Imagine, if you will, a nice little hike up the Jud Wiebe trail. The weather is mild, the dog is having a blast, and you’re breathing in that tree-scented, crisp air that only comes as winter turns into spring.
Then imagine, amidst the new buds and damp rocks, a neon green swastika.
In case anyone isn’t clear on this, swastikas are bad, mmmmkay? Very, very bad. Not only can they ruin a pristine and unmarred vision of nature and my hike, but they also represent very very bad things and exalt one of the most depraved events to which history has ever borne witness.
Thus the rant I’m addressing today is my own rant – which has since been removed from the Telluride Sweet Rants and Bitching site – because nobody really enjoys looking at a reproduction of the Führer’s very favorite symbol.
My rant itself was quite simple: a photo of the swastika, and a query as to whether there was any possibility that the graffiti was not what it looked like. Implied (or so I thought) was “Does anyone know who the f*ck did this?”
I was appalled that anyone in this community would have the gall not only to so blatantly deface nature (after all, we are all a bunch of tree-huggers here in Telluride), but to do so with the calling card of mass genocide.
For the record, had I one iota of knowledge regarding spray paint removal, or one dime in the bank, I would happily have tried to remove it myself. Sadly, I don’t. And I still would have alerted the community to this, even if I was poised to remove it and had been the only person ever to have laid eyes on it.
In the end, the rant proved beneficial. Sheriff Bill Masters was able to shed some light on the situation, and get the symbol removed from the rock so nobody else will ever have to look at it again.
Not surprisingly, the perpetrator was a homeless man who is likely mentally ill.
“Local man who lives about 1/4 mile up the trail from the rock was arrested today on other charges,” Masters commented, adding, “Inside his pocket was a can of paint matching the paint used to make the swastika. Unknown motive other than he appears to be in a different reality from most.”
And I have to say, this is exactly what I was hoping for when I posted the picture.
What I was surprised by, however, were some of the comments I got. Because, contrary to my expectations, not every single one of them fell under the category of mutual outrage, or offers to help.
I want to clarify here that NOT ONE PERSON supported this vandalism. I am not in any way, shape or form stating or implying that any one involved in this conversation was at all in favor of any kind of white power ideology, nor that anyone stood up for this or was in favor of it.
I am not accusing anyone of being a closeted Klansman.
However, I found it troubling that a couple of people seemed to think I was more of a problem than the swastika.
Graham J Boisjolie stated, “It’s some kid hoping someone like you will get pissed and post a pic to Sweet Deals.”
Someone like me?
Someone whose father is Jewish?
Someone who has many Jewish friends, some of whom have family members who survived, or perished in the Holocaust?
Someone who has a background in the study of religiously motivated violence and believes it to be one of the most horrible maladies from which our world currently suffers?
Someone who took a field trip to the Holocaust Museum in middle school and watched a classmate have a violent breakdown after viewing evidence of what one of his close relatives went through during a stay in a concentration camp during the Holocaust?
Why should anyone ignore this? And you’re damn straight it pissed me off. I hope any human being would be pissed off at just the sight of this, particularly on a public hiking trail.
And why would it be okay for some kid to spew this kind of hatred and not be sought out, punished, and educated?
Should we wait for this alleged kid to beat up a Jewish kid before we take this seriously?
“Well, no one noticed my art work on the Jud Wiebe so I’ll take it to a level where they’ll have to notice me!”
Neal Matthews agreed that the culprits were likely “punk kids” and offered that “We probably know their parents.”
Good! Because if this is some punk kid’s idea of rebellion they need to be sat down, perhaps slapped across the face, and then forced to understand why this is not an acceptable way to chum up the waters of the status quo.
Any child who would ever think this is acceptable should immediately be exposed to some of the more nauseating images of the extermination, enslavement and murder of thousands upon thousands of human beings. Then they should be forced to do some kind of research project on the Holocaust, propaganda and religiously motivated violence. Perhaps afterward said child could meet a couple of Holocaust survivors in person, as well as some Aryan Nation douchebags.
Nothing will make you more disgusted with white supremacists than actually talking to one. Trust me.
I was also surprised to read some comments indicating that perhaps this symbol was placed on the rock for its original meaning, or for an alternative meaning, which, according to Wikipedia, has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism.
I don’t care what kind of fucking hippie you are, or what kind of religion you practice, if you have half a brain in your head, don’t live under a rock, have been in this country for more than five minutes and are not mentally ill, this symbol means one thing only. Had I stumbled across this symbol in India or Tibet, I could possibly accept that its meaning was intended to be different. But not in this town, where people are generally educated and not, well, total morons.
In more simple terms, in American interpretation, swastikas represent death, intolerance, bigotry and hatred in their purest and most truly evil incarnations. This is common knowledge.
What would the reaction be if someone had spray painted “Go Home N-words” on that rock?
Would anyone have written “The origin of the N-word is found in Latin and means the color black, and the term was originally intended to be neutral…you should just ignore it and not give a dumbass kid the gratification of knowing he got a rise out of us.”
I doubt it. And in my eyes, a Swastika is just as offensive. And if there’s anything we should allow ourselves to get bent out of shape about, it’s that.
So then, as John Wontrobski asked, “If it is offensive, why propagate it on social media?”
I’ll tell you. Propagate means, “To spread or promote an idea widely.” By putting a photo of this vandalism online, I am not spreading or promoting the Nazi agenda, or anti-semitism. I am, rather, propagating the exact opposite of what a swastika represents, and urging that this crosses a line that forces us to act, and not to ignore.
If there were a kid at my child’s school who was capable of doing this, or a co-worker I might be working with, and if I were unaware that he or she is an anti-semite or a closeted white supremacist, I’d sure want to know.
If I had stumbled upon, say, a spray painted dick, or a smiley face smoking a joint on a rock on the trail, I would likely not take the time to photograph it and put in on Facebook but would have quietly gone to the marshal’s office and told them there was some graffiti.
The very nature of this symbol necessitates that its appearance in a community cannot ever be ignored.
And for those of you who believe that religiously motivated hatred is not alive and well, have a look at ISIS. A Jan. 9 attack in Paris that killed four Jews positively reeked of anti-Semitism, and spurred an article in April’s The Atlantic entitled “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?”
Sounds like a headline that could have been written in the 1940s, but that’s from April 2015, folks. 2015.
As Michael Saftler stated, “This [symbol] is hate epitomized. Equivocation does not ameliorate the obvious. It is a problem that needs to be addressed and certainly not swept under the carpet. If it is offensive, how can it be ignored?”
It cannot and should not be ignored, and I don’t want any part of it in the town in which I live, and hope to one day to raise a child.