Yesterday I saw this woman walking down the street in Belleville, ON. I was shocked, so much so, that I was mired in my own emotions before considering what was going on.
I grew up the grandchild of immigrants who came from Germany in the post World War II chaos that existed there. While my grandmother grew up (b. 1925) under the Third Reich, she was vehemently opposed to such ideology. I grew up with stories of the horrors her family endured as a result of this political change. This, is why when I saw a woman walking proudly with a Nazi flag sweatshirt, I was taken aback. I wondered where she could have procured such a garment, and how she was affecting those around her.
What I didn’t consider was what she was trying to accomplish, (if anything). At first I thought she may be trying to start a dialogue about fanatical fascism, racism or something of the ilk. I thought of Sarah Silverman’s “Face Wars” episode from her eponymous television show. Was she misguided in her pursuit of social justice? Pushing boundaries has often been employed in change. This, however, did not seem to be the case.
I understand that the swastika is a deeply religious symbol used in parts of the world that does not indicate Nazism. I would have perhaps written the shirt of as that if it were not surrounded by a white circle and red background (i.e. der schwartz, rot, weiß). If she were a visible minority, I may have written it off as a misunderstanding of what this configuration of the symbol meant.
In the end, (after I quelled my own reaction), I began to wonder if she were mentally ill. The reason I jumped to this conclusion is based in my work within several communities. In my working life I have encountered several individuals who have employed intense symbology for both shock value, and to distance themselves from others. I doubt many people are stopping this woman to ask her questions.
While I have no definitive answers as to why this woman would choose to don a symbol of hate in a public area, it did provoke questions. Why would she do this? Why am I reacting so strongly? Even if this is legal, is it ethical? Should she be bound by the emotions of others?
I hope this image helps others probe their own reactions.