Editorial: Senseless act not symbolic of a cause

Last updated 05:00 26/10/2012

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OPINION: A spasm of anti-Semitic vandalism in Auckland signifies little more than a shabby reminder that we have fearful social inadequates among us.

We should not minimise the specific hurts caused by those who painted Nazi symbols on graves at the Karangahape Rd Cemetery.

After all, they desecrated the graves of people who were loved and honoured.

Such action demands prompt and emphatic restoration. A nice sharp penalty for any convicted perpetrators wouldn't go amiss either.

Much as it's understandable that we collectively shudder at the mentality of the offenders, there's no need to get especially het up.

Whether these lunkheads were truly ardent in their hateful proclamations or were just low-wattage losers casting about for some way, any way, to declare their own importance, the fact remains that this was an empty provocation.

It represents no groundswell of wider public feeling. At all.

There was no immediate linkage between the vandals and any political groups but, in any case, the fact that strugglers like the so-called Right Wing Resistance have failed so many times to gain traction testifies that this country essentially scorns such dullardly thinking.

No surprises there.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres has described the attack as sickening and he calls for New Zealanders of all faiths and ethnicities who feel the same to offer their support to the Jewish community.

Fair enough, but this should be done in true Kiwi fashion, on the quiet. We should not react as if this was somehow a powerful assault of great and terrible significance requiring mighty symbolic counterstrikes.

To do that would be to amplify something small and mean, infusing it with a potency it just plain doesn't warrant.

That's not to say that society needs to turn its head away from such criminality on the basis that only if we resolutely ignore it, it will go away.

We must reject both the message and the methodology.

Mr de Bres acknowledges that cemetery vandalism, of this stripe anyway, is rare. He's essentially right in the sense of such apparently targeted malice although, regrettably, you would be doing well to avoid coming across dabblings of Nazi symbolism all over the country.

That happens not because these kids are true fascists but because Nazi signs have long been a vandalistic stencil favoured by boys and girls who are up for being bad and rebellious but don't have much of a cultural vocabulary for how to go about it.

So it's swastikas by default - if only because they get a reaction.

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If modern New Zealand society gets it right, then there will soon enough be a good reason for a swastika to appear on a headstone.

That would be because it is, itself, dead and buried. Of no significance except as a cautionary reminder of the harm done by old follies, long since found out.

This editorial also appeared in the Southland Times.

- Taranaki Daily News

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