Is another symbol in danger of being sullied?

Is the thin blue line symbol headed for the same fate of the swastika? Can we stop its current trajectory, or is it already too late?

In 1999, I travelled to Asia, on a journey of world- and self-discovery. While in Vietnam, there were many swastikas and reverse swastikas on gravesites and above door frames. The vision was jarring. Even though I’d researched and knew that the swastika was a symbol of good luck, prosperity, divinity, or pathways after death, all I felt was disgust and repulsion.

There is no doubt that the Nazis’ use of the swastika forever changed our Western view of it, making it the visual identity of crimes against humanity, genocide, and racism including antisemitism.

I think of Swastika, Ont., our neighbour to the north, the town named in 1906, and can’t help but admire them for their resolutely stubborn desire to hold onto a name that was supposed to denote good fortune for the mining community. On the flip side of that same mental coin, I just want the name gone, because I don’t want to think of the Nazis and their atrocities.

Not long after my trip to Asia, I wanted to “untarnish” the swastika and restore it to the beautiful symbol that it was for centuries, but it’s not my decision to make. There is deep history and social context wrapped in the cross with bent arms. If white supremacists start using the horseshoe symbol for their cause, I wouldn’t want to have it above my door for good luck either, any more than a swastika (like I’ve seen in Asia).

The thin blue line may be beginning to suffer the same fate. The blue line between two black lines is used to honour fallen officers and as a show of solidarity to the police for their precarious walk between protecting us and dying for us. Sadly, it is now being wrapped in a veil of white supremacy.

There are now thin blue line U.S. flags, which appear to be a violation not only of their flag laws, but also a violation of humanity when used as a rallying symbol for racists against the Black Lives Matter movement.

Tragically, we lost OPP Const. Marc Hovingh last week, shot and killed in the line of duty after a 28-year career. Some police families are using the thin blue line symbol on their social media profiles for solidarity, and I thought about also doing so, but stopped because of the desire to be sensitive about what the thin blue line means to others. It is becoming a divisive symbol of “us versus them” in race relations.

The RCMP have asked officers to not wear the thin blue line patch, and instead to consider the blue ribbon insignia. This October directive may indeed have been the end of the thin blue line symbol as we know it. Unless we can stop white supremacists from using the thin blue line, the racist bastards will have won again, and co-opted another beautiful symbol.

Until there is a positive collective understanding of the thin blue line symbol as an appreciation of the risks police take for our safety, I won’t be using it. In support of Marc Hovingh’s family, and the police who put their lives on the line for our protection daily, my Facebook profile picture now has a blue ribbon on it.

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