Peggy Organizes the N.A.Z.I. Party

How do we respond to Nazis and other white nationalist anachronisms? My friend Peggy paved the way years ago when I was still a young hitchhiker in the seventies. I was travelling through her hometown somewhere in the Deep South.

First Amendment vs. Right to Cry “Fire”

An unusual news drama was unfolding while I was there and it culminated the Saturday before I left. It seemed that the year before, an official of the local Nazi Party had burned down the fence and slaughtered 10,000 head of cattle that belonged to a Jewish cattle farmer. He was doing time now and the rest of the party had announced a march through town and a rally to be held at the jail to organize his defense drive.

The march had originally been scheduled for a year before when his conviction was handed down, but the Jewish community, small though it was, had risen in indignation and challenged in court the legal right of the Nazis to parade their brand of prejudice and bigotry through the streets. The Nazis fought back by raising the cry of “First Amendment.” The Jews countered with the “Right to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” argument, claiming that the mere presence of the Nazis could inflame the emotions of the townsfolk enough to cause a riot, but they lost, and the march and rally were set for that Saturday.

The Mayor and the Whorehouse

The conservative press supported the Jews, while conceding that their opinion was based more on moral feelings than legal precedents, and so did the shrewd politicians, who knew full well that there were more Jewish sympathizers in their constituency than Nazi sympathizers.

The mayor, who had survived a scandal the year before that found him on the wrong side of a police raid on a downtown whorehouse and who knew that it would be an issue in his up-and-coming bid for re-election, announced self-righteously that, yes, he would uphold the constitution of this great country and permit the march to proceed but that he did not support their racist doctrine and was even so offended by it that, if in the event there was a counter-demonstration, he would be willing to speak at it to make his opinion known.

Naturally, this was a carte blanche invitation to all peace-love groups in town to organize a counter-demonstration, which they did. It was also an obvious hint from the mayor that he wanted to speak at it, which he did.

According to Peggy, the whole scene was a farce because it was so predictable, so she organized a counter-counter-demonstration to counter both the demonstration and the counter-demonstration. “The Nazis’ best weapon is their public reputation,” she explained before the big day. “They issue orders by threat alone and people obey because ‘they’re the Nazis.’ Now they’re threatening to hold a march and people are reacting with fear and hatred. Some fear the Nazis and will probably hide in their houses all day. Others are promising to ‘give those damn Nazis some of their own medicine.’ Either way, we help them promote their macho image.”

Meanwhile, she continued, the national media had already created a major spectacle out of what otherwise would have been an insignificant march. “Media from all over the country will be there to cover it. Anything that happens will be news. We can co-opt the headlines by attacking the Nazis where they’re strongest. Since the Nazi reputation is effective only when people take them seriously, we have to not take them seriously. In fact, not only should we not fear them, we should laugh at them, and relate to them as the clowns that they are.”

Yippies to the Rescue

What Peggy did was to invite the community, through posters that she hung on smooth surfaces all over town with a sponge and Pet Milk so they couldn’t be torn down, to: “Join the N.A.Z.I. Party.” The party was organized by a group of activist Yippies who called themselves the Nutty And Zany Idiots, and whose initials spelled N.A.Z.I. The participants gathered at the college, where make-up specialists from the theatre department painted their faces white and their noses red. They all wore swastika armbands on their arms and marched to the park in goosestep formation. At the front of the line was another clown, this one with a black painted mustache: “Der Füermonger—Adolf Hitler.”

Between Adolf and the other marchers was a cart being pulled by a jackass named Jack. In the back of the cart, two women held a giant mirror in the direction of the marchers so they could see their own reflection. Symbolically, Peggy explained, this showed that our march was the mirror image of the other Nazi march.

