Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Nazi Salute

Schoolboys giving the Nazi salute is silly. Grown men organising a concentration camp party is stupid.

Young men often bucked authority – it goes with the territory. From their viewpoint they do not appreciate or understand the reasons for the outraged response. To them it is another illustration of the stupidities of the older generation.

Soon after I began living with Anne her two boys once painted swastikas on their foreheads. They were as surprised as I was at the ferocity of my response. My childhood conditioning took over – this was an evil symbol. Even more is it to those veterans who fought and saw their comrades die opposing that symbol.

So I mute my outcry over the actions of five school boys from Auckland Grammar who gave the Nazi salute and kissed the swastika at an Auckland Museum exhibition. Boys will be boys. The revered objects of their adults are a target for youthful rebellion, albeit of a mild kind. They do not appreciate the depth of feeling of the adult world on this issue.

Though as history students they should have known better. But then Prince Harry should have had even more understanding when he donned Nazi regalia for a party. Surely the child of British royalty would have had drummed into him an understanding of the nation’s recent history.

The fact it is has happened in one of our most prestigious schools according to received mythology. (I’ve inspected it. Of its type it’s good). If it had been boys from say Manurewa College there would have been a similar outcry but with a different twist. Auckland Grammar students had earlier received unfavourable publicity after a brawl at the end of a rugby match with Kelston Boy’s. Young men are young men no matter what school they attend. Part of me is pleased that an iconic school is seen as normal as its peers.

As an educator I have a question. Where was their teacher while the incidents were taking place? From experience I know how hard it to watch groups when out on a study tour. But if I were principal I would ask some hard questions.

I expect a renewal of cries for more history teaching. From my vantage I support this call. But it will not stop incidents of this sort.

Until the school lads I have no sympathy for the group of gay men who were organising a concentration camp party. It’s more than a lapse of taste. It’s shamefully disrespective for the victims of the holocaust. It does not help the cause these men represent.

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