O’er the land of the unfree

August 26, 2015

My fellow Americans, it’s time to change the words of our national anthem.

I don’t know what Francis Scott Key, born on a plantation in Maryland, meant when he referred to his nation as “the land of the free.” According to Wikipedia, he seems to have had a conflicted relationship with slavery. He owned slaves, but freed some of them; as a lawyer he “represented several slaves seeking their freedom in court (for free), as well as several masters seeking return of their runaway human property.” One source is quoted as writing “Mr. Key convinced me that slavery was wrong–radically wrong.” But he actively opposed abolitionism and “remained […]  a strong critic of the antislavery movement until his death.”

But this is, by American standards, ancient history. At present, the United States has the greatest number of unfree people — those in prison — in the world, in both absolute and relative terms. “Land of the free” sounds like a bad joke.

Besides, o’er the land of the unfree, with the extra syllable, fits the music better.

A few questions

August 18, 2015

I have a few questions for Donald Trump.

  1. Has he ever seen the Sesame Street episode about Ronald Grump? (It was made in 1994, when his son Eric was 10 and might have watched the show.)
  2. Has he read the New Yorker article about the cross-border tunnels dug by the Mexican cartels? (Surely they would make his vaunted wall a monument to futility.)
  3. Has he ever taken a survey of how many of the service employees in the hotels bearing his name (whether or not they are actually his) might be illegal immigrants? Do they earn the kind of wages that might attract American workers?

I expect no answers, of course.

On second thought, these and similar questions about Trump can be subsumed under one: Does Donald Trump know anything?

His political rise may well signal the second coming of the Know-Nothing Party.

Giant-ego men vs. competent women who happen to be beautiful

August 15, 2015

Take your pick.

Donald Trump vs. Megyn Kelly

THE CELEBRITY APPRENTICE -- Episode 912 -- Pictured: Donald Trump -- Photo by: Ali Goldstein/NBCmegynkelly

José Mourinho vs. Eva Carneiro:

 

Jose-Mourinho--chelsea n_chelsea_fc_eva_carneiro-4998475

In both cases, a very successful man with an oversized ego angrily attacked a competent professional woman, who happens to be quite beautiful, for doing her job.

I happen to be a fan of Eva Carneiro; I watch Chelsea matches for two reasons: to see the lovely Dr. Eva and to see (hopefully) Chelsea lose. I am not a fan of Megyn Kelly, but I respect her. And I despise both men.

.

 

 

Of the French

August 15, 2015

In cryptic-crossword clues, “of the French” is usually translated as the sequence DU or DES, since the French words du and des can both be translated as “of the” — the former in reference to a singular masculine noun, the latter to a plural of either gender. For singular feminine it would be de la, but I don’t recall ever seeing DELA so clued.

I don’t mean to write about crosswords, however, but about the fact that for a year or so (1791-92) following the French Revolution, when France was a constitutional monarchy, Louis XVI’s title was changed under Constitution of 1791 from King of France and Navarre (Roi de France et de Navarre) to King of the French (Roi des Français). The same style was adopted later by Louis-Philippe (1830–1848), and an analogous one (Emperor of the French) by both Napoleons. Only under the Bourbon Restoration (1815–1830) was the old style revived.

Moreover, every time that France has been governed as a republic it has been as République Française (French Republic), not, say, République de France. It seems as if the use of the demonym rather than the toponym made the regime seem less autocratic and more “popular.” But, as the royalist historian Guy Augé has pointed out, the change to Roi des Françcais was a “curious and unconscious return to the expressions of Medieval Latin.” In fact, the Old French Rei des Franceis was a meant as a literal translation of Rex Francorum, a title that had been used continuously until about 1190 and intermittently — alternating with Rex Franciae — thereafter. I have found only one instance of Rei des Franceis in an official document; it dates from 1266, a time when such documents in anything but Latin were extremely rare.

Rex Francorum (King of the Franks) was originally a tribal title, first used in the 5th century by Clovis I, at a time when Germanic warrior tribes moved around Europe and their rulers governed whatever territory they happened to conquer. Clovis ruled over much of what is now France (the French consider him to be their first king), but divided his kingdom among four sons, every of whom was also called Rex Francorum, and so it went on for the next several centuries when the kingdom was repeatedly reunified and redivided.

