Dispatches from Wolf County…Against Nazi Punching in Dark Times

Despite Missouri's history of arson and vandalism on religious facilities and sites due to racial and religious hatred, usually in the name of Jesus, the Saint Louis police don't believe that there are grounds to say this was a hate crime. We should be sophisticated enough to consider an attack that appears to be motivated by some qualifying category of hatred and prejudice on its surface to be probably a hate crime, at least as a working hypothesis.

I’m not sure how I missed the whole Nazi Punching thing, stumbling on it only as a bit of humor on Crispin Sartwell’s site where it seemed to be satirical more than anything else…and, seemed like a really good way of handling confrontation with any variety of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing troll. There are lots of them, of both the left and the right and the off the damn scale types as well. I remember a bunch of militant Astrologists running around in Germany in the mid-70s who attracted quite a following of Black GIs…that was weird.

So, the listen, go through the emotions I’d summarize as “What? HUNH? You think that? You really think that? You can think it but I don’t have to listen to you say it,” and walking away or turning off the TV or whatever seems really reasonable to me.

Unless they’re doing some real NAZI stuff. Bomb threats to day care centers and desecration of cemeteries might be appropriate for physical intervention. Preventing them from succeeding or holding them for the cops or using necessary force to dissuade them seems reasonable. Random punching doesn’t.

Of course, it might be difficult to resist if you get the opportunity to bitch-slap one of the Alt Right twerps wandering around the White House these days. That might be hard to resist. For example, there’s been some coverage, although not enough,  of the “32 Year Old” Bannon-ite Stephen Miller who goes on national television and says that the “President’s Power Will Not Be Questioned!” which is kind of an odd remark. It sounded like something that might come out someone in a slightly different context like Heinrich Himmler or Martin Bormann. Perhaps some FBI interrogator might explain to this guy, who is supposedly a Duke PolySci graduate,  but if he was he’d remember something from his Constitutional Law Class, that the whole reason we’re here and as good as we’ve been and still are is that the all the Government’s powers are always open to question in Congress, in the Courts, in the Press and among the people.

From Daily KOS. W for “White” with Right Hand above the very limp P for “Power.

What actually does give it a Herman Goering tilt is his flashing the White Power gang sign. Seriously…why is there no uproar to fire this guy? I believe in Free Speech with very few limits, which is why I think punching Nazis for being Nazis is a bad thing to do. But, he was on TV not as a citizen, or a Alt Right advocate, but because he’s an adviser to the President and was the assigned talking head for the day. He was being paid by us, to represent our President, and explain American policy. He felt compelled to insult our history, our Constitution and the sacrifices that made it all possible, like the supercilious, slimy little frat boy he is. Hail Trump!

This is not a natural gesture that can happen. Not like rubbing your nose with your middle finger, for example. I’ve been playing the guitar for 50 years now, and I’m used to forcing my fingers into uncomfortable shapes. These aren’t that hard, but they’re also not useful for anything. It also cites a couple of the new Trump Friendly Press Credentialed Folks giving the Pepe sign when they got a chance to stand at the Sean Spicer haunted podium for a “HI, MOM!” shot. You should always act in a place of honor like you’ve been there before and will be there again, and for a political reporter, the White House Press room is right up there. So, these two clowns who in a real journalism world would be reporting high school basketball and the garden clubs in small town California and Alabama get to do this to show how much they respect where they are  –like smirking jackals chewing a rotting carcass at night when no Alpha predator might come around and drive them away from it.


So, would I advocate punching Miller or these other two Alt Right creeps now? No, because they’ve already acted like Nazis and unless they’re doing it again in a way that shows disrespect and disdain for the United States, it’s laws and traditions, there’s no reason. There is reason to fire Mr. Miller who was acting like a smirking Calvin pissing in the baptismal font. In any of the Press Credentialing Offices in past administrations, the two proud propagandists would have lost their credentials as soon as that post went up, and they should still lose them.

Now, slapping these guys when they were doing their thing is problematic. It would make the cognizant observer happy, but would probably result in the cognizant observer being arrested. The best thing to do then is to publicize it and demand action.

You cannot fight hatred with a bigger wall —           Marcia Matthus, Temple Beth Shalom

On the other hand, there are things that are wrong. The desecration of religious houses of worship or cemeteries, for example, is definitely illegal, cowardly and immoral. Wandering around my old stomping grounds of Wurzburg for example, I stumbled on to a huge, unremediated plot of land in the old city area that was locked off and surrounded by a brick wall. The site was the old Main Synagogue grounds that had been destroyed on Kristallnacht. Although not burned, it had been looted by the SA and SS along with a seminary school and other structures.  It remains as a silent monument to the horrors of the Holocaust in Franconia. The Jews of Wurzburg were “evacuated” to the east from 1941 to 1943. In 1945, 52 Jews including 24 from the Wurzburg Jewish community were re-settled there.

“Among those who returned from Theresienstadt was Bernhard Behrens, who had been responsible for the Jewish cemetery in Würzburg for forty years, between 1902 and 1942. The city council of Würzburg charged him with restoring the Jewish cemeteries of Würzburg, Heidingsfeld and Höchberg. With the sanction of the local authorities, the Jewish cemetery in Würzburg had been converted during the war into a chicken farm, run by a local Christian villager, and much damage had been sustained to the premises. Jewish tombstones had been “reused” in masonry repair work done to houses and walls throughout the city; 17 such “reused” tombstones from the 14th century were subsequently discovered. Behrens was also given the responsibility of erecting a memorial for the residents of Würzburg who had been murdered in the Holocaust…”

We have a record of assaults on churches, synagogues and cemeteries as well other religious institutions such as schools, convents and entire communities. The tragedy and abomination of Black Church Arson in the south has reached the point where it seems to no longer be worthy of a story. The arson of a Islamic Center and Mosque in Victoria, Texas has received a lot of attention mainly because of the very Christian response of the congregations and people of Victoria. Three  Christian denominations in the town  offered keys to their churches and church halls to the Iman of the Muslim congregation; the Center established a GoFundMe campaign seeking $850000 to rebuild, and in less than a month they raised over $1 million.  Interestingly, the first to arrive with both the keys and his congregation’s support was a member of the congregation at Temple B’Nai Isreal.  

Jewish Community Centers have been getting calls for the last two months with some rather graphic threats included. Coming during working hours, these threats largely inconvenience elderly participants in programs and families who have small children in day care. As of February 21, 53 centers had received these threatening and disruptive calls.

The calls seem to be connected: They are coordinated in timing and message, and often contain generic promises of violence. In one recording, posted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the caller threatens, “In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to … blown off from the shrapnel.” Sax would not share exact details about the calls Nashville has been receiving, but confirmed that theirs have been similar to those recorded elsewhere.

The desecration and vandalism at the Jewish Cemetery in St Louis is another example of these cowardly and un-American stunts that seem to have erupted again with the Trump campaign and election and inauguration. To me, it seems the most cowardly and in line with similar attacks both here and in Europe against Jewish targets. France seems to have a lot of these for some reason.

More extreme, almost experimental expansion of the self-advertising pointless hatred.

Despite this and the South’s history of arson and vandalism on religious facilities and sites due to racial and religious hatred, usually in the name of Jesus, the Saint Louis police don’t think this was a hate crime. I think that we should be sophisticated enough to consider an attack that appears to be motivated by some qualifying category of hatred and prejudice on its surface to be probably a hate crime. That Saint Louis is not that sophisticated shouldn’t surprise anyone who remembers another suburb of St Louis, Ferguson.

There were earlier examples of this approach to showing how welcoming the community was to diversity in Warwick, New York and Hartford, Connecticut prior to the election.

This is not just about the swastikas and Nazi Germany…It represents hatred and persecution of the Jewish people throughout the centuries. It’s a symbol of hatred and intimidation. Rabbi Rebecca Shinder, Temple Beth Shalom, Warwick, New York

Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, Universal City, Mo.

 

 

The cemetery was in a St Louis area known as Universal City; over 170 graves were defaced and tombstones toppled at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. This is particularly troubling given the history of pogroms against Jewish communities in Europe — the “warmup” events to those orgies of destruction and genocide included vandalism and destruction of Jewish property, especially graveyards and cemeteries.

Proving again that irony does abound in the oddest places, the WAPO story cites Los Angeles Simon Wiesenthal Center Senior Researcher Aaron Breitbart on the underlying threat these attacks indicate. Breitbart makes some very sensible and perceptive comments — a sentence I never expected to be writing, but on the other hand, not that Breitbart; given the Wiesenthal Center’s LA location, it seems somewhat used to having occasional bouts of hand to hand intellectual conflict with the Alt Right. Breitbart points out something that we should perhaps use as a way of explaining the famous Pastor Niemoller Axiom from a speech he gave after the war in 1946.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Another way to think about this is to consider data points on a scatter chart. An uptick in hate crimes may seem relevant to a more general view of society, but when it starts to spread across the spectrum of society, it is really time to pay attention and, in many cases like Niemoller’s, it may well be too late.

Mr. Breitbart seems to concur. In the WAPO piece he describes the problem reasonably succinctly.

“People in general should be worried right now. Jews have been described as the miner’s canaries. That means everybody else has better watch out, because there’s more trouble coming. 

“Whenever there is an upsurge in bigotry against any group of people, others generally get caught up in it. It’s a warning not simply to Jews but to society that there is a certain sickness, a certain rottenness that is rearing its ugly head once again. It may be the Jews one time, but it’ll be others as well. That’s why all forms of bigotry are dangerous, even if you aren’t the target at the particular time.”

Given the Trump administration’s more than tacit but less than explicit outreach to the Alt Right and the general Right Wing Fringe, we should see the attacks on cemeteries and houses of worship not so much as actions of a bunch of misguided Nazi wannabes and Klan Idolators. Rather, we should consider the removal by Jeff Sessions and the President of protections for Transgender students as part of a number of other actions like the immigration crackdown preying and the Muslim ban that isn’t a ban but really is, and on and on ad nauseam. The attacks on Jewish cemeteries and Community Centers and Islamic Centers are a more extreme and somewhat experimental expansion of the self-advertisement for pointless hatred.

 

 

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