Neglected Nazi symbols: Vandalism in Milford
Thursday, May 18 was as ordinary as they come in the mostly-quiet city of Milford, with the exception of the sweltering spring heat, of course. The children rode the bus to yet another day of school at Okoboji, the banks, restaurants and grocery store opened as they did every morning and the otherwise silent Florence Park waited for the families to come and play on it in the afternoon.
But on that day, a large, red swastika was spray painted on the side of the public restroom that faced a children’s daycare center.
I do not blame you if you are surprised about reading this. In fact, a quick Google search will show that there was no news coverage of this and no police investigation underway for the vandalism. If you were to visit the park today, you would not see any trace that this had ever happened in the first place.
If you are not surprised that this happened, you are not alone. In fact, in the past year, there has been a dramatic rise in the amount of racially-biased vandalism across the country. This destruction of public property has become another appalling but desensitized crime in the news we hear every now and again.
It is easy, in our close, cozy town to speculate that this could be the work of teenagers who were bored on a Wednesday night and thought painting a phallic image and a Nazi symbol would be a good way to pass their time. We could all nod it off and say, “It is only paint, and it is just a symbol. No harm has been done.”
Taking those passive actions and ignoring a blatant act of hate against our community and the people around us is not the Milford I grew up in.
I have been away for two years in a small college in Minnesota. I have always taken pride in representing my hometown in a place where hardly anyone knows how to say “Okoboji,” much less spell it. One of the biggest aspects of my upbringing that has become a close part of my identity and values is the strength of the community we are a part of.
When I was on the high school debate team and we were low on funds to attend tournaments in cities around the Midwest, local businesses from all over our community charged to our sides to help us raise funds to compete. The police cars and fire trucks always took their eyes off our streets to escort our award-winning jazz band back home when we returned from state contest. Every time my mom and I would shop at Sunshine Foods, we always found friendly faces, whether we knew them or not, smiling at us in every aisle.
We have a rare community here that values the importance of acknowledging, understanding and helping the people we live with every day. It’s something that I took for granted while I was here. But returning home and learning that an act of hate against people who may look, speak or pray differently than our predominately Caucasian city, is not the place I called home. The actions of hate against other human beings, like the presence of a Nazi symbol, are perpetuating a dangerous narrative. What makes it even worse is pretending like they never happened.