Friday, September 14, 2018
Walmart should reject Soviet-era symbolism
Imagine one day you find shirts with a swastika emblazoned on the front available for sale on Walmart.com. Actually, you find multiple shirts, and other merchandise with a swastika available for sale. What would you think? Would you be appalled? Disgusted? Angry?
This is a ridiculous hypothetical, right? It would never happen. Walmart would never allow merchandise glorifying such a despised symbol to be sold on its website, right? The image of a swastika and the Walmart brand are completely incompatible.
But what if the scenario was true for an equally abhorred symbol?
Over the last week it has become publicized thanks to social media that shirts with a Soviet Union-themed hammer and sickle are available for sale on Walmart.com.
Just as the swastika is synonymous with the Holocaust, fascism and mass atrocities, particularly for the citizens of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who were forced to live under Soviet occupation for over 40 years, the hammer and sickle signify mass atrocities, mass deportations, mass murder, repression and occupation.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were illegally annexed by, and incorporated into, the Soviet Union the first time August 1940 and again in March 1949. It is believed that more than 200,000 Baltic citizens were forcibly deported to Gulags during Soviet occupation in an attempt to Sovietize the three countries. Today such deportations are defined by the United Nations as a crime against humanity.
Soviet acts of suppression included the order in 1941 of planned extermination of "active persons" in Estonia. The list of active persons who were targeted totaled 23 percent of the country's population, and included former government officials, student organizations, business leaders, clergyman and members of the Red Cross. Throughout the entire Soviet Union, It is believed that at least 20 million people were killed as a result of policies of repression and terror.
Why is it acceptable to sell shirts and merchandise emblazoned with a hammer and sickle? Why does the hammer and sickle not elicit the same reaction a swastika does? Why have Soviet symbols even become celebrated and synonymous with representing equality?
Perhaps it is because there has never been a true judgment of Soviet crimes. No person or government or country has ever been held accountable for the crimes committed by the Soviet Union. Do we view the crimes of the Soviet Union differently than those of the Nazis because the Soviets were on the winning side of World War II? Sadly and shamefully, the answer is yes.
If we don't understand the history of what actually happened in the Soviet Union, we dishonor the millions of victims and their families. By not knowing and remembering the crimes, we forget they ever happened. It is insulting to the millions of people all over the world who were directly impacted to be selling items with a hammer and sickle. That is not the message Walmart should want to send.
Walmart should immediately remove all items glorifying the hammer and sickle from its website.
BentonvilleCommentary on 09/17/2018
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