Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 22 (or: Swastikas? Really?)

Intriguing title, no? Here’s the story: I work for a non-profit youth resource center and coffee house. Very alternative. Very non-traditional. Very unconventional. Very cool. Very troubled and messy and loving and brilliant. LOVE these kids. So incredibly There and Out There with it all. I tend to adore teenagers for just such reasons. They’re completely messy intensity makes me happy. But, unfortunately, they like swastikas (I’m taking some artistic license here. Really, probably only one or two of them like swastikas, and "like" is probably a bit strong, given the penchant for feigned ennui so unfortunately abundandtly inherent in all things young adult). They like to tag swastikas. And they like to paint soap swastikas on the floor in the bathroom. And they like to use a pencil and oh-so-softly carve swastikas into the soft wood of the counter tops in our lovely coffee shop. And apparently, they like to do swastika-esque things in other places around town as well.

Are they Nazis? No. Are they hate-mongerers? No. Do they indulge in white supremacist thought processes? Gee, I sure hope not. And I’m pretty sure, no. Are they expressing themselves? Yes. Is it a fairly harmful way of expressing themselves? Oh yeah.

As with anything Kid or Human, when one person expresses onesself, it can, in some cases cause a complete hurricane of backlash. And in this case, the semi-drawn out appearance of swastikas in our beautiful coffee shop caused some angst among staff. And staff (kid volunteers, for the most part) figured they might be able to address things fairly well, and they were right. Someone suggested that we invite the community who may be the most affected by a swastika to be a part of the Solution For Swastikas, and that’s when things got really big. This very small town has a loving and involved Jewish community, who lovingly (and at times fearfully) helped get some really incredible stuff going on at our coffee shop and in our community in response to the appearance of swastikas.

That was a really long and drawn out (I’m sorry, Holly) explanation of what led to what I’m doing on Day 22. Day 22 of One Thousand Days, I made spaghetti for 3 adults and about a million kids as a non-intense way of having a conversation about symbols and hate and where these things come from and what we do about them. The first “thing” in a series of “things” (including a showing of a movie at our local theater, a “primal scream” event, a series of rap sessions, an art installation and a open theatrical dialog) that will address hate, symbols, free speech and several other complicated things about the world we live in.  Day 22 should probably count as several Days, given the amount of involvement it's taken to get to this point. 

Did I mention that I have seven followers now? Hi Shelley! And a friend stopped me on the street to say she'd read the blog and found it amusing.  And I got my first comment from someone I don't even know.  Apparently I've found my calling.  Boy, what a responsibility, all this Living Up to My Potential business.

22 down, 978 to go.

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