The Franks, like the other Germanic peoples who invaded various parts of the Roman Empire, came to constitute a warrior caste that governed their territory, and Rex Francorum meant, essentially, something like warrior in chief. The territory that they ruled came to be called Francia. In the 9th century, under Charlemagne, a distinction began to be made between western (Occidentalis) and eastern (Orientalis) Francia, the latter being the land inhabited mainly by Germans. The division became official at the Treaty of Verdun (843), in which a middle kingdom (Francia Media) was also created, but this soon thereafter became known as Lotharingia. During most of the 9th century several of the Frankish kings (east and west) also held the title of Roman Emperor, which was the primary title they used, and those who didn’t usually called themselves simply Rex so as not to limit the extent of their reign, in contrast with the fact that in reality their actual rule did not extend beyond their immediate fiefs while their vassal dukes and counts became more and more independent.

In the 10th century the imperial title became a monopoly of the Eastern kings, who stopped using any reference to the Franks; the first of these emperor-kings, Otto I, was not a Frank but a Saxon. Now only the Western kings, beginning with Charles the Simple, used the title Rex Francorum, and by the 11th the term Franci (Franks) lost its ethnic significance and came to mean all those who were vassals of those kings, if only in name. Normandy and Catalonia, for example, were at the time a virtually independent duchy and principality, respectively. The former’s dukes were, of course, ethnic Norsemen, and the latter’s princes — known as Counts of Barcelona — were of Visigoth descent. Nevertheless, in the Bayeux Tapestry the Normans conquering England are called Franci, and in the Poem of El Cid francos refer to Catalans.

By the 11th century the name Francia, previously confined to Latin documents, passed into the vernacular as France. Before that, France had another meaning. In the 9th century the counts of Paris were also called Duke of the Franks (Dux Francorum), and the territory of which they were overlords — Paris and some counties surrounding it — was also called Francia. It is much more likely that a term will be adopted into the vernacular if it corresponds to everyday experience, and the denizens of this region came to call it France, alongside the demonym franceis (modern Français), to contrast it with neighboring regions such as Normandy and Champagne; the larger Francia was not of much importance to ordinary people. This usage survives in place names, such as Roissy-en-France (the home of Charles de Gaulle airport) as distinct from another Roissy which is in the old county of Meaux, at the time a fief of the counts of Champagne, and in the division of geographic formations such Vexin to the west into Vexin français and Vexin normand, and Brie to the east into Brie française and Brie champenoise. But in the 11th century Franceis came to be the French equivalent of the Latin Francus, and was used retroactively in the Song of Roland, interchangeably with Francs, to refer to Charlemagne’s Franks fighting in Spain.

Note, however, that all these references to Franks or Franceis are to fighting men, from knights to dukes, and not to commoners. The title Rex Francorum (or Rei des Franceis) continued to carry the meaning of leader of the warrior caste, not of the common people. The change to Roi de France meant that the king ruled over all the people of his territory, including the increasingly important merchant and artisan classes of the cities, which struggled with the crown for autonomy throughout the later Middle Ages. This is just the opposite of what the French revolutionaries thought.

 

Über-Uber?

July 31, 2015

In the two years since I wrote about the ubiquitous — and, in my opinion, unnecessary — prefix uber, it use seems to have diminished considerably, probably because the word now inevitably evokes the name of the company offering ride “sharing” via smartphone.

When I first read about Uber, I thought it would be pronounced “yoober”, as would be normal with English words beginning with an open-syllable U (utopia, use, urine, uvula…). But once I heard it talked about, it was invariably as “oober”. Since I couldn’t see any immediate connection with über, I concluded that it is meant to be read as a Latin word.

In Latin, uber can be an adjective meaning ‘fertile’ or a noun meaning ‘(female) breast’. For that matter, I don’t quite see what either one has to do with transportation.

But I look forward to the day when some app will be created that outclasses Uber, and will be referred to in English-language media as the über-Uber. Or, in real English, super-breast.

Brat’s end

July 15, 2015

No, I don’t mean Congressman Dave Brat, about whom (or rather about whose name) I wrote last year. Instead, I am referring to an essay I wrote some nine years ago, in which I characterized Greece as “the spoiled brat of Europe.” I wrote:

Examples of what Greece has managed to obtain by throwing tantrums include admission to the European Union despite its non-contiguous location, admission to the Euro zone despite not meeting the stipulated fiscal criteria, and a ban on calling ‘feta’ the common white cheese of the region when it is not made in Greece.

