Sunday, July 26, 2020

Nick's Notes: It Can Happen Here

I felt a lot of things after seeing the video of a couple wearing homemade face coverings with swastikas into the Marshall Wal-Mart on Saturday: anger, disgust, sadness to name a few. But my mind drifted to two people I knew well during my year and a half in town.

One young man, who is African-American, came to Southwest Minnesota State University to play football. He worked for the YMCA and volunteered for the Special Olympics. When I wrote a profile of him for the Marshall Independent, his coach told me, “He’s so invested in the community of Marshall. From his teammates to where he works at the Y, he seems to touch everybody’s life he comes across.” After graduating, he stuck around Marshall to get his master’s degree and raise his two kids. In other words, he’s the type of guy you want in your community.

Hitler forcibly sterilized hundreds of black Germans. They were also kicked out of schools, refused jobs, and incarcerated (Unfortunately, much like what happened under the U.S.’s Jim Crow laws.) I ask you, Marshall, which types of people do you want in your town?

I also thought about a colleague at the newspaper. We spent many late nights taking phone calls to get football and basketball scores late into the evening. He works hard and cares about the community. He also was born without the lower half of his left arm. That never stopped him from working hard and building a great life in town.

In 1940, the Nazis implemented “Operation T4” in which 70,000 Germans and Austrians with disabilities were killed. According to the United States Holocaust Museum, over 275,000 people with disabilities were killed by the Nazis throughout the war.

Can you look my former colleague in the eye and say, “I am all right allowing symbolism in this community that is fundamentally at odds with your right to life.”?

In the video, the woman wearing the Swastika said, “If you vote for Biden, you’re going to be in Nazi Germany. That’s what it’s going to be like.” I find that ironic seeing that her partner thought it was all right to accessorize his shirt featuring the current president of the United States with the literal symbol of Nazi Germany. Call me crazy, but I think when someone takes the time to sew a face covering with a swastika on it, the burden of proof is on them to prove they are not a Nazi.

An aside to Trump voters in the Republican party, are you ok with this man wearing a Trump shirt? Would you be ok with him wearing a Regan or an Eisenhower shirt? And if you called out Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic tweets, I hope to God you are forcibly denouncing the literal representation of the worst anti-Semitic actions history has ever seen.

I know Marshall a little bit and I know there are those of you who will speak up and speak out against stuff like this. Please keep talking, posting, and protesting that this is not OK.

Then there are those of you who might disagree with the method of this couple, but you agree that masks are anti-American and an insult to our freedom, or that this couple should be allowed free speech.

You’d better be the loudest denouncing this. If you think the extermination of 11 million people is equivalent to a request to wear masks to protect the vulnerable in our society, you’d better do some soul searching. I hope you also thought about the cashier-a young man, who is a person of color- and what he was thinking while just trying to do his job.

Future generations will wonder what the hell was going on in 2020, and my hunch is that those wearing Swastikas will not be treated kindly.

Will you be able to tell your grandchildren that you were on the right side of history?
Here’s your chance to prove it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

This I Believe: 32

I believe in the power of home cooking. Even though we live in the most connected time in history, we’re lonely and anxious. Cooking became a way for me to fight those things. It allows my brain to rest after a day of monitoring social media for work. It allows me to experience the beginning and end of something in a world where things never feel like they stop. And it gives me a chance to connect with coworkers, friends, and family.

My new year’s resolution for 2019 was to cook 100 new recipes. It was originally an excuse to buy fancy ingredients and purchase some new kitchen supplies, but by the end, it didn’t feel like a resolution at all. It was something I needed to do on a regular basis.

More than once I chose to stay at home and cook over going out to a movie or binge-watching something while drinking beers. Free moments at work were often devoted to scrolling the New York Times cooking app looking for dinner ideas. There were days where as soon as I took my shoes off from work, I immediately threw on my apron and began chopping vegetables.

One of my favorite things over the past year was bringing in baked goods to my work. At first, I put them on a counter on the other side of my cubicle. However about midway through the year I put them on the counter I shared with my cubicle neighbor. We’d usually get about half-dozen people to come over to sample things, and there were always a few people who I rarely talked to outside of a cursory “Good morning."

Cooking gave me the opportunity to learn something again. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything since grad school, but I don’t think I consumed as much knowledge on a subject as I did around food this past year. Just about every trip to the library had me leave with an armful of cookbooks or food-related memoirs. I watched tons of YouTube videos to learn new techniques and I could feel my palate beginning to recognize different flavor profiles. I can definitively say I am a better cook than I was a year ago. It feels great to read a recipe and say, “Yeah, I can do that.”

Eating dinner with my wife (who also was a great cooking partner many days) has become a highlight of my day. The 10 to 15 minutes we get after finishing our meals has become my favorite time of the day. We’re full, we’re content, and we don’t have to do anything except for let our stomachs settle. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.