In a recent column (TNT, 2-16), Leonard Pitts Jr. writes about a photograph of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan posing with an American flag. Beneath the flag is a banner showing two S-shaped lightning bolts, which 70 years ago was the logo of the Nazi SS.
Media mavens have decided that this is shocking enough to be newsworthy. Pitts tells us this photograph demonstrates an alarming ignorance of history on the part of our Marines. In this case we are fortunate to be able to see the photograph in question.
It is self-consciously posed in the style and spirit of Teddy Roosevelt. It appears dignified and even staid in comparison to most of the pictures that surround us. The SS symbol in the middle of it creates the same embarrassment we feel when we see ourselves in our fifth-grade class photo putting our fingers behind each others’ heads.
Faintly embarrassing? Yes. Kinda funny? Yeah. Good gossip fodder, but newsworthy it is not.
In every decade at least as far back as Aristotle, the older folks have comforted themselves by bewailing the ignorance of the young. Not recognizing the SS logo might lose you a round in a trivia quiz, because it is trivia. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell the difference between totalitarianism and democracy.