But perhaps the biggest such tantrum has been about the fact that a country to the north of Greece, formerly a part of Yugoslavia (and before that of Serbia), chose, on attaining independence, to call itself the Republic of Macedonia.

But now it seems that Greece’s knack for getting away with spoiled-brat behavior has come to an end. I feel very sorry about the hardships that the people of Greece (whom I prefer to call, as I explain in the cited essay, the Grecian rather than the Greek people) are suffering and will continue to suffer as a result of the constraints imposed upon them by the political and financial authorities of Europe. But it was the Grecians who elected the governments whose irresponsible actions have led to the present situation.

The spoiling of Greece has a long history, going back two centuries. In order to get the major European powers’ help for securing independence from the Ottoman Empire, Greek leaders played two different parts: to Russia they were the embodiment of Eastern Orthodoxy; when addressing the West, they took on the mantle of ancient Greece (and, for the first time in a millennium and a half, began to refer to themselves as Hellenes rather than Romaioi, that is, Romans). This ploy coincided with the tide of Philhellenism that was began to sweep over Western Europe in the late 18th century, making waves in Britain (with Lord Byron a famous disciple), France and especially Germany. King Ludwig I of Bavaria was so enamored of everything Greek that he changed the spelling of his kingdom’s name from Baiern to Bayern because the y made it look more Greek than the i, and offered his younger son Otto as the first king of Greece installed by France, Britain and Russia.

While German Philhellenism, at least in its political form, may have cooled when Otto was overthrown in favor of a Danish prince married to a Russian princess, in France and Britain it continued unabated to the present day, and Greece’s political leaders learned that with enough whining they could get what they wanted, even membership in the very Western EU with which they had little cultural or economic affinity. When this happened, in 1981, Germany — at the time under Social Democratic rule — went along. But since then global capital, with the German financial empire as one of its pillars, has taken over the world. Profligate spending on such trifles as pensions, healthcare and education for the people is behavior that the system will not tolerate. And so the brat is spoiled no more.

SNCF

June 12, 2015

In my last post, I noted how Google Maps gives  accurate information on public transportation, both local and long-distance, in Spain, Italy and Germany, but fails to do so with regard to train travel in Belgium and France. In Belgium, the information is found readily (and reliably) on the website of Belgian Railways (NMBS/SNCB), in Dutch, English, French and German. In principle it should be the same with French Railways (SNCF), but it didn’t quite work out that way with regard to a trip from Amiens to Paris.

A previous consultation of the website had shown that a train listed as Intercités 2014 was due to leave at 11:05 and arrive at the Gare du Nord at 12:29. This seemed to be an ideal connection, and when we arrived at Amiens on the preceding day the electronic timetable at the station did in fact show that train.

I had thought about getting our tickets for the train right after our arrival from Ghent (with a train change at Lille), but since the ticket office (nowadays called espace de ventes) was to be open till 21:30, we decided to do it later. When we got to the station at 8 in the evening, however, the office was closed; a printed sign on the door said that “for exceptional reasons” (unspecified) they would be closing at 19:30.

We decided to try the automatic ticket machine. The train in question was listed as having only first-class seats available, at a price more than twice of second class, but in any case the machine would not accept our American debit card. Since ticket office would open at 05:50, we could easily postpone the purchase to the morrow.

Meanwhile, checking the SNCF site on my smartphone, I found that the train we wanted was not listed at all  on the reservations page, while the timetable page had it departing at 11:35.

When I got to the station (a short walk from our hotel) the next morning at 7:30, there was as yet no sign of life at the espace de ventes. I asked around, and was told variously that the office would open at 7:45 and 8:00. It was actually opened (reluctantly, it seemed) at 8:15, and I got the second-class tickets I wanted with no problem. The train, though officially an Intercités, was in fact composed of TER Picardie cars, second-class only. I wonder what we would have done with our first-class tickets, had we bought them from the machine!

A check of the SNCF website today shows the train listed, with an 11:20 departure (but still a 12:29 arrival), on both the reservations and timetable pages. Perhaps the slower time when we took it was due to track work, and perhaps the inconsistencies in the electronic information were due to a system malfunction. I have generally had good experiences riding French trains (except during strikes), and I hope that what happened last month (which, in any case, did not affect the travel itself) was a fluke.

