Did I ever tell you about the time I met a Nazi? I mean a real, live, honest-to-blog Nazi. Seriously. I haven’t? Awesomeness. Well then pull up a chair, my good friend, settle in, curze this story’s a good one.
I was traveling in Italy in 2006 with my friend Alice. We had been in Rome a couple of days and made friends with these adorable and kooky Australian girls with fabulous tans and even more fabulous laughs. (If you’ve traveled at all, you know how Australians seem to swarm the globe with their awesome travel habits. I’ve made Aussie friends in almost every city I’ve visited.) After group dinner at our hostel (free Italian food!), we decided to make our way to a bistro for drinks in a piazza not far from our hostel.
Best thing about Europe: walking. No drunk driving!
Joining us on this excursion was: the Awesome Aussie Girls, Picasso (Our token tortured artist. He was from New Zealand and had a great accent. But he practiced his asshole impersonation constantly and, in between sips of his drink which he constantly stared into or puffs of his never-ending cigarette, he’d pepper our lively conversation with bursts of “THIS IS ASININE” or “MORONS.” I had to wonder why he came along if we were such idiots, but I think he was actually lonely.), Goofy Italian Guy (who worked the desk at our hostel and constantly flirted with every female in sight, but to no avail), and Italian Tattoo Artist (HUGE guy, covered in tattoos, wearing a black T-shirt that would fit a Barbie doll. I think he was friends with Goofy Italian Guy.).
I sat between Alice and Italian Tattoo Artist with the Aussie Girls across from us. Picasso and Goofy Italian Guy were at the other end of the table. We had been drinking and laughing and sharing travel stories for a couple of hours, (Well, Picasso wasn’t. As we know, he was nursing a cigarette and shouting tourettes-like into the universe) when a new guy entered our group. I didn’t know this guy. He was tall and thin with a warm smile, big laugh, and olivey skin (Is olivey a word? Well it is now). He squatted down next to Goofy Italian Guy to chat, but we had a free chair at my end of the table, so I invited him to sit. He didn’t hear me, but Italian Tattoo Artist leans over and tells me that I shouldn’t do that.
“Why not?” I ask.”Well,” he responds in his heavy Italian accent, “he’s Muslim.” Matter of fact. As if that answered my question completely. If he were a 20 year old from Santa Monica, he would’ve added: DUH. Duh. But I didn’t see what was so obvious. He’s Muslim so he can’t sit down with us? Why the hell not? So I ask as much. “So he can’t sit with us?” He looks at me and as calm as a Buddhist monk on lithium and with the slightest of smiles tells me, “I’m a Nazi.”
He’s a Nazi. Of course he is. Clearly.
But, let’s take a moment to think about this situation for a second. I’m torn. On the one hand, my innate reflex is to tell this guy what a racist asshole he is and that if there is a hell, it’s full of burning Nazis, and that no amount of recompense can lessen the atrocities of the Nazi party. Ever. On the other hand, I want to live. And every movie I’ve ever seen about WWII tells me that I should smile and pretend I’m okay with that or else I could end up with a bullet in my head or starving to death in a work camp where one day I’ll go to take a shower and end up dead. Or, more realistic: end up dead in this guy’s basement after he tortures me with Nazi memorabilia.
I chose life. I didn’t respond at first. I think I hid my fear well, but I just kept quiet. He proceeded to tell me all about the Northern Italian village he grew up in near Switzerland, where it was very common to be a Nazi, blah blah blah. Give me a break. I was soon able to extract myself from the conversation when one of the Aussie girls started pretending to be pregnant while she downed a beer just to get shocked looks from other passerby in the piazza.
But I was shaken by that. I was raised knowing fully about racism. I’d read a million books and watched a thousand movies about the Holocaust. I was fully aware of America’s racist roots and the KKK still alive and well and Neo Nazi protests in Southern California. In my literature studies, I always found myself drawn to issues of ethnic studies, of culture clashes, and white colonial dominance over the world. Bigotry always fascinated me, perhaps because I could never understand it.
But it’s another thing entirely when you meet such overt racism right in the face.
This brings me to a conversation I was pulled into on a friend’s Facebook page yesterday. My friend EJ wrote as his status: “I am surprised I am not seeing more comments about what is going on in Arizona on Fbook.” Which sparked a bit of a discussion (I put that mildly) and I joined the convo at the behest of another friend who asked for some backup and I came into it like 10 comments in. You can see I very quickly lost my temper. And I apologize for the political commentary, but you know me.
