Like all writers, I secretly believe that some day I’m going to
find myself in write about an alternate reality. You know, one of those stories where a character pops into another dimension that was once identical to our own, but diverged at one key point — if the Colonies had lost the American Revolution, for example. Or where Columbus died during his first voyage to the new world. Or where NBC hadn’t renewed the original Star Trek for a second season, depriving us all of Pavel Chekov and the popular catch phrase, “Nuclear Wessels.”
So whenever I uncover an interesting fact, my brain starts to wander, and I contemplate an alternate world where history may have turned out differently. The things I ponder, though, aren’t always the sort of thing that make for epic science fiction novels. Plenty has been written about worlds where Germany won World War II, for example. I don’t know nearly enough about history to extrapolate that. I do, however, know symbols.
And that’s how I got to thinking about the swastika.
Okay, for the three of you who didn’t immediately click off the website after reading the previous sentence, thanks for hearing me out. Something a lot of people don’t realize is that the swastika was not an invention of the Nazis. In fact, the swastika is thousands of years old, and prior to its appropriation as a symbol of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, it was widely regarded as a symbol of good luck. The symbol is still used, in fact, in some Buddhist and Hindu iconography, and archeological finds from the Greeks, Celts, and many other cultures are lousy with ‘em.
So I get to thinking… what if, instead of the swastika, the Nazis had appropriated a different good luck symbol for their insignia? What if, say, they had chosen the horseshoe?
First of all, blacksmiths would be uncomfortable. Making symbols of a universally-reviled government and then nailing them to the feet of horses would make anybody feel a little anxious. The game of Horseshoes would probably be wiped out entirely, leaving thousands of Cub Scout Jamborees a year one event short. And someday, someday you may just find yourself in an alternate world where a kid pours out a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. Lifts a great big spoonful to his mouth. And winds up chomping down on pink hearts, green clovers… and purple swastikas.
Oh, like your mind doesn’t wander during the day.