Category Archives: Civil Rights

Reclaiming the Perverted

Can it be done?

Yesterday, two things happened on my Facebook feed at the same time: one friend put up an image of a Hindu swastika saying it meant welcome and shouldn’t be condemned as a Nazi symbol. Almost immediately afterward, someone else put up a Confederate flag, saying it was a symbol that stands for Southern history and pride, not racism. I felt sucker punched. Both of these people are good folks, working to change the world for the better. How did they not understand?

Both friends received immediate mixed reviews. Some posters agreed, using their intelligence or knowledge of world history to insist the affected race/generations get over their ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to these images. Others, realizing the innocence and good intentions of the image poster, urged their friend to take down the offensive image, for their own sake. The one who posted the Confederate flag image, after being told stories of what that flag had stood for during slavery, the civil war, through jim crow to murder by police, took down the image and replaced it with a sincere and truly heart-felt apology. That was easy to explain, however. The Confederate flag had never stood for anything else except hate.

The responses from people opposed to displaying the swastika, interestingly enough, were drowned out by a number of starry-eyed, mostly young, idealists who have only experienced the evil of that symbol through novels and mini-series, classroom textbooks, or movies, the exact same way they learned about the innocent origins of a Hindu symbol. Three generations or more removed from Hitler’s atrocities, they claim the right to redefine the meaning of the swastika in the name of those who suffered under it, presumably in the name of modernism. They seem to see great positivity in trying to reclaim it as one of warmth and welcome, to shake loose its negative connotations.

Today, my friend put up another post, this time without the symbol but naming it, asking if it had been wrong for him to post it yesterday. Again, the majority of people, supportive friends, gave him plenty of props for being brave enough to put it up. Since the young person in question is actively involved in making the world better for LGBTQI youth, I believe he would rather I offer him a sound argument than blow smoke up his euphemism, so I responded with this.

I really do understand the support offered for your stance on posting something innocent that was twisted into evil. And I do understand the understanding offered by those unaffected by the Nazis, or those who are more than two-generations removed.

But, as many of my Trans friends have pointed out to me lately, it’s not okay to tell people you didn’t hurt them, when you actually did. It wasn’t intentional. It certainly wasn’t what you meant when you posted the image. But to some in their seventies and eighties (those who lived through it) that symbol alone creates a trigger response unlike any you’ve heard about before. The sheer evil that’s come to be associated with that symbol (however perverted) is living, breathing history to some of those around us.

I have dozens of older Facebook friends. Many of them will now see your post, because I chose to answer you. I am grateful you didn’t put the same image back up again on this post, because I really don’t want to subject them to seeing it. That’s why I never answered you yesterday. The pain is as raw today, for some of them who will never get beyond it, as it was when they lived through it so long ago.

In seventy years, you’ll be the generation looking back on whatever horrors are unfolding under our current regime. Perhaps, if we’re not wise enough to learn from the history of the past, we may be doomed to repeat it. If you survive, remembering those who did not, what will seeing an image of the orange imposter do to you? You won’t know until you get there.

Sometimes you cannot reclaim what was perverted. The poor fellow who drew the original Pepe the Frog will never get his creation back under his control, it’s been perverted beyond all reason. The Hindu symbol that is not a Nazi swastika may be well received in the part of the world where it originated and is fully understood, but here (except for certain Native Americans who have used the symbol for centuries) and in Europe it stands for only one thing: White Supremacy

(Name Protected) was right. You’ll never know how many people were hurt by seeing that symbol yesterday, they’ve more than likely already blocked you. If you are open-minded enough to understand why All Lives Matter is insensitive and dismissive of the black civil rights movement by demanding people accept a white version of equality, then you can wrap your head around this. And telling those triggered by any form of the swastika they need to get over it, rise above it, or use their intelligence to accept the truth, is denying the way a wounded psyche works.

I think you should create a new symbol of peace and equality, Original Poster, something we can all rally around to lead us out of this nightmare we’re sharing. The crow’s foot in a circle had its day. Make a symbol easy to wear on a chain or print on a T-shirt that stands for all that is good in humankind. Give us that instead.

Now here’s where I may have gone off the tracks…

And for that person who skims my post instead of reading it and then decides my hour-long thoughtfully written response is an attack on Original Poster (instead of intelligent discourse) and get all offended on his behalf, let me remind you of something very important: you don’t know me. Don’t dump your assumptions all over me in your rush to defend your friend from an attack that never happened. Original Poster is a friend I’ve had conversations with and I respect him enough to answer his question honestly from my perspective. Sheesh. And the fact that I’m so sure I’ll get trash talk from someone in response to this post is sad and the reason I’m thinking of erasing the entire thing before I post it.

