What we mean when we say THIS.

I always think the best columns are those that don’t tell you what you already know or flatter your existing prejudices (Mr. Albom’s territory), or even those that make you think of something you hadn’t before (which is still a pretty good column), but those that make you think YES THIS IS EXACTLY IT and it’s something that was right in front of you all the time. Like those 3D puzzles where you have to find the dolphin in the pattern. You let your eyes swim out of focus, and then the dolphin is right there.

Today, that distinction goes to Monica Hesse at the Washington Post, writing about the infamous picture from Baraboo High School, of the Nazi-saluting kids, taken last spring at the prom.

On Monday, this photo surfaced online (under the hashtag #BarabooProud) and immediately went viral. The photographer later maintained he’d merely asked the boys to wave, though the gesture didn’t resemble a wave made by any hand-possessing human. In response to an outpouring of outrage, the superintendent issued a statement: “We want to be very clear. The Baraboo School District is a hate-free environment.”

If this response sounds familiar, it’s because it echoes the bland assurances recited by officials whenever poison bubbles up in America.

…So, to the Baraboo superintendent: If your defense is, “We’re a hate-free environment,” but there’s a photo of 60 of your students Sieg Heil-ing on the steps of the county courthouse, then maybe you should consider the possibility that you are, in fact, a hate-filled environment.

Maybe it hit home because it has happened a few times around here, particularly before kids realized that social media is not a private affair. There were some kids who wrote “I (heart) n*ggers” on their bodies, took pictures and sent them around, then seemed amazed that they ended up on the 6 o’clock news. There was another closer to the 2016 campaign, where they shot video of themselves being racist.

Here, as in Baraboo, the reaction was exactly the same: This isn’t who we are! And, to be sure, it isn’t who most people are, at least not out loud and in public. However, anyone who denies the casual racism that percolates in suburban and rural communities — hell, in pretty much all communities — isn’t paying attention.

I think a lot of people would like to believe they live in a hate-free environment simply because they won’t let their children drop n-bombs at the dinner table, but as Hesse says, when 60 kids will sieg heil on command, either you’re not teaching them what it means, or, option B, they think it’s no big deal.

And that’s a big deal. That’s the dolphin in the 3D puzzle.

Hesse’s columns are really good. Find them here.

And that will be it for me today, for lo, though the week is still young, it has me feeling very old. Gotta eat more protein tomorrow. Carbs are poison.

Posted at 9:16 pm in Current events, Media |

31 responses to “What we mean when we say THIS.”

  1. Jeff Borden said on November 13, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    There have been a number of disturbing incidents of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in the Chicago suburban school Oak Park – River Forest High School over the past couple of weeks. Oak Park, which Ernest Hemingway once described as a community “with wide lawns and narrow minds,” is so liberal that right-wingers sneeringly refer to it as the People’s Republic of Oak Park. These racist elements have always existed in the shadows, I guess, but maybe they are more overt because of who currently roosts in the Oval Office.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 13, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    Sugar is poison. And fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.

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  3. Deborah said on November 13, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Where is our friend Pilot Joe in all of this?

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  4. alex said on November 13, 2018 at 11:26 pm

    The Baraboo school superintendent is almost as mealy mouthed as Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds regarding Rep. Stephen King,

    King, she said, “needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District.”

    Considering the margin of King’s victory, it looks like his constituents already made that decision for him.

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  5. joe kobiela said on November 13, 2018 at 11:58 pm

    Actually Deb I am in Palwaukee tonight.
    I have my thoughts just keeping them to myself.
    Pilot Joe

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  6. beb said on November 14, 2018 at 2:48 am

    Who knew this was a thing….
    Trump’s vagi-neck


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  7. alex said on November 14, 2018 at 6:29 am

    The wattle with a twattle!

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  8. Heather said on November 14, 2018 at 6:35 am

    This is so true, Nancy. Looking at our dark sides is essential to change and wholeness on an individual, community, and societal level. If you refuse to accept it, how can you change it? This can be quite painful of course, which is why it’s so hard for people to do it. Especially when you’re white and taught in so many ways that your default setting automatically makes you a good person.

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  9. alex said on November 14, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Heather, I think this is in part why the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act was such an easy sell. The effort was motivated purely by cynicism and abetted by widespread naivete and denial. And look what has happened.

    I’m amazed at the number of white liberals who remain heavily invested in the “economic insecurity” bullshit about why Trump got elected and refuse to acknowledge what’s really going on.

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  10. Peter said on November 14, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Beb at no. 4 – there’s a special place in hell for the person who put that on the web. I don’t know how much eye bleach I’m going to need for that one.

    Hello Pilot Joe!

