade lineup. I was hanging out waiting for the parade to start when I was approached by a burly Snoqualmie police officer who said that there was “an issue” with my vehicle. Apparently someone on the parade staff was concerned that somebody might be “offended” by the fact that there is a swastika on the roof and back corner panels of my car. I explained to him that the swastika and the six-pointed star is an ancient symbol that represents Ganesha, which has been used for thousands of years. The swastika and the six-pointed star – known as Ganesha Yantra – is to Hinduism what The Dao is to Buddhism: a symbol of balance. Furthermore, the swastika is an ancient symbol of love, peace and good luck that has been used by every group of people on the planet, and in that context, I was reclaiming the swastika from ignorant people who assume that the only thing it means is a reference to the nazis.
He agreed with me, and went on his way. At the same time, I started talking with some other people who were waiting in the parade lineup, including some people in the float in front of me, which was sponsored by Falun Dafa, another group which uses the swastika in the emblem for their organisation. They were appalled that there had even been any question about it, and offered to go talk to the parade staff about it, which I wholeheartedly encouraged them to do.
Then the Snoqualmie policeman came back and told me that he was not speaking as a policeman, but as a spokesperson for the parade staff, who had decided that I was going to be ejected from the parade, despite the obviously non-nazi use of the swastika, because “it is a family event” and they didn’t want anybody to be offended. He said that if I didn’t move my car out of the parade lineup, it would be towed.
I don’t see how people can learn that the swastika means anything other than what they’re wrong to think it means unless they are exposed to it in public situations that are different from what they think, and I told him that. He said he was sorry, but that if I didn’t move my car, it would be towed. He encouraged me to find a parking spot somewhere out of the parade lineup, where I could explain to people what it meant, but there was no more he could do.
Several people were watching this whole encounter, including the woman that took my registration and gave me a number for the parade. They spoke up, and said that they weren’t offended by the swastika on my car, the swastika has a far more ancient and positive meaning than the “parade staff” was putting on it, and they didn’t understand why I was being kicked out of the parade. It didn’t matter: I was summarily ejected from the parade.
The only person I talked to was the burly policeman, who wasn’t speaking as a policeman, and several other people, including the people from Falun Dafa, and random passers by. I never actually spoke with the person who made the decision to eject me from the parade. I find it interesting that, despite free speech and freedom of religion, my car, which is clearly the antithesis of naziism, would be kicked out of the parade, when the Falun Dafa float is allowed. Falun Dafa was actually awarded a proclamation on May 13, 2007 by the Mayor of Snoqualmie, Mr. Matthew R. Larson. I find it very interesting that one organization (Falun Dafa) who uses the swastika would be awarded a proclamation by the mayor of a city, while my car, which represents Ganesha, the second most widely worshipped deity in the world, should be ejected from the parade in the same city, three months later.
I ended up parking my car and handing out postcards to anybody who seemed interested. Most of the people I talked to were shocked that I was kicked out of the parade, especially since the Falun Dafa float was not, and those few that asked me if I “liked Hitler” were quite open to the idea that it was not a nazi demonstration, and listened while I informed them of the historical definition of the swastika. There were even a number of Indian families, who looked as though they were locals, who didn’t even need to be told what the car signifies. They said that they were very definitly not offended by the swastika, took pictures of my car, and encouraged me to come to more events in the area.
It really bothers me that, while I am trying to educate people, the people who need educating the most are the ones in charge, especially in the light of the fact that I was originally welcomed by the person I talked to on the phone, and in the light of freedom of religion, and free speech. I feel that it is terrifically disappointing to be welcomed, only to show up and be summarily ejected when someone decides that I and my car might be offensive to some unknown person, especially when I didn’t actually get the chance to talk directly to the person who made the decision. I hope that all of Snoqualmie is not that prejudiced, and from what I subsequently saw, all of Snoqualmie is not that prejudiced, but it’s difficult to tell when they wouldn’t allow me to be in their parade.
any suggestions? what do you think?