Baraboo, Wisconsin has certainly been in the news lately. Recently, a pre-prom photo for some Baraboo High School students taken last spring has come under heavy scrutiny. Some of the students appear to be doing a Nazi salute. Politicians and others figures have weighed in on the matter, and I would like to do the same.
First, it is important to know exactly what a Nazi salute looks like. This DailyStar article has the prom photo and a photo of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler making the salute. Keep that image in mind as you read this post.
Multiple media sources have acknowledged that not all the boys have their arms outstretched. In addition, some of the boys’ arms are bent, which is not a Nazi salute. Around half or so are making what could be a Nazi salute, but it is very dangerous to say what the boys were doing before the police investigation is closed.
As reporter, commentator and editor James Wigderson points out, this is simply not a cut and dry case. Some sources claim that photographer Pete Gust told the students to wave to their parents. As some of their arms are bent, it is plausible to say that the students were in the middle of waving, and the photo caught them, or at least some of them, at an awkward moment.
Interestingly, Mr. Gust was a teacher and has been involved with the state teachers’ union, WEAC. Hardly the first person or group that you would suspect of promoting a far-right, racist agenda, correct? Nevertheless, the media and some politicians went full steam ahead with the Nazi salute idea.
State Senator Jon Erpenbach, who represents Baraboo in Madison, used the photo to make an attack against the White House and the Right: “Unfortunately, based on what these students see coming from the White House, some of them may believe what they have done is acceptable.” Esquire magazine made similar statements. We have another ‘controversy’ on our hands.
Don’t misunderstand me- it is certainly possible that the students were making a Nazi salute. Furthermore, the Appleton Post Crescent reports that racial harassment complaints doubled during the 2016–2017 school year. The photo and these complaints may or may not be related. I wholeheartedly support the police investigation. The truth needs to be uncovered.
However, not all people behaved the same. Such a very controversial and emotionally charged issue needs to be handled with care. The media and politicians should have carefully analyzed the situation before using this photo to their advantage. Why are there differing accounts? What did the students say? What did the photographer say? If the students were making the Nazi salute, why did the photo lie undiscovered for months?
These figures most likely did not ask these questions. Make no mistake about it- they are using racism and Nazism to tarnish their opponents. They may feel passionately about what they are doing, but their invocation of racism, Nazism, the far-right, etc. is very self-serving.
As a lover of history, I really, really hope that the students were not making that gesture. It is horrible, offensive and a reminder of a time that has thankfully past. It seems that historical literacy has been dropping as of late. All people need to know what the Nazis were and what they stood for. Not only so we can stop those who want to revive their ideals, but also to stop people from shamelessly attacking people as Nazis to further their political and personal goals.
The Amazon Original Series The Man in the High Castle depicts an alternate history in which the Axis Powers won World War II. Based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, the series is a powerful reminder of how different our world could be.
Nazi salutes are only the beginning in the American Reich, which is controlled by the Greater Nazi Reich. Sieg Heil is the greeting of choice. Our freedoms and independence are gone since we are controlled by Berlin. Every Tuesday, hospitals burn cripples and the terminally ill. Jews have largely been exterminated and the remaining ones live in fear.
The series is excellent entertainment, but also a powerful reminder of what the Nazis stood for and what would have happened to us if we had lost the war. If the Baraboo high schoolers were making the Nazi Salute, they should have to watch and discuss this show as part of their re-education. Do they really want an America in which the Nazi salute is tolerated?
Regardless of what they did or did not do, everyone should watch the show to both be entertained and improve their historical literacy. The next time you think someone is supporting a Nazi-affliated cause, or is accusing someone else of doing so, recall this show. That is a serious accusation, and needs to be handled with great care.
We should never forget what happened so it never happens again. This includes both stopping those who would revive Nazi ideals and those who conveniently use Nazism as an attack to further their own agendas.
As Mr. Dick wrote, “we all are insects. Groping towards something terrible or divine.”
Let us try to grope towards something divine, eh?
Originally published at theprimacyofpolitics.blogspot.com on November 20, 2018.