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.