June 30, 2009

What's on a Dead Punkers T-Shirt?


Indeed, there are lots of interesting things happening lately; there was the New Haven Firefighter decision (score one for the good guys), the withdrawal of troops from Iraqi cities, support for the burgeoning Honduran dictator, Manuel Zelaya, by our current administration, and a couple celebrity deaths.

I definitely don't feel like writing about Michael Jackson, although I can't resist pointing out how hilarious it is that Al Sharpton is the Jackson Family spokesman. In fact, I don't even feel like writing about Obama this week. I am already sick of him and it is only Tuesday. Sometimes I find it refreshing to take a step back revisit little moments from the past…Moments of significance which really cemented my political views. So let's take a break from the big "O" (and all the noise of the week) and allow me to share a thought or two.

Obviously, if there was ever an early punk rock icon who deserved a movie it was Sid Vicious. I know this kind of thing is a subjective mine field; Johnny Thunders or Iggy Pop both deserve votes. But when it comes to '77 punk, and one individual who would influence punk rock style in a huge way: Sid is it. The hair, the stance, and my favorite - his bass guitar slung way down to his knees, were all elements which would launch a thousand bands and sell a million jars of hair gel.


One of Sid’s t-shirts that made many appearances was his totally giant swastika shirt. The shirt was so much one of his 'trademarks' that it made it onto cartoon versions of him, was printed for posterity on records sleeves, and was seen being worn on documentary footage. Personally, I did not enjoy that shirt as much as Johnny Rotten’s, "I hate Pink Floyd" shirt, but I got the point never the less. While Rotten chose to irritate the tired rock and roll counter-culture of the previous generation, Sid took a jab at the older folks who had only a few decades before fought to rid Europe of the menace which marched under the swastika. Maybe I am giving Sid too much credit...maybe he just thought it looked cool. Who knows?

What is interesting about the swastika shirt is that in the 1986 film "Sid and Nancy", the swastika conspicuously became a hammer and sickle. It is more than a little significant that the producers decided to exchange one murderous totalitarian regime's symbol for another. It is at heart, a clear example of the long standing, double-standard our culture has had concerning these two similar systems.


If we ignore the similarities of these two political systems and judge them separately, calculating sheer genocidal body count, then the Soviet’s hammer and sickle is the clear winner. That symbol presided over a social system which had been executing, purging, and torturing many years before the Nazis even came to power. Lenin instituted terror as a state policy by late 1918 (Hitler was merely an upstart in those days). Later, Hitler openly admired his Communist contemporary, Stalin, for his skill in mass murder and the technical methods of extermination, such as specially designed railway cars. The Soviet Holocaust in Southern Russia and Ukraine in the 1930's was an effective, albeit sloppy precursor (killing between 7-10 million “class enemies”), to the Nazi extermination of the Jews years later.

Yet, somehow Communism and its symbols get 'lesser evil' status in the West. Far beyond some late 80's punk film, we still see this status today. For example, it is an eBay policy that nothing resembling Third Reich paraphernalia can be sold with the exception of items dating from the WWII years. So you can't buy that Hitler statue you always wanted, but you can buy a Lenin or Stalin bust to worship to your hearts content. T-shirt websites have any number of communist inspired shirts and hats. And how many movies have you seen about college kids where the dorm room has a Che Guevara poster in the background? I suppose Nazi Field Marshal Walter Model just doesn't look as cool sporting the monocle as a leftist murder in a beret.


It is far worse than a conspiracy - it is an entire culture which is responsible for this farce. The Left has worked hard to keep the hundred million or so skeletons in its closet. It is the very same culture that made rats out of people in Hollywood who 'named names' when asked to expose known Communists years ago. Certainly they would have been heroes if they named members of a Nazi party. Instead they circled the wagons to protect each other and made martyrs out of those who were guilty. (Today, they are ‘survivors of witch hunts’ while openly admitting to affiliations with Moscow!) Most of all, they minimized the atrocities of one system and obsessed on another - as if Nazism was the one and only personification of evil in a political system - year after year, decade after decade.


As someone who has had relatives killed by both Nazis and Soviets, I can tell you dead is dead. I don't know exactly what the producers of Sid and Nancy were thinking when they swapped out Sid's shirt back in 1986. Maybe they just thought the hammer and sickle looked cooler - but I doubt it. I think they knew exactly what they were doing. It is the acceptable symbol of mass murder. After all these years of a totalitarian double-standard, maybe eBay and other outlets just don’t know any better. It does seem like it has paved the way for Socialism to actually be considered viable in America by many people - and we know what the next train stop after Socialism is…It reminds me of the infamous Khrushchev quote: We can't expect the American People to jump from Capitalism to Communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of Socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have Communism.

stay tuned, friends....

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