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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"I hate Illinois Connecticut Nazis"

I had a nifty rant all lined up for you today about the UK issuing an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni.  It was full of piss and vinegar and was terribly therapeutic for me to have written.  But that can wait for another day. 

You see, Zahava just emailed me a newspaper article about the town in Connecticut where we used to live.

The following picture (taken at a rainy public Hanukkah Menorah lighting near the center of Fairfield, CT) says it all:

Connecticut Nazis 
    Photo © Connecticut Post

Looking at the title of today's post, I can honestly say that I never thought I'd have cause to paraphrase John Belushi's 'Blues Brothers' character in real life... yet as you can see, that day has arrived.

A small gathering of Jews and local politicians, including the town's First Selectman (that's what they call Mayors in much of New England), were gathered in the rain under a picturesque Gazebo on the Town Green for the Menorah lighting ceremony when three men in ski masks showed up and unfurled flags for a ceremony of their own.

This wasn't some spontaneous shout of "Kike" or "Dirty Jews" from a passing car (as we had occasionally heard when we lived in Connecticut).  This was a well planned show designed to let the Jews know that they have more to worry about than just Muslim extremism.

Nazis don't just fall out of a clear blue sky in the center of a New England town.  They are simply an extreme manifestation of a sentiment that is already widely held in the community to which they belong.

People, get the hell out of there.  This is the stage before they start burning stuff... and people.  It doesn't matter that it isn't the government coming after you.  Burned is burned and dead is dead... and it doesn't matter who does the burning or killing. 

Posted by David Bogner on December 15, 2009 | Permalink

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Ugh.

David, leaving isn't like "giving in to terror" in that it will reinforce it? I have to believe these are a few nutjob *$&%s who don't represent the majority.

Benji

Posted by: What War Zone??? | Dec 15, 2009 12:57:28 PM

What War Zone??? ... Did you notice the lines "Nazis don't just fall out of a clear blue sky in the center of a New England town. They are simply an extreme manifestation of a sentiment that is already widely held in the community to which they belong."? You don't come out in the middle of a town and let yourself be photographed if you aren't fairly sure that you have at least tacit support from people who approve of your sentiments; if not your methods.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 15, 2009 1:05:44 PM

While it's important to recognize the real threat, I preferred to focus on the reactions of the passersby. They yelled at the Nazi wannabes, and many of them decided to join the Chanukiah lighting in support. Considering how most of the stories involve people ignoring what was going on, I found this very uplifting.

And yo, Dave? I forget which of us is older - are you following me, or am I following you? (Fairfield, New Paltz, where else?!)

Posted by: Alissa | Dec 15, 2009 1:55:51 PM

I started writing this, and Alissa (whom I whole-heartedly agree with) succinctly said (I think) what I'll plod through and try to get out.

... Long live our freedom of speech... oh wait, scratch that. Clearly, they (being the the masked Hitler youth) had every opportunity to express themselves. What should have happened is the police should have bundled them up as soon as they appeared on the scene. (CORRECTION: They were chased off, and while reading the article, I wish a couple of the citizens had made an effort to apprehend them before they had a chance to run off, but that's pure fancy, I know).

The sad thing is that's expressly what the masked flag-bearers wanted, they wanted a scene, focused on them, away from the light, and they were determined to get it. Either through their repugnant display, or by having their "rights" violated being hauled off for their disruption. This should be labeled as a hate crime, plain and simple.

I think What War Zone??? has a point... If you give in, what's to stop them from going after the next group? I'm not trying to say you should stand alone, all that think that it's wrong should stand together against this, even if (initially) in the minority. We should ALL stand and show them there are consequences for actions such as these "harmless demonstrations"... You don't allow the the burning of stuff or people to happen. And you don't avoid it by getting out of there, but by banding together, ignoring them, and in that way taking a stand. In this instance it was peaceful, in fact, because of the attention, (by no means a "thank you" for it) more people gathered for the lighting of the menorah. I guess, if you always "get the Hell out of there", eventually... where do you have to go? Why allow yourself to be driven from someplace that's yours, that you call home? Running shows them they're gaining, that it's working and to continue.

