It's a disturbing sight in 2017 to walk into a public space and see it covered with Nazi imagery. And, perhaps even more infuriatingly, this seems to be a more common occurrence now, too. In an era when the supposed "Land of the Free" recently voted into its highest office a man who has blocked scores of refugees from entering the country and made moves to construct a gigantic wall along the United States southern border — just as he promised to do — New York City commuters confronted such a situation Saturday evening. And although it does not erase the woes of a nation, the photos of Subway riders cleaning Swastikas from a train show that there are still people joining forces for good out there. Even complete strangers.
On Saturday evening — just a day after a Washington state judge temporarily halted Donald Trump's travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries — travelers on one Manhattan Subway sat silently in a car whose window and doors were defaced by about 20 Sharpie Swastikas. The riders were "uncomfortable and unsure what to do," one of them, Gregory Locke, wrote on Facebook afterwards. That is, until one man told his fellow passengers "Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie" — and many of them grabbed some tissues and Purell and started scrubbing.
"Within about two minutes, all the Nazi symbolism was gone," the Harlem-based attorney wrote, adding that another passenger commented that such bold and gruesome reference to the the murder of Jewish people and other vulnerable populations in Nazi Germany seems to represent "Trump's America." But Locke refused to accept that the messages scrawled by an anonymous, hate-filled vandal or vandals — including "Destroy Israel, Heil Hitler" and "Jews belong in the oven" — are emblematic of most Americans' attitudes.
"No sir, it's not," he wrote in a public response to the sentiment that this is true. "Not tonight and not ever. Not as long as stubborn New Yorkers have anything to say about it."
But the appearance of the Swastikas in the New York City subway train was not the only troubling incident in the country over the weekend, CNN reported. In addition, an unidentified man was captured on security camera smashing the front window of a Chicago synagogue and leaving Swastika stickers behind. And in Houston, Rice University officials are investigating the tagging of a iconic campus statue with Swastika graffiti.
The connection between Trump's rhetoric and these unsettling — and, for many, threatening — incidents can't officially be confirmed, of course. But the new president has, with his deeply nationalistic views, a proclivity to characterize nonwhite people as the "other" (whether intended or not). His habit of branding himself as the answer to the country's economic problems, not to mention authoritarian tendencies, has invited derogatory comparisons to Adolf Hitler himself, as University of Nottingham history professor Maiken Umbach wrote in a International Business Times op-ed. Those criticisms — warranted or otherwise — grew when Trump's White House released a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that did not once mention the 6 million Jews who were the targets of an attempted extermination of a race.
When a massive, nationwide surge in hate crimes directly follows the election of a new president, as was the case with Trump's win in November, that's a cause for major concern. Even the smallest gestures, such as ridding a Subway train of the symbol of this savagery, counts in combatting the rise of this form of hate in modern America.