Traveling by Google

June 5, 2015

I have just learned, from  this story in the San Francisco Chronicle, that I am one of the 53 percent of Internet map users who rely primarily on Google Maps, and one of the 90 percent who do so primarily on a mobile device. Rarely do I find myself so much a member of a majority.

I was an early user of MapQuest. I flirted for some time with the soon-to-be-discontinued Yahoo Maps. But once Google Maps became established I quickly converted, seduced by the fact that it provides not only driving directions but also ones for walking, bicycling and public transit. I have found the last option especially useful here in the Bay Area, obviating the need to consult separately the various agencies (AC Transit, BART, SF Muni and others). And on a recent trip to Europe which began in Barcelona and continued in Rome and then Cologne (via Ryanair), I got all the necessary bus, metro and suburban-rail connections pretty much right. And the information for continuing our travel from Cologne to Aachen by train was also spot on; GM, obviously linked to Deutsche Bahn, gave both the regional RE trains and the international ICE express trains (which go on to Brussels) at their scheduled times.

But when I was planning the continuation of our voyage from Aachen into Belgium, something strange happened. Had our destination been Brussels, we would of course have taken the ICE which would have whisked us there in a little over an hour. But we had decided that our base would be Ghent, and for the connection from Aachen to Ghent Google Maps gave the following:

12:21 PM–3:52 PM

High speed trainICE Bus214 Bus96 3 h 31 min

12:21 PM from Aachen Hbf

4 min

Schedule explorer
12:21 PM
Aachen Hbf
Germany
12:21 PM

Aachen Hbf

ICEICE 16towards Bruxelles-Midi
1 h 5 min (2 stops)
 1:26 PM
 Gare de Bruxelles-Nord

 WalkWalk

About 2 min
 1:35 PM
 Brussel Noord Perron 2

 Bus214 towards Brussel – Aalst

 1 h 18 min (57 stops) · Stop ID: 300855
 2:53 PM
 Aalst Station Perron 5

 WalkWalk

About 1 min
2:59 PM

Aalst Station Perron 3

Bus96 towards Aalst – Erpe Vijfhuizen – Oordegem – Melle – Gent
52 min (46 stops) · Stop ID: 204972
 3:51 PM
 Gent St.-Pietersstation Perron 12

 WalkWalk

 About 1 min , 160 m
 3:52 PM
Station Gent-Sint-Pieters
9000 Gent, Belgium

It seemed very strange that there would be no train from Brussels to Ghent and the trip would have to be done on two buses and take two and a half hours. I then checked on the website of Belgian Railways (SNCB/NMBS) and found out that there are about five such trains every hour, express trains taking half an hour and local trains taking an hour. Why weren’t they shown on Google Maps?

It so happened that the ICE train that we were going to take from Cologne to Aachen, and for which we had the tickets, was canceled a few minutes before departure. We quickly changed platforms to take the slower (and cheaper) regional train, and when we arrived in Aachen we requested (and promptly received) a refund of the difference in fares. When we inquired about going to Ghent, we were informed that, instead of changing trains in Brussels, there was an alternative that was perhaps a little bit slower but, for travelers over 65, considerably cheaper: we could take a local (L) train (operated by Belgian Railways) from Aachen to the nearby Belgian town of Welkenraedt (French-speaking despite the seemingly Germanic name) and there, on the same platform, hop onto one of the hourly express IC trains that run clear across Belgium, from Eupen to Ostend, by way of Liège, Brussels, Ghent and Bruges. The trip from Aachen to Ghent, including the change, takes two and a half hours (ours took longer because the Aachen-Welkenraedt train was late and so the connection was missed).

Now let’s see what Google Maps has to say about this sort of trip. The train from Aachen to Welkenraedt (and vice versa) is covered, because it is code-shared as both a Belgian local train and a German regional (R) train. How about Welkenraedt to Ghent, in reality a direct train taking 2 hours and 11 minutes?

7:42 AM–12:52 PM

TrainR ICE Bus214 Bus94 5 h 10 min

7:42 AM from Gare de Welkenraedt

3 min

Schedule explorer
7:42 AM
Gare de Welkenraedt
4840 Welkenraedt, Belgium
7:42 AM

Gare de Welkenraedt

7:56 AM

RR 5006 towards Aachen Hbf

14 min (2 stops)
8:21 AM

Aachen Hbf

ICEICE 18 towards Bruxelles-Midi

And then it’s the same as the previously given trip from Aachen to Ghent.

