Swastika by Miriam Sagan

Some hate graffiti recently appeared in the Railyard Park near my house: Vax Jews. It is a bit confusing because vaccination saves lives and Jew is not a hate term. But it can be used as one. And if you think vaccination is an evil plot, then the Antisemitism is clear. This isn’t the first time. A memorial to the pioneer Jews of New Mexico was also defaced. In both cases, the hate message cleaned off. The Chabad rabbi suggested placing a menorah on the site for the upcoming holiday of Hannukah—a nice idea.

The Railyard has been a liminal place since I arrived in its environs in 1984. It was unusually industrial for Santa Fe. The Railyard had an atmosphere where lawlessness could happen. Even though it is now completely gentrified, it still retains a bit of this. Recently a sculpture by an African-American artist outside a gallery was torched. Hooliganism and racism are no strangers to the Railyard.

All this is to say that certain places will never be safe. And one of those places is America. As I was waking to the pale dawn of this lovely November morning I suddenly remembered a swastika. Boldly drawn in black sharpie on one of my mother’s kitchen chairs. A memory surfacing from my childhood. The chair, wooden and straight backed, was slightly decrepit and relegated to the backyard. It was odd lime green, but useful. I’d sit on it by the hour babysitting my sibs on the swing set. It could be used for a fort. It sat under the chestnut tree my grandfather had planted.

The swastika could not be scrubbed completely off. Its shadow remained. My unhandy mother did not repaint the chair, which eventually broke down in rain and snow. And was replaced by some actual lawn furniture.

The backyard was open to the neighborhood. Kids passed by all hours of the day. Anyone could have done it. Swastikas were ordinary, often drawn in pictures at school of World War Two scenes.

The swastika is an ancient symbol, taken by the Nazis. It appears all over the American Southwest, rolling backwards from the Nazi form, etched in rock. It might be a bent solar cross. It might be a symbol of migration. But the one on the kitchen chair meant hate.

My parents did not appear to react. Things happened—and Antisemitism was one of those things. I was glad when the chair was trashed. When the city removed “Vax Jews.”

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