I just read Ken Mondschein’s very fair and balanced article examining the now-infamous “Caid Swastika Incident” which happened in the SCA earlier this year. It lays out what happened, how people reacted, whether there was deliberate ill-intent and what the SCA needs to reflect on going forward.
Long story short, the Kingdom of Caid crowned their new king and queen, who wore garb with hand-woven trim that clearly displayed swastikas and double-H runes, which of course are symbols closely associated with both original-issue Nazism and the currently resurgent neo-Nazi/Alt-Right iterations. There was considerable uproar over the issue, a non-apology-apology, followed by a couple of much more sincere apologies, and in the end the offending royals abdicated.
The trim in question is based on a medieval original, which the article includes pictures of. The original (and the replica) obviously took a high order of skill to weave and is an impressive technical and artistic achievement.
It’s also a bunch of swastikas and symbols associated with the words “Heil Hitler.” So that’s a big fucking problem right there. Obviously the original wasn’t freighted with the negative associations (although the Nazis apparently coveted the “Snartemo V band” as an example of “pure aryan art”) but the replica absolutely is freighted with those things. Someone deliberately set out to reproduce that item and sew it to coronation garb for the King and Queen of Caid; accurate medieval reproduction or not, it sends a nasty, nasty message to Jews, LGBTQ people and people of colour in the SCA.
Was it an a deliberately intended message? That’s the million-dollar question, of course, but even if there was no deliberate intent to associate the SCA with Nazi imagery, even a complete freaking potato should have realized that this was going to be a serious problem. Even if it was innocently (if cluelessly) done, the profound failure of judgment involved definitely required the royals in question to apologize and step down.
And if there was a deliberate intent to express a support of Nazi or alt-Right ideals, even if only as a juvenile attempt at trolling, then those responsible need to be R&D’d immediately.
Those are decisions that are going to need to be made at a much higher level than where I’m at, of course. But those decisions are going to have to be made.
It needs to be said: The SCA, as much as I love it, has not always been as welcoming a place to minorities as it could be, especially to LGBTQ people. One of my own most personal and painful experiences with the SCA’s profound flaws is something I rarely share: I was once told by a member of the Chivalry — entirely kindly, as friendly and well-meaning advice — that I shouldn’t let people know about my sexuality since “gay guys don’t get Knighted.”
I cannot begin to express how much that hurt.
And again, in 2012, when the SCA decided to change the rules to allow for same-gender consorts in Crown Tourney, the BoD of the day prevaricated and eventually passed down a half-assed decision leaving it to the sitting Kings and Queens of the day rather than taking the stand of a clear statement of LGBTQ equality in the Society. I said it then in a Facebook post and I’ll say it again now: However well-intentioned those sitting the Thrones may be in the future, LGBTQ players will be going to the Crown with our hats in hand twice a year… and I’m less than impressed about being given permission to beg.
The SCA has its flaws. And one of its great flaws – indeed, perhaps it’s greatest flaw — is that SCAdians will tolerate any level of injustice and unfairness in order to preserve their hobby.
Well… not any level. Not anymore. Because clearly, in Caid, there’s been a demonstration that there is a level that people won’t tolerate, a hard line that people won’t cross. (I wish we’d found that line a lot earlier, but that’s for a different post.) And the Caid Swaztika Incident has opened a can of worms that can’t be closed… nor should it be. There’s no way to sweep this under the rug, and any attempt to do so would ultimately destroy the Society, because people would just start drifting away. No matter how accepting and well-intentioned the majority of people in the SCA might be, the knowledge that such behavior was permitted and allowed to pass officially unchallenged would undermine the credibility of the organization itself. It would, and I am saying this with no hyperbole whatsoever, kill the Dream.
Something ugly has been revealed in our game and we need to lance that boil and drain the poison or we risk losing the patient. The uproar over this issue needs to be heard. It needs to be listened to. And ultimately, it needs to be learned from, no matter how uncomfortable that conversation is going to be in the short-term.
In the end, the author of the piece that I linked to at the beginning of the post, Ken Mondschein, came to a conclusion that I wholeheartedly support: “Let us hope … that the result of the fierce conversation happening in the SCA leads it into becoming a better, more consciously inclusive place.”