Jack Sticks It in Adolf’s Ear

At the park, everyone gathered around a stage and Adolf rose to address the crowd. The crowd began chanting, “Stick it in his ear, Jack,” because the theme for the march, which appeared on all the posters along with the appropriate picture, had been “Watch Jack stick it in Adolf’s ear.” Peggy’s friend Bill led Jack on stage and positioned Jack’s ass in Adolf’s ear. The crowd roared with approval, and then Peggy announced that the N.A.Z.I. Party would now begin and everyone was invited to join. Refreshments included lox and bagels and the crowd danced the hora to the accompaniment of Peggy on her guitar.

We all had a great time, much to my relief. I had expressed misgivings about possible violence at the rally but Peggy dismissed them as unfounded and unnecessary paranoia. “They’re marching to the jail, we’re marching to the park, and that’s close enough for me,” she explained. “I don’t want to meet them until the next morning’s paper includes us in the same article.”

Further, she predicted, “The media will love it. The fearful image that the Nazis nurture will be punctured and the story told the next day will be one of absurdity rather than one of fear.”

That’s the Way It Was

Actually, only about thirty people showed up to march, but the Nazis didn’t do any better. The counter-march had about a hundred because the mayor was there, but some of them left early and joined us in the park.

Sure enough, the voracious appetite of the media gobbled us up. The mayor, who was known to be a closet anti-Semite, was blasted by the press for “prostituting his beliefs, as perverted as they are, for the sake of a few votes,” a charge he didn’t need seeing as he was trying to erase his whorehouse escapade from the public’s memory. The Nazis were outraged by our taunts and a small band showed up at the park to hassle us, but when they saw the cameras they retreated because they didn’t want to look like fools.

We, however, did succeed in looking like fools, which is what we wanted seeing as we paraded as their mirror images. The festivities began at noon so that the TV stations could write their stories and get them in to their editors for the 6 o’clock news. That night, when Walter Cronkite announced “That’s the way it was,” we celebrated with a batch of Bill’s special carob brownies.

Advertisements

Mexicans Who Stay Behind: The Other Side of Immigration

We read every day about immigrant individuals and families who come to the United States. Many of them are our friends.

  • But what become of the communities they leave behind?
  • Why do family members and friends remain in Mexico?

Director Roy Germano and his team interviewed over 700 Mexicans living in towns where about half the population came to the United States to find jobs and a new way of life. Through an approach that is described as “both subtle and thought provoking,” he offers a unique view on the issue of undocumented immigrants in his film, The Other Side of Immigration.

Come see it and join the conversation.

Where: Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard Road, Ann Arbor, between Eisenhower and Stadium.

When: Monday August 28, 7 p.m.

The event is co-sponsored by TBE’s Social Action Committee and the Genesis Social Activities Committee. It is free to the public, and so are the refreshments.

Calendar of Social Action Committee Events

Monday, August 28 | 7:-00 – 9:00 | TBE Sanctuary

Film: The Other Side of Immigration

Based on over 700 interviews in Mexican towns where about half the population has left to work in the United States, The Other Side of Immigration asks why so many Mexicans come to the U.S. and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. Through an approach that is both subtle and thought provoking, director Roy Germano provides a perspective on undocumented immigration rarely witnessed by American eyes, challenging audiences to imagine more creative and effective solutions to the problem.

Saturday, September 9 | 11:30 am-12:30 pm | TBE Adult Lounge

Guest speaker: Margo Schlanger

How will becoming a sanctuary congregation affect TBE’s liability? What legal issues will arise? Will the congregation’s nonprofit status be threatened? The Social Action Committee answers these questions and more in its third Community Conversation. Special presentation from guest speaker Margo Schlanger, University of Michigan Law professor who is part of the legal team fighting to defend Detroit’s Chaldean community in federal court.

Monday September 18 | 7:00-9:00 pm | TBE Sanctuary

Guest speaker: Mary Anne Perrone

Should Temple Beth Emeth become a sanctuary community? What does that mean and how does a congregation do sanctuary? What are the ramifications? Why is sanctuary even necessary and what is its goal? The Social Action Committee (SAC) answers these questions and more with this repeat appearance from guest speaker Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS).

