I knew this day would happen; I just didn’t know when. I was helping a woman in the Wallingford library download music off I-Tunes when she noticed the picture I use for my laptop’s desktop – the Jain symbol with the swastika on it. She was immediately offended and started telling me so. She said the symbol was evil, our non-acceptance of Jesus as our savior was an abomination, we’re Satan worshippers, I need to stop following that nonsense and I should disband Jainism immediately. Sorry, sis. Not gonna happen. I don’t have that power anyway. That the Nazis misappropriated the swastika has no relation to us. It was used for good things for thousands of years by many cultures and I do not plan to write to the Council of Jains to have it removed from our dharma.
I’m glad that that stranger ripped me a new one for my beliefs. Why? Because it illustrates how bigotry, ignorance and small-mindedness still exists, and will always exist, in this violent world. It shows me, though, that I should be careful letting people see my desktop because they might find it offensive. I suppose a Jewish person would find our symbol distasteful; hopefully, if they can accept my explanation, they’ll understand its use. It also shows me that I should shelve my idea of trying to introduce Jainism to the Western world because it is so contrary to their beliefs that they probably would start burning down our temples or graffiti them like the temple in Bothell.
I consider today a turning point because, for the first time, I feel how Muslim women who wear the hijab in public feel. Just for walking down the streets with their headscarves elicits responses like “Terrorist!” or “Hijacker!” I also now feel how Sikhs who walk around with turbans feel when people roll down their car window and yell “Bomber!” The fear is real. The anger and hatred is palpable. Luckily, I do follow a religion whose main tenet is non-violence in thoughts, words and actions, so the tongue lashing I got today was a test of my faith. I will harbor no ill will towards that woman; in fact, I thank her for allowing me to test my resolve. Stranger? You make me more of a believer and I thank you.