Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hitler's Hallowe'en

I'd like to share something I posted in 2006 and get your input.

On the morning's news I heard how a high school across the river in New York allowed its students to come to school in costume yesterday. Mostly pirates, a few Gene Simmons' and one in particular which gave the principal another 100 gray hairs. A senior came as Hitler. The whole get-up, Chaplin moustache swastikas all over his sharply pressed uniform, riding crop in hand, high leather boots ... the teachers were in cardiac hyper-mode, many fellow students duly outraged and of course, it made the news. Adults weren't sure to look at him or not. It raised a visceral disgust we all understand. The young man explained he was a "parody" of a famous person from history, what's the problem? And indeed, after pow-wowing this matter a bit, the principal could not get the boy to please either change or leave, he was being "offensive and disruptive".

They asked if his parents knew; he proudly exclaimed they DID and supported his "courage" in exercising his right to free speech, freedom of expression, all those good "frees". So basically they were raising their son to ignore everything they saw and heard unless it adhered to his right to freedom of expression. Pretty shallow. We don't live in a vacuum.

But I heard something at the end of the broadcast which made me think (I dared myself). At the end of the day, the young man took off his gear, put on a large coat and made his way to the subway which he used to get home. Isn't that odd?

Every other kid went home in costume, since that's how they arrived. But this one didn't, something inside him KNEW he couldn't get on that subway, with adults instead of teens, with real people he didn't know, dressed as "a person of history" responsible for so much anguish and blood-letting and pain that it hurts just to think about. He KNEW someone on that train might even be one of the slowly dying-out survivors of the holocaust, exactly what would he say to THAT person? So he KNEW. He knew something his parents forgot.

And I lay this at their feet. Do you think this teen will ever understand the difference between an indecent act and just plain cruelty? Not if his home environment tells him the First Amendment is more important than abusing those same rights. It's ludicrous. We have rights to be decent people.

When a teen does something outrageous like this, I think he's really just acting with the arrogance of his youth, doesn't see the hideousness of parading as Hitler for a laugh.

He knew he'd cause a stir, he did, and I really think that's all he wanted, nothing about the First Amendment was on his mind at all. That was his parents, and therein lies the blame, and hopefully instill shame, that the people responsible for the formation of a decent human being could get things so mixed up and permit such a caustic, cruel act - worse, using their own son to do it. He, of course, was happy to oblige as most teens are where causing a mess among order is concerned. That's nothing.

I really
would want to hear how these Constitutionally-minded parents would explain it all to just one Jewish person, just one. But talk about scary, I pulled this thread out further and found a monster I couldn't talk away: the monster of the future. Right now, a kid could dress up as Alexander the Great and gets kudos and candy, no one would think twice and in fact cheer on his or her originality. The millions who died at the orders of Alexander, a true killer, a soldier in his time which again were times of war. I know there's no comparison to the two men, yet both were adored in their time by the people they killed for, those who demanded the death of others.

My real point is that no one would take offense today at a "parody" of Alexander the Great. So it will happen, then, that someday in the future another kid would look forward to Hallowe'en with his HITLER costume, go out in public, get candy and kudos and no one is offended or outraged. THAT'S the monster that would keep me awake at night.

It's happened already and will happen again - where humans allow the healing balm of time to dull memory, even historical fact, and on we go none the wiser for the lessons of the past.

14 comments:

Ana said...

Thank you for sharing Cathy!
Love,
Ana

robert said...

Being of German origin this post was for sure of interest to read and yes, made me think.

staceyjwarner said...

Interesting...there are so many monsters. Sometimes experience is what teaches more than anything else, including parents.

If my son wanted to wear a Hitler costume we would have a big history lesson with lots of pictures. However my son would never want to dress like such a monster...

excellent post

John Hayes said...

Excellent post--I agree that decency is a crucial value, & of course not all speech is "free": the hoary old example of yelling "fire" in a movie theater for instance. Also, as the parents may not have understood, there is a restriction on hate speech, & this certainly at least comes in the neighborhood of that. Thought-provoking as usual.

robert said...

There are many magazines for sale throughout the centre of Athens, praising Hitler and his work - pretty much to my disbelieve, as his army reached until here.

Remember as well being asked by local friends, whether there are still many Hitler's (attention to the plural) in Germany?!
Most of my students are having also the opinion that he was German and were much surprised upon being told that he was from Austria.

Cathy said...

ROBERT I'm quite surprised I thought everyone who ever heard Hitler's name knew he was Austrian, and considered entering the priesthood, with his mother Klara's ice-blue eyes. Your students, however, have the blanket of youth to cover themselves with, but never that of ignorance. Thanks for your input.

Gerry said...

I do think there was a big fallout from what Hitler did for many people who were innocent of wrong doing. I remember how people with German last names hated to admit they were of german origins, and I think in the case of some people, this tie to Hitler caused a sense that they could never be accepted again, so, too, there comes a time when the innocent who suffered because of what Hitler did along with his followers need to be themselves again. I also saw Japanese neighbors where I lived who had been peaceful farmers for years rounded up and put in concentration camps. It is very hard to sort things out sometimes during and after such events. Thought provoking entry. Gerry

Alice said...

"Dare to Think" got my attention by the name (had put it on my Favorites from don't remember where) and just now got around to reading & it's more than I expected! What can I say, it's more than interesting & you really have to be an avid reader with all the things on the side bar. I've gradually been learning to do "MY" own thinking & not what we've been spoon-fed all our lives.

Herrad said...

Hi Cathy,
Thought provoking post, thanks.
Came by to say hello and wish you a good Halloween weekend.
Love,
Herrad

ADB said...

Point worth making - in 8 days' time, another of Hitler's atrocities will be remembered. On the same day they celebrate the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Lori said...

Very thought-provoking and well-written Cathy.

Diane J Standiford said...

Oh, man, a tough one, well dissected, Cathy. I just got a big JESUS face on an email espousing how American wants God. (On money, in schools) JESUS---and we scoff at Jews who warn of another holocaust. I compare this kid as going to school in black face and acting dopey. I bet that too would come off b4 getting on a NYC subway. History must be respected. I'd make the kid write a paper about Hitler and read it in front of class. Then I'd ask the kids to discuss if it was a good idea to dress as Hitler.

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