Is Sanctuary Coming to Temple Beth Emeth?: Upcoming Events

More immigrant families were deported or torn apart under the administration of President Obama than under any previous administration. The growing sanctuary movement in this country began under his administration, not Trump’s.

But he was a nice guy, he was handsome, he could talk in complete sentences with multisyllabic words, he didn’t embarrass us around the world, and he had what appeared to be a functional family. So he was given a pass by a lot of progressives who feared that attacking him would lead to someone worse.

Image result for "lourdes salazar bautista"

Well, now we’ve got someone worse. Trump and his gang of pirates are so unhinged, the entire world is in hysterics with laughter and terrified with horror at the same time. Immigrant families are being stalked outside churches, outside schools, and outside homes. In Ann Arbor this summer, Sava’s Restaurant was raided by immigration authorities looking for undocumented workers; and long-time Ann Arbor resident Lourdes Salazar Bautista, mother of three U.S.-citizen children, was sent back to Mexico, where she hasn’t lived for over twenty years.

Hearing the Call

Religious congregations around the country are hearing the call. They are drawing from their respective religious teachings, practices, and histories and embracing the sanctuary movement. But what does that mean? How does a congregation do sanctuary? What are its goals?

One congregation that has heard the call and is exploring what that means is Temple Beth Emeth, Ann Arbor’s Reform Jewish congregation. With a unanimous vote by Rabbi Josh Whinston, board president Carol Freedman-Doan, and the board of trustees, TBE’s Social Action Committee (SAC) was encouraged to become active in the local sanctuary movement and educate the congregation about what sanctuary means and how to do it.

In my upcoming article in the September issue of Washtenaw Jewish News, “Birmingham Temple Declares Itself Sanctuary; Is TBE Next?,” I talk about what’s happening at TBE. The article includes interviews with and comments from the board presidents and rabbis of Birmingham Temple, in Farmington Hills, and Temple Sinai, in Washington, DC, two Jewish congregations that already have declared themselves sanctuaries. Please share it widely.

Meanwhile, SAC is pleased to present its first four events encouraged by the board. You don’t have to be a TBE member to attend. All are free. Don’t miss them if you care about social justice and live anywhere near TBE, which is located on Packard Road between Stadium and Eisenhower.

 Calendar of Social Action Committee Events

Saturday, August 19 | 12-1:15 pm | TBE Adult Lounge

Guest speaker: Mary Anne Perrone

Should Temple Beth Emeth become a sanctuary community? What does that mean and how does a congregation do sanctuary? What are the ramifications? Why is sanctuary even necessary and what is its goal? The Social Action Committee answers these questions and more in its second Community Conversation. Special presentation from guest speaker Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS).

Monday, August 28 | 7:-00 – 9:00 | TBE Sanctuary (ironically)

Film: The Other Side of Immigration

Based on over 700 interviews in Mexican towns where about half the population has left to work in the United States, The Other Side of Immigration asks why so many Mexicans come to the U.S. and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. Through an approach that is both subtle and thought provoking, director Roy Germano provides a perspective on undocumented immigration rarely witnessed by American eyes, challenging audiences to imagine more creative and effective solutions to the problem.

Saturday, September 9 | 11:30 am-12:30 pm | TBE Adult Lounge

Guest speaker: Margo Schlanger

How will becoming a sanctuary congregation affect TBE’s liability? What legal issues will arise? Will the congregation’s nonprofit status be threatened? The Social Action Committee answers these questions and more in its third Community Conversation. Special presentation from guest speaker Margo Schlanger, University of Michigan Law professor who is part of the legal team fighting to defend Detroit’s Chaldean community in federal court.

Monday September 18 | 7:00-9:00 pm | TBE Sanctuary

Guest speaker: Mary Anne Perrone

Should Temple Beth Emeth become a sanctuary community? What does that mean and how does a congregation do sanctuary? What are the ramifications? Why is sanctuary even necessary and what is its goal? The Social Action Committee (SAC) answers these questions and more with this repeat appearance from guest speaker Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS).