Friday, December 31, 1999

my little Nazi

[Originally posted on November 28, 2014, at 1:50AM.]

One of the girls in my Advanced Academic Listening and Discussion class has come to class twice wearing a coat with a Nazi eagle on it. I'm talking about this Nazi eagle, which has been disgustingly appropriated by designer BOY London. I find this image highly offensive, but because I recognize that my student is, like so many Koreans apparently are, woefully ignorant about Nazis, Nazi symbols, and the history of World War II in general (keep in mind that Korea is the country where people think it's OK to run Hitler bars), I can't blame her for her original purchase. Blithe and clueless, she simply didn't know.

I tried to take a humorous approach to the situation, stage-whispering to my student that I found her coat disturbing, but I failed to remain impassive. I ended up letting my true feelings show as I talked with my student about this right before class began. I told her about the girl group Pritz and, when my student tried to defend the singers' way of dressing, I said (as I'd written in that blog post), "How can anyone, in the age of the Internet, not know who Hitler was or what a Nazi design looks like? You'd have to be stupid!" My student flared, "So you're saying I'm stupid?" —which wasn't my fucking point at all, but yeah, Missy, now that you mention it...

The girl herself is normally fine in class, but I've noticed she's easily stressed and can be, on occasion, a bit of a harpy. Today, during class, she openly admitted to having "a hot temper," which isn't going to win her any points with me.

I asked her, at one point, "What if I came into class wearing a tee shirt showing a huge Japanese flag sitting atop a Korean flag, crushing it? How would you feel then?" The point I was making was about the power of both symbols and historical memory, which can be passed down from generation to generation—a legacy of bitter remembrance. My mother, even in her later years, felt a great deal of animus toward the Japanese. I myself am sometimes leery of them, even though no Japanese person has ever done me a bad turn. (I was, however, offended by Japanese classmates in my Korean class who sincerely wondered what was wrong with Hitler. Japan has an unfortunate habit of revising history, so it's not surprising that Hitler, a fellow Axis member, isn't viewed in Japan with the same hatred he receives elsewhere in the real world. Experiences like that make me think Mom's bitterness was justified.)

I don't think my student got what I was going for. Young and selfish, she only understood that I was implying she was stupid. I wouldn't accuse her of being stupid, truth be told, but I think she's as ignorant as those legions of Koreans who have no notion of history beyond Korea's borders. She's a frog in a well—blinkered, narrow-minded, and insistent on wearing fashion that obnoxiously rubs my face in the brutal fact of the deaths of six million Jews and who-knows-how-many millions of non-Jews, thanks to Hitler and his Reich.

Oh, and my student dyes her hair blonde. So she looks like a proper little German girl.

Now that she's been made aware of how offensive her eagle is, I wonder whether she's going to do anything about it. If she continues to wear the same fucking coat to class as a childish statement of rebellion, I'll know her answer.

Last note: I'm a bit late to the game, but pop singer Nicki Minaj, whom I generally like, got into hot water for associating herself with the BOY London brand. She also apparently used quite a bit of Nazi imagery in a recent video, and apologized when there was a backlash. I'll give her credit for taking "full responsibility" for offending people with her creative decisions. She'd be a good example for my coat-wearing student to follow, but I doubt my student will either apologize or change what she wears to my class.


1 comment:

John said...

Fascinating. I have a similar reaction to the Che Guevara t-shirts.