(I’m editing out some comments for the sake of brevity)
Cause no one cares
I care! It's unconstitutional, offensive, and I'll gladly avoid spending any money in AZ or on AZ goods as long as the law remains.
I will make a point to cross over to AZ and spend money there. Thank god vegas is close enough.
No one is commenting on AZ choice to get rid of illegal's! Wtf. Why not. Let's call them equal too. They take all your resources. Let's give them more rights! Illegal gays get more free insurance thanks to equal rights and thomas jefferson!
So is americans giving away their rights.
have fun in AZ, but make sure to avoid the dirty immigrants (since they must all be illegal according to the color of their skin). maybe throw in some racial epithets for good measure. oh, and cook your own food. clean your own hotel room. park your own car. avoid any hotels or parks with landscaping. also, make sure to take your birth certificate, and social security card. wouldn't want to get caught without proper documentation and get thrown in jail now. I know there's a huge risk of identity theft if you carry that around, but better safe than sorry. oh and I know! maybe we should just get a symbol of some kind for legal immigrants to wear on their clothes so we can tell them apart from the illegal aliens. I know that was a very successful program for Hitler.
Umm u have to do that when going into any other country. Why not ours???
no you don't. just when crossing a border. when I lived in France, I kept my passport locked away so it wouldn't be stolen.
Oh that's right because illegals get god damed everything when they cross our borders. That's right I forgot. Stupid me.
nothing like a blasphemy against god in the name of discrimination.
my point is not about the illegal immigrants. they wouldn't have documentation anyway. now, try and follow this logic: the anger here is not about the illegal immigrants. it's about the racial profiling against Latinos who are here legally or are citizens and who should not have to carry sensitive documents to prove such and who will be casualties of this law. still follow? do you have to prove your citizenship on a daily basis? no. these people shouldn't either, simply because they have dark skin or have accents does not constitute rationale to treat them as trespassers, criminals. what if you were pulled over for speeding tomorrow and had forgotten your drivers license? do you think an appropriate punishment is being sent to a foreign country? that may very well happen to many citizens and legal immigrants of Latin descent.
Oh well. Too bad they left their license @ home. Responsibility is key here. I am glad they will be profiling. It can finally be acceptable. Maybe we can speak english again and my tax money won't pay for their kids food and medical expenses. Good bye mexicans
I can see how hard it must be to have any sort of tolerance or empathy when someone has led a sheltered, pampered, uneducated life. so, I'll stop trying to fight with logic. clearly that was too much to ask for. when we let fascism in, the line is hard to draw. so when the laws begin to encroach on your rights (maybe it's your home or your children or your freedom to be in public), those of us who warned you will say: oh well. too bad for her.
you wanted a discussion, EJ! haha!
Obamas already doing that. Open ur f ing eyes!
I am glad people r getting arrested for looking illegal. Maybe it will scare the crap out of the jack asses that hang out @ home depot and they will scatter like rockroaches. I am not worried about getting arrested for living where I was born and belong
That I did... lol
Okay. Do you know what fascism is? Google it. The world's two best known fascists were Mussolini and Hitler. neither bothered with health care. their policy for the feeble and old was genocide. are you condoning genocide? really?
okay, clearly we're just dealing with a racist and a bigot. there is no reasoning with that kind of hatred. maybe you would have felt at home in Nazi Germany.
They both died maybe obama will follow suit.
Its not hatred its reality. Go hug a tree or a gay and make yourself feel better. I am gonna go about my day knowing I live in america legally and get to have health insurance because I as a woman am married to a man
And it was at this point that I gave up. I like a good debate if the other side can be rational or logical and employ rhetoric, but this was hopeless. The conversation didn’t stop and others tried to make this girl understand, but you can’t argue with crazy, with hatred so deep. What finally got me was that she honestly admitted to racism. Usually these types will push their agenda and keep the stigmas of racism and fascism under the rug. It’s still shameful to associate with one of the largest genocides in history. But there she was, the bigotry spewing with pride. And this is an average woman, my age, living in Southern California with her children.
Good god. And don't get me started on her grammar. What is a rockroach anyway?
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