You re-stated that "Nazis don't just fall out of the blue sky..." No, they don't... but neither do those that take a stand against the Nazis, and if the ones who should stand (read: everyone else not Nazis) run or do nothing, who remains to right the wrong? and it should be made right, those cowards should be caught and un-masked, and charged for attempting to incite violence... because that's what would have happened if something like that occurred here, I'd have done something before the police arrived... and in "pre-hindsight" it's probably better it didn't happen here. I think that those that gathered around the menorah and celebrating the season of light, shining their light, was the better move, the right move. More should have joined them, not less. The attention given to the flag bearers should have drawn (and did, in some measure) more to the lighting.

Posted by: Jethro | Dec 15, 2009 2:29:28 PM

I honestly am stunned...or stupid. I mean...really people...really.
In Connecticut - seriously. WTH
We plan on attending one of these lightings (wednesday i think) - just to show our support.

Posted by: weese | Dec 15, 2009 4:11:05 PM

and to Jethro's point ... i will say this. if there are protesters at the event we go to on Wednesday I guarantee my wife will approach them... she will first ask them to remove their masks... after that - well...they will surely suffer the wrath of an Italian mother.
If she has her wooden spoon on her I imagine I will be bailing her out of jail that night (note to self - figure out how that whole bail thing works). Because it's an Italian mothers belief that young men can be straightened out by a good meeting with the wooden spoon.

Posted by: weese | Dec 15, 2009 4:33:37 PM

treppenwitz, there are so many jews who are so integrated into american society -- the cases of ivanka and chelsea come to mind -- that i just dont think a broad burning or killing can happen. and here in the middle east, burning and killing of jews is known to happen with greater frequency...

Posted by: fred | Dec 15, 2009 4:42:57 PM

David, you and I both lived in that same Connecticut town just north of Fairfield... and so this news disturbs me as well.

But three jackasses trying to get themselves noticed doesn't, to me, equate to "they'll be burning Jews in Trumbull next Thursday." Let's not forget that Connecticut has a long and dishonorable history of harboring extremist Tokhis-Lokhen. The Klan was (and may still be) big in Middletown.

N.B. - If these jerks are so proud of their views, why the masks?

Posted by: Elisson | Dec 15, 2009 6:15:49 PM

Fred - there are so many Jews who are so integrated into American society

What a coincidence, my grandfather said exactly the same thing! Well, not exactly the same, but very close, he said "there are so many Jews who are so integrated into German society".

Posted by: Mark | Dec 15, 2009 6:56:17 PM

I agree with Benji. You don't leave because these jackasses feel comfortable showing up because the reality is that they aren't completely comfortable.

They wore masks for a reason. So you find a way to turn up the heat on them. You take appropriate steps to identify them and then you shine a light on their real faces.

Let them display their beliefs in daylight, without masks. Let them show the world what they believe.

I am not naive enough to believe that bad things could never happen here. I agree with Mark's point. But we aren't living in shtetls anymore.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 15, 2009 8:41:43 PM

All I can say is...wow. In Fairfield no less?? Wow...I used to live there!

I remmeber quite a few times people flipped us off, or yelled at us to/from shul...one time someone threw a cassette tape at me.

Wow. Thank God I live here in Israel...

Posted by: Tonny | Dec 15, 2009 9:25:57 PM

I know trepp that you don't think much of France but such a demonstration would be forbidden here, because of the Nazi signs.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Dec 15, 2009 9:45:30 PM

Freedom of speech is sometimes... well, not pretty. Believe it or not, I am proud to live in a country where you can make a complete ass of yourself and not be made to just disappear. To paraphrase someone smarter than me (well, who isn't) "I find what you have to say completely deserving of contempt and scorn, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Posted by: David Bailey | Dec 15, 2009 10:50:25 PM

cmon, trepp, how exactly do you see widespread antisemitic violence in the us taking place? what would be the stages of development?

Posted by: fred | Dec 15, 2009 11:21:23 PM

Jack - But we aren't living in shtetls anymore.

Yep, that's another thing my grandfather said* - "we aren't like the ostjuden who live in those dirty, primitive shtetls".