    Wisconsin Nazis: Maybe I’ve missed this part of the story, but if you were a professional photographer taking this picture, and you looked in the viewfinder and saw all those snots doing a nazi salute, wouldn’t you say something to the effect of “knock it off assholes”? And if you were an employee of the school, and this photo came across your desk, wouldn’t you call the photographer up and say “hey dumbass, if you want to work with us again you need better quality control”? Unless of course you’re all racist.

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  11. Peter said on November 14, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Oh, and Today In Trumpland: Did any of you read the articles about John Bolton’s assistant who’s getting canned (or will be, or has already, or might be – it’s Trumpland, after all)?
    There has been a lot of speculation over what finally did Mira in, but I have my own conspiracy theory: Melania is from Slovenia, and Mira is a born and bred Croat, and if my mom’s family is any decent example, that would be reason no. 1 with a bullet.

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  12. Julie Robinson said on November 14, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Peter, the photographer, WHO IS A FORMER TEACHER, claimed he was just telling them to wave. As. If. One young man who was there said he didn’t know what was going to happen and refused to raise his arm. (The picture does show this.)

    Also today in Wisconsin news: a Hortonville company is giving its employees guns for Christmas. What do they make, you might ask? Turns out they make drinkware with bullets embedded in the side. I love that the story’s author felt it was important to say they were family-owned.

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  13. Sherri said on November 14, 2018 at 10:38 am

    I was talking a couple of weeks ago with a pediatrician who had moved from Memphis to Seattle because her son was getting bullied in his prestigious all boys high school after the 2016 election. They’re Pakistani-American, the kid born in America. They tried talking to the headmaster, but got nowhere.

    It’s not perfect out here, and we can talk about the cluelessness of white liberals sometimes, but at least here, the kid won’t stand out for having brown skin.

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  14. Jenine said on November 14, 2018 at 11:04 am

    And white flour is the devil. Ugh, it’s hard work eating better.

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  15. LAMary said on November 14, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Peter, I think you’re right about the Slovenia/Croatia theory.

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  16. Deborah said on November 14, 2018 at 6:57 pm

    Peter or LAMary, or anyone else, can you elaborate on the dispute between Slovenia and Croatia. I’m totally ignorant about that part of the world, I had to google a map to see where they are. They share a border, but what’s the deal? Is it ancient or recent?

    Edit: I found this on Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croatia–Slovenia_border_disputes is this the extent of it?

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  17. alex said on November 14, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Royko had a wonderful column on that very subject once. Actually Serbs and Croats. A mixed couple was getting married and had hired a Croatian band for the wedding. The band bailed when they found out the bride was a Serb. Royko shamed the band and got them a new band to perform gratis and the well wishes of many.

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  18. LAMary said on November 14, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    What Alex said. It’s an old animosity that predates the breakup of Yugoslavia and was exacerbated by the border issues after the breakup. I recall someone saying only Tito Broz could hold Yugoslavia together.

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  19. Deborah said on November 14, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    What the hell happened to Avenatti?

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  20. alex said on November 15, 2018 at 7:04 am

    One of the bullshit arguments I hear in defense of casual racists and bigots is that it’s not the same thing as people in Klan hoods. Well, no shit, Sherlock. These days they dress up in suits and take it on Fox News, or in front of the Supreme Court, and pretend that they do what they do out of love rather than hate. It’s why the SPLC remains one of my most important charities.

    I’m sure some will perceive this piece as bothsiderizing the issue, but I think it’s taking the traditional objective journalistic position. The trouble with that these days is that is that it looks weak in a post-factual world where advocacy has become the new normal. In any event, worth the time:


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  21. Suzanne said on November 15, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Oh, and look! The market is tanking again.
    My boss, yesterday, told me that her 401(k) has gained something like $20 this year because with all the market fluctuations, the gains have been wiped out every time.
    So much winning.

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  22. Deborah said on November 15, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Something must be about to break with Mueller, judging by Trump’s tweets, he’s unhinged.

    I’m avoiding going down to the dungeon, I mean the storage area. I brought a box of photos up yesterday afternoon, with every intention of sorting through them and organizing them last night. Of course that didn’t happen, I ended up just jamming them into one of the plastic bins. One of these days I’ll organize them.

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  23. Scout said on November 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    Twitler is indeed in quite a tizzy today. Josh Marshall thinks he’s feeling cornered.

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  24. Deborah said on November 15, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Florida is out of control. Some of the commenters here live there, what’s your take?

    I finally sat down and organized our jumble of photos. It’s so much easier to sort through digital photos.

    We had a nasty weather day in Chicago, not so cold but wet and dark. We had a little snow in the morning, big fluffy flakes but nothing stuck.

