[Readings] A Case of Mistaken Identity,

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A Case of Mistaken Identity


From a September town-council meeting in Swastika, New York, during which members discussed a request to change the town’s name. The name dates to at least 1913, when it appeared on a U.S. post office.

supervisor jon douglass: From my understanding, and I got it from a very good source, this request has occurred several times throughout our history. Once was right after World War II. The town adamantly opposed changing the name. There is a long history there. For the uneducated who automatically assume that the name is connected to the Germans, to Hitler—that is not the case. It has much deeper roots than that in the community. Swastika means “to prosper.”

councilman howard aubin: It’s an Indian name. And it’s “well-being.”

douglass: Well-being, yup.

aubin: I can remember way back in the Seventies. I asked someone from Swastika—it was an older guy—I asked what he thought about the name Swastika, because I assumed the same kind of thing, and I got a lecture about how, when he fought the Germans in World War II, he was all upset they stole the name of his town. I’m dead set against changing it. When they talk about tolerance and diversity—it’s an Indian name meaning “well-being,” and only an intolerant person would try to take it and force a different meaning on it.

councilman james martineau: The property values in town would go up if they change the name.

aubin: Well, I’m going to make a motion that we don’t even consider changing the name.

douglass: All in favor? The motion carries.

martineau: One last thing, just so everyone in this room is clear: this request did not come from someone who lives here in Swastika, or even from someone who lives within our county.

aubin: It came from someone from a city that used to be called New Amsterdam, before it was changed to New York. I was offended when they changed it to New York.