* Once after making one too many comments about ostjuden and auslanders, my other grandfather didn't speak to him for more than 2 years!

Posted by: Mark | Dec 16, 2009 3:30:52 AM

Fred - cmon, trepp, how exactly do you see widespread antisemitic violence in the us taking place? what would be the stages of development?

The first stage is often severe economic issues. Sometime later, the Jews are blamed. Etc.

Posted by: Mark | Dec 16, 2009 3:33:09 AM

"They are simply an extreme manifestation of a sentiment that is already widely held in the community to which they belong."

Dave, I'm going to call BS on that. Standard, everyday bigotry....yes. But that isn't limited to hatred toward Jews. We've had hate groups for a long, long time, yet there haven't been any American pogroms or an American Kristallnacht. The neo-Nazis, the white supremacists, the black radicals....name your group....are a small part of the fringe and do not have the support of mainstream America. This isn't Europe, where Jews had been sidelined and persecuted for centuries. Think about this: where else outside of Israel have Jews had such influence in government (including the armed forces)? Jews have long served in the West Wing, Congress and the courts....even the Chief of Staff of the Air Force is Jewish.

The conditions do not exist for pogroms to begin in the US and if some neo-Nazi group tried it, the Feds and state/local law enforcement would be all over them. I'm pretty sure that somebody already knows who those guys were and if they don't, they soon will.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Dec 16, 2009 6:46:30 AM

Alissa ... Good point, but nobody confronted them either.

Jethro ... Actually, opposing Nazi ideology (and any other hate ideology) should fall from a clear blue sky. It should be a natural result of being brought up in a free society.

weese ... You kill me. And for the record, Hungarians (at least Jewish Hungarians) have a time honored tradition of education via wooden spoon as well. :-)

fred... That has happened many times before. We were integrated into English society before the expulsion. Ditto for Spanish and Portugese societies but add in the inquisition. The German Jews were the cream of German society but we know how that turned out. I;m not saying that the Jews of the US are headed for another Holocaust or expulsion... but your reasoning is flawed.

Elisson ... I lived in both Trumbull and Fairfield over an extended period of time. Although there were many Jews there, there was a palpable undercurrent of anti-semitism in both places as well. Comments from fellow students, strangers in the street... shouts from passing cars on Shabbat... you get the idea. That kind of stuff doesn't occur in a vacuum. You live in the south so you know what I'm talking about. Georgia's Jews aren't going to be rounded up and loaded onto cattle cars any time soon. But I suspect there are plenty of places/settings in your state where you wouldn't necessarily want to draw attention to the fact that you are Jewish... especially if you were alone. That's my point.

Mark ... You beat me to it. :-)

Jack... bigotry is not socially acceptable in the U.S., so people wear masks and vandalize under cover of darkness. It is not unlike the way people look both ways before telling a racist joke. Just because it isn't mainstream is no reason to deny its existence and danger.

Tonny ... Amen

Ilana-Davita... I don't dislike France. You live in a beautiful country. It's many of your countrymen (past and present) that give me pause. ;-)

David Bailey... Freedom of speech doesn't protect burning crosses. It shouldn't protect threatening symbolism from the Nazi era either.

fred... The most frightening thing is when bigotry goes from being socially unacceptable to being tolerated. Anti Jewish sentiment is widespread in the heartland of America and is gaining traction on both coasts (with Norther California being the hands down leader). When you see attacks on synagogues, El Al counters, Jewish Community centers, etc., and the authorities do mental acrobatics to try to justify not labeling it a hate crime, you know a line has been crossed. As I said in a previous response, I don't anticipate an American Holocaust. But I do envision a period in the near future when individual acts of vandalism violence will become much more frequent.