Nah… I’ll have my say no matter how unpopular.

I dunno. Should I have kept my big mouth shut (or words unwritten, as it were)? What would you have done? Let me know with a comment if you think I over reacted or not.

Where Were You?


It was a crisp morning that bright autumn day in Fresno, with just enough breeze to blow the bangs on my forehead. I could see the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance as I walked the three blocks to my elementary school with my little sister, meeting my best friend at the corner as usual. I dropped Katy off at her half-day Kindergarten room and Cheryl and I walked into Mrs. Quick’s first-grade class to begin the earnest work of learning to read and add. Several hours later, we broke for lunch. I picked up Katy to walk home and have a sandwich with our mother and two younger siblings.

When we walked into the house, our mother cried as she explained that President Kennedy had just been shot. She made a plate full of PB&Js while staring at the 15″ b&w TV and never took her horrified eyes from the screen as we ate silently. A grizzled, gray-haired man whose face I knew from the evening news kept shuffling papers as they were handed to him and looking confused. I’d seen my mom upset before, I’d NEVER seen Walter Cronkite rattled. My knee started jiggling up and down under the table, causing a glass of milk to spill.

My mom sent me back to class a few minutes later (she even scheduled doctor visits for after school). The streets were bare, no traffic anywhere. The kids on the playground still shouted and played, but when the bell rang we were greeted in classrooms with lip biting, red-eyed teachers.

Poor Mrs. Quick, her blond bun pinned tightly to her scalp, tried to calm us down but we six-year-olds were confused and scared. An announcement bell sounded over the intercom before Principal May Iveson told us the president was dead. A woman screamed in the room next to ours, and Mrs. Quick told me she was going next door for a moment and put me in charge.

My parents were politically liberal, aware of progressive movements if not active (they were working on their fifth kid in seven years and had no time for anything else). At some point, they’d explained who the president of the country was, and with my newfound knowledge of George Washington, I’d made a leap in logic. “The president, the father of our country, has been shot. A bad man murdered him,” I said to my classmates as we talked it over. “America’s daddy is dead.” That was how I interpreted the news, and it’s stayed with me through all these years.

Classes were canceled as parents came for their kids. Cheryl and I walked home, stopping to watch the school custodian lower the American flag to half-mast. Our usual after school conversation dwindled away and at the corner we whispered, “…’bye,” to each other, going home to a world already changed.

Not a soul was in sight. The trees, bare branches reaching to a cold, uncaring sky, looked pathetic. Dusty crumbled leaves, as sad as I felt, littered gray gutters.

Later, there was even more confusion when Jack Ruby shot arrested suspect Lee Harvey Oswald before he could be fully questioned. Life was bleak. The funeral of President John F. Kennedy was the saddest event I’d ever seen on television. His children, my own age, brought home the tragedy on an intensely personal level. I stared at my father during dinners and worried what life would be like if he were violently ripped from us.

The ugliest side of politics won a battle that day, and conservative and liberal citizens drew into distinctly marked camps largely divided by attitudes toward the Vietnam war and age. Depending on which front my parents’ were fighting at the moment, they earned the titles ‘dove’, ‘liberal’, and ‘feminist’. I, self-identified by my pre-teen self, was a hippie.

Protestors were attacked by emboldened police departments, students beaten, gassed, even shot. Disenfranchised segments of the population demanded social justice. Civil rights were gained slowly for people now identifying themselves as African American, formerly known in polite society as colored people. In 1968, leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.

In California, a grape boycott created by César E. Chávez brought the nation’s focus on migrant workers and their mistreatment at the hands of what was just beginning to be termed Agri-business. Some people wanted to create better working conditions for the people crossing the border of Mexico to find seasonal work. Others wanted to stop their influx into the country. Crop-dusters dropped weed killer on the protestors. Yes, you read that correctly. Poison was deliberately thrown on men, women, and children, now the parents and grandparents of kids hoping for acceptance under the Dream Act.

The next year, following riots at a Greenwich Village bar called The Stonewall Inn, the birth of what we now call the LGBT Movement began. A little over fifteen years to the day of President Kennedy’s death, San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated.

Two steps forward, one step back. That’s the way Americans deal with progress, steadily dragging ourselves into the future with a political tug-of-war unique to our country. The death of President Kennedy heralded in a time of great division among our citizens which broke apart families and caused suspicion and judgment on all sides.

Jeeze, doesn’t that sound disgustingly damned familiar? Been there, done that just fifty years ago.