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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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Thursday Column — Swastikas

  1. Christine Zook

    You really have nailed the truth here. The Nazi mentality is not dead, and never will be as long as our law makers use our fears to benefit their own ambitions.
    They continue to pass laws that do more harm than good and create underclasses of citizens that can be safely discriminated against.

  2. 16th Ave Ernie

    Well written column – and timely I might add. Leading up to Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to visit a number of cemetaries in the Cedar Rapids area, including the Jewish one adjacent to Czech National on the SW side.

    This type of desecration was evident there before last weekend, near the markers of several veterans whom are buried there. Fittingly as well, one of the headstones there has an inscription dealing with the power of forgiveness, something necessary for me when I wish I could catch the preson or persons in the act of this type of activity.

  3. george

    They have learned the last eight years that its allright to attack , kill, and torture people that did not attack us. They learned that if you have a minority its OK to try to change laws and constitution to make it easy to discriminate against some. How would you expect them to act? If we dont set a good example , they will set an even worse one. Thats how it worked in Germany. Wave the flag, gas the “enemy”. Makes some people feel powerful. Anyone who wants to pass laws against subset of society are Nazis at heart. Give them a little room and another Adolph will emerge. Sounds kind of like the former veep to me.

  4. Jon Anonymous

    This would be a great article, if the swastika wasn’t actually stolen by the nazi’s. It’s just a symbol. It’s not oppressing you. Get over it. There’s more serious things in life to be worried about than some high schoolers with paint markers.

  5. Christine Zook

    We should also remember the role of the media in fanning hysteria and fear. Television and news papers always opt for sensationalism instead of the truth, in order to cash in.
    The result is to create bias and vigilantism.

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