For trips within Belgium, such as from Ghent to Bruges, similar combinations of buses run by De Lijn were given. Now it so happens that De Lijn also runs all the local transport in Flanders, so that  information about buses and trams in Ghent was readily available on GM. But for some strange reason GM is not linked to Belgian Railways. I’m sure I’m not the only one aware of this; there are probably a few million frustrated Belgians in this situation. But I have found no reference to it online.

Belgian Railways also operates several trains a day going from Antwerp to Lille (in France) and stopping at Ghent; the trip from Ghent to Lille is about an hour and a quarter. For the Google Maps result, let the map speak for itself.

Gent Sint-Pietersstation, Ghent, Belgium to Gare de Lille-Flandres - Google MapsLille, however, was not our final destination on that day; it was Amiens. But when I queried Google Maps about the trip, I got the following reply:

     Sorry, your search appears to be outside our current coverage area for transit.

It was the same for traveling from Amiens to Paris. Obviously, then, SNCF (the French railway system) is not linked with Google Maps, either. (SNCF’s online presence, however, isn’t all that great; I’ll write about that another time.)

Google Maps does, on the other hand, give information about local transit in Paris, including buses, metro and RER (suburban rail). But something strange happened when I tried to find the schedule of trains on the well-known  (see Wikipedia, for example) RER line B to Charles de Gaulle Airport, a trip taking about 35 minutes. When I entered “Paris Nord, France” as the origin and “Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 – TGV, France” as the destination, I got several options, and one of them did in fact involve RER B. But rather than the northbound train going directly to the airport, GM had me take the southbound:

9:28 AM
 Gare du Nord
 TrainRER B towards Cité Universitaire
 11 min (5 stops)
 9:39 AM
 Denfert-Rochereau
 WalkWalk
About 2 min
 9:43 AM
 Denfert-Rochereau
 Subway6 towards Nation
 10 min (8 stops)
 9:53 AM
 Bercy
 WalkWalk
 About 4 min
 10:00 AM
 Gare Paris-Bercy
 BusiDBUS towards Bruxelles
 45 min (non-stop) ·
 10:45 AM
 Paris aéroport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Roissypôle
 WalkWalk
About 18 min , 1.1 km
 11:03 AM
Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2 – TGV
France

This is even more puzzling: since RATP (the Paris transit network, including RER) is in the  Google Maps system, why isn’t the airport line there?

More on KJV

May 6, 2015

I wrote in a recent post that I have more critical things to say about the King James Version.

What most bothers me about it – and I am talking mainly about the Old Testament – is the clumsy stiffness and uniformity of its style, altogether foreign to the great variety of styles, ranging from the sublimely poetic to the colloquially prosaic, found in the original. This feature – acknowledged even by a KJV fan like Harold Bloom – is quite understandable from the translators’ point of view: they were churchmen, and what they saw themselves as translating was not literature but the Word of God.

My pet peeve has to do with the translators’ treatment of the present participle, and even more particularly a specific case of it. To explain what I mean I have to go through a little – or perhaps not so little – discussion of grammar.

Hebrew (like Arabic, as discussed here) has, technically, no present tense; it is what is known as a zero-copula language, so that the equivalent of “me Tarzan, you Jane” (or, more literally, “I Tarzan, you Jane”) would be grammatical in it. Instead of the present tense, then, it uses the present participle, so that “I go” is אני הולך  (ăni hōlēkh – I’m using a sort of scholarly transliteration, not that of modern Hebrew), literally “I am going”. Now the present participle, in virtually all languages that have it, functions as an adjective, but in those languages in which adjectives are inflected for number (and possibly for gender) – which include Hebrew and many European languages, but not English – an adjective can be used as a noun meaning a person or thing having the attribute indicated by the adjective. For example, English nouns such as belle and blonde are borrowings from French, in which they are originally the feminine singular adjectives meaning ‘beautiful’ and ‘fair-haired’, respectively, but can be automatically turned into nouns.

In English adjectives, because they are uninflected, can be nominalized only to a limited degree. Some adjectives describing people, when preceded by the, can be used in the plural only to the note the mass of people having the given attribute: the rich, the dead, the homeless… Occasionