Sunday , September 24 2023
We immediately think that these persons are sick, twisted, and racist, but is there another possibility?

Swastikas in Brooklyn: Hate Crime or Just Stupidity?

It is 2012 and it has been 77 years since World War II ended, yet the image of a swastika still shakes us to our core. Associated with Germany’s Nazi Party and the hate it perpetrated, the swastika to many is a symbol of evil and intolerance. Someone who uses it conjures up all the passion and anger connected to the Holocaust, when millions of Jews died because they were deemed an enemy due to their ethnicity and faith.

So when a swastika appears in Borough Park, Brooklyn (an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood) today, the outrage is understandable. When one of these symbols is painted on a synagogue, it is apparent the persons doing this knew what they were doing and it was purposeful and hateful. We immediately think that these persons are sick, twisted, and racist, but is there another possibility?

I heard people talking about this in a local store (in Queens) this morning. One older man said something about it being stupid, not racist. “It was just kids being stupid” he noted. The man he was talking with (who was wearing a yarmulke), responded, “Stupidity is no excuse for racism.”

If kids have a can of spray paint in their hands, chances are something is going to get hit. No matter what they splatter, it is obviously vandalism, but think of all their choices as to what they leave behind. It could be some kind of tag to let others know they were there. It could be their names, their favorite teams, their gangs, or whatever else that lets the world know they were there. If these kids choose to leave a symbol of hatred like a swastika, are they truly realizing the weight of this action? Can a 16-year-old kid have any clue as to what this means to an old man who may have numbers on his arm and have spent time in a concentration camp?

The symbols found in Brooklyn were on the synagogue, a Jewish grocery store, a Jewish restaurant, and three other places not obviously connected to Jewish people. The NYPD’s hate crimes unit is investigating this, and I heard it reported on the radio that surveillance images captured two of the perpetrators in the act. It is possible that these people will be caught soon, and then what will happen? Will they be charged with a hate crime?

Years ago I traveled to Israel and visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. It is impossible to explain the transformative experience that is for an American. Even with everything I learned in school, seeing this sacred place shakes you to your core. I have also visited the former concentration camps in Europe, but perhaps the most moving place I have ever been was the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. Here I saw the power of love that subsumed all the hate around it. Anne wrote her diary despite a cruel world outside those walls, and the image of Anne is hauntingly familiar and yet new again. The Nazis may have killed her and most of her family members, but they could not destroy her enduring message of love and hope.

Anne wrote, “In spite of everything, I think people are still good at heart.” All these years later, that message overwhelms the stupidity and hatred of the swastika symbol. Are these goons who painted these things in Brooklyn good at heart? You’d have trouble convincing some people, but they may just be kids who weren’t thinking, or they could be purposeful, on a mission of hatred. The investigators will no doubt get the answer.

Until then, we see swastikas and shake our heads. It’s 2012 and people should know better, but they do not. We have to wonder sometimes if they ever will.

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. His newest books 'The Stranger from the Sea' and 'Love in the Time of the Coronavirus' are available as e-books and in print. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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