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  25. Julie Robinson said on November 15, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    Everything happening in Florida is exactly what our son has been warning about since the 2016 election. I mean, Palm Beach County was down to one recount machine, and it could only count one race at a time? Keep in mind it’s the second largest county in the state. Matt is trying to work his way up in the party to be involved in the say-so of how it all works. He’ll talk your ear off if you give him a chance.

    In the meantime I spent the afternoon at the hospital with my mother after what was meant to be a regular checkup. They ended up doing a CT scan and EKG and now she has to be on a soft diet for a while, in hope of avoiding surgery. It was kind of stressful and she hates waiting around, and it was mostly waiting around. I forgot my juggling balls.

    Also in the meantime: our daughter met Queen Elizabeth II! She went to the reception with her friend and had a conversation with Her Majesty, who was a little puzzled as to why a Floridian was at a Norwegian reception. I think she was slightly dazzled. (Sarah, not the Queen.)

    This all started when she offered four actors a place to stay while they were in Orlando for the Fringe Fest. So that whole Biblical thing about entertaining angels unaware? Maybe they won’t be angels, but will be Norwegians who will get you in to meet the Queen.

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  26. Mark P. said on November 15, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    I think when the history of the United States is written in the distant future, the defining phenomenon will be slavery and the defining characteristic will be racism. It’s a scar that has disfigured the American psyche since the arrival of the first slave, and there is no sign that it is getting better. Every good thing we have done as a nation and a people will be overshadowed by slavery and racism until we address it and atone for it.

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  27. Deborah said on November 15, 2018 at 10:42 pm

    Julie, your daughter’s trip sounds fabulous. Speaking of fringe, we’re going to the fringe opera tomorrow night. I’m not sure how we’re going to get there because if I’m not mistaken the big lighting of Michigan Ave for the holidays parade is tomorrow night as well, so hopping over that is going to be fun. We are going to a new music concert on Monday night and then early Tuesday morning we leave for NM for Thanksgiving. So busy.

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  28. Dave said on November 15, 2018 at 11:31 pm

    I suspect that Scott would have won the race for Senate by a larger margin had the hurricane not disrupted the Panhandle area so bad, I daresay a lot of people didn’t vote. The Panhandle is largely red, despite the fact that Andrew Gillum is mayor of Tallahassee, it’s an outpost of blue. Anyone that would think otherwise only needs to look at Matt Gaetz although, it’s true, his district is west of Tallahassee.

    As for why anyone would vote for Scott, even though he (probably) wins by a slim margin, is a mystery that I cannot explain. All I can say is that if you have enough money, you can look to Rick Scott and see that it is possible to buy an election. He bombarded the state with ads in the closing days of the campaign, you could see the same ads on all the channels almost simultaneously. I switched channels several times just to see.

    I’m very disappointed that Gillum lost. I really thought he might pull it off and I wonder if the Orange One’s repeated Florida trips had anything to do with his victory. He really had no issues or fresh idea, he’s been a Orange One mouthpiece and that must be good enough to win by a thin margin. Perhaps giving felons the opportunity to register to vote will make a difference in the future.

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  29. Dexter Friend said on November 16, 2018 at 2:20 am

    “Shock jocks” Opie and Anthony ruled the first big surge of satellite radio, out of New York City…they came into prominence/infamy when they broadcast a couple having sex in the revered St Patrick’s Cathedral, when the radio guys were still at WNEW in 2002. Later they were on XM for years. As I listened from time to time, I realized Anthony Cumia was a little bit right-wing, then it became clear he was a Hitler apologist, then I was positive he is a Nazi at heart. He eventually was canned for making racist remarks about an African American woman he had clashed with over taking cell phone photographs. So…I have a Facebook friend, a comedian who sometimes gets invited to Cumia’s “compound” on Long Island. One day some photos were posted. Cumia is a nut; he has Nazi war uniforms displayed in his home, helmets, rifles, (Mausers), Luger hand guns, much more, but also…a huge glass case/cabinet of Hitler dolls! I posted how the entire set-up was fucking disgusting. Replied back to me: “It was 70 years ago…get over it!” And as Ron Bennington said on Faction Talk 103, XM Radio on Thursday, ” I hear Hitler’s name every fucking day…I hardly ever hear “Jesus”, but that damn Hitler is right here every day.” And he is right. If there is one name I can live without, it is Hitler.

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  30. Deborah said on November 16, 2018 at 9:17 am

    It’s another Friday! Really hoping Donny Jr gets indicted today. And Roger Stone, heck make it a two-fer.

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  31. Jenine said on November 16, 2018 at 9:35 am

    @Julie Robinson: you win the thread with juggling balls, Norwegian angels and QEII!

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