Daily Archives: May 28, 2009

Thursday Column — Swastikas

The swastika just won’t die.

There they were again Sunday morning, this time painted on 80 cars and some houses in Cedar Rapids. They were hastily drawn, judging by photos I saw, but unmistakable. “Springtime for Hitler,” without the music and laughs.

I know what some of you are thinking. It was probably just stupid kids or some other punks trying to get attention, and now I’m giving it to them. Most of these Nazi calling cards were easy to wash off. No big deal. Very dumb. Let’s move on.

I have no idea what the painter/painters thought about as they toiled away in the darkness, but the message of racial hatred being sent through this vandalism shouldn’t be blown off so lightly.

That message alone is plenty maddening. But it’s the timing that really grabbed me.

On a Memorial Day weekend that offered one of the dwindling chances to honor real Americans who fought the Nazis and remember the sacrifices made by a generation who stood up to fascist evil, someone is out scrawling swastikas.

Anonymous cowards sneak around in the night before our fallen heroes received recognition in the sunshine.

Did the vandals think for one second about it?

“I really don’t believe they know,” said Leroy Lenoch, 85, of Coralville.

“They don’t know what the symbol is.” Lenoch certainly knows.

His Army unit was thrown into action in 1944 when the Nazis threatened to break allied lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Soldiers illequipped and battered by endless snow and bitter cold. Lenoch’s hands and feet were frozen. He spent six weeks in a hospital in England, unable to walk.

So he remembers but also concedes the war is fading history for many.

I suppose that’s not surprising in our whatam-I-doing-now world, where 20 minutes ago is old news. And Memorial Day has become just a three-day weekend to most of us, with barbecues and mattress sales.

So when kids see a swastika, maybe they don’t fully understand the cruelties perpetrated under Nazi banners or the massive, miraculous effort it took to stop that tyranny.

But let’s not go too easy on our swastika-painters.

No free passes. We can’t afford to give any.

Because 64 years after the Nazis fell, one thing that still endures in infamy with the swastika is a search for scapegoats to blame and punish for our problems. Racism and fanaticism did not go out with the Nazis. Misguided anger and rage remain in the world, along with the politicians who are eager to stoke it and exploit it.

Hate is still out there in the dark. We simply can’t wash it away.


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What are the Neighbors Up To?

The Illinois Senate approved legislation yesterday that would legalize marijuana for medical uses. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The measure would allow people suffering from unrelenting pain or nausea due to a narrow list of conditions — including cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease — to use marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.

Physicians who prescribe the drug would have to have an established relationship with the patient.

Patients or their primary caregiver then would be allowed to grow marijuana in their home or visit a licensed dispensary to obtain their supply.

Opponents, of course, say this is madness, reefer madness. It still has to pass the Illinois House.


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