Karl Newman... Well, I need to call BS right back atcha. As a Jew raised in the US I can hold my head up and say without ehsitation that American Jews have been at the forefront in fighting bigotry and race hatred. If you saw a white face in Selma or on any of the Freedom Marches, chances are they were Jews. What frightens me is that nobody is protesting or openly expressing their outrage when Jews are the targets of bigotry. As always, we stand alone. Also, your assumptions about Europe are flawed. There were many periods in European history (including just before the Holocaust) when Jews were completely mainstream members of European society. This is why many of them could not believe it when the discrimination and attacks became commonplace. I agree that the conditions do not exist for pogroms. But for house burnings, attacks and even lynchings? Absolutely.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 16, 2009 9:14:55 AM

There were plenty of white Gentiles in those marches. The reason those whites....Jews and Gentiles....marched in protest is because the victims got tired of their treatment and started the protests in the first place. If you want people to voice their outrage on your behalf then go back to Connecticut, round up your fellow Jews and start something. If you expect others to do it for you, you're in for a long wait. Why should someone else fight your battles for you if you won't make the first move?

Also, if you become victims of violence then arm up and defend yourselves in accordance with the law. I guarantee the lynchings and arson will stop when some pissed-off Jews let Gaston Glock do the talking. That's something the Jews of Europe couldn't do.

As for your shot at the South (again), I have news for you. If you want to find blatant bigotry, just scratch the surface in New England....as you have already pointed out. My father was from the north shore of Boston; I'm very familiar with cities like Peabody and Lynn. If you want to hear a lot of ethnic slurs, that's the place to go. Not here or Atlanta. Bigotry is a nationwide phenomena and you New Englanders are as bad if not worse than anyone else.

Posted by: Karl Newman | Dec 16, 2009 2:18:40 PM

Up in one small Idaho town near the border with Washington, the white supremecists, neo-Nazis and other assorted racist radicals decided to hold their annual march through town.....the town was none too pleased with this, and had previously tried to get the police dept not to issue a parade permit, but the city attorney or some such legal person determined that there were no grounds to withhold the permit, and if the town withheld the permit, it would be a constitutional violation.

So small Idaho town came up with a different solution: all the merchants closed their businesses, and EVERYBODY came to the parade, and as all the Nazis walked by with their flags and families in tow, every citizen quietly turned his or her back on them in total contempt.

There were no Jews in that town--but the Idahoans hated the Nazis and what they stood for.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Dec 16, 2009 4:23:20 PM

Burning crosses in America is a whole special category because of our history. I find it personally repugnant, but I don't think it should be illegal. I'm an Army veteran and I'd find someone burning an American flag especially distasteful, but aside from the safety issue I don't think that should be illegal. Freedom of Speech means nothing if it does not protect unpopular ideas.

My first instinct on seeing these three shmucks was to smack them all across the face like the three stooges. But really the last thing I would want to do is be seen or photographed anywhere near these losers. I think I'm an average mainstream kind of guy.

That Karl Newman sure makes a lot of sense.

Posted by: David Bailey | Dec 16, 2009 6:32:27 PM

In Los Angles on the left coast.Was walking under a freeway underpass yesterday and noticed on a wooden fence in 2ft red letters;"THE STERN GANG". What a jolt from the past in an unlikely location!

Posted by: ED | Dec 16, 2009 8:04:45 PM

Just because it isn't mainstream is no reason to deny its existence and danger.

I am not saying that at all. My recommendation is to "out" them. Make their real names known. Better to know your enemy. When they feel comfortable walking around without masks it will be time for other measures.


Once after making one too many comments about ostjuden and auslanders, my other grandfather didn't speak to him for more than 2 years!

Mark- What about German grandparents and comments about "hungies." Ever hear that? Oy.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 16, 2009 8:53:09 PM

Funny, back in the 1960s we also had antisemitic problems of a low-key nature like this Ct. incident. In the East 80s of Manhattan and then there was George Lincoln Rockwell and James Madole of the National Resistance Party based in the Bronx. I was in Betar and we simply beat them up. We didn't always win but it was quite a physical and bloody experience at Columbia U., in Washington Heights and other locations. One comment mentioned "smacking them". Hey, a closed fist hurts more.

Posted by: Yisrael Medad | Dec 19, 2009 9:10:11 PM

Not even a flake of snow on the ground. In December. And they could still only drum up three people? And not one of them has the cojones to show his miserable face?

I must admit, as outnumbered as they must have been, I'm a little disappointed that they weren't grabbed, de-masked, and photographed. I'm quite sure their moms would have grounded them for weeks.

Posted by: Tanya | Dec 20, 2009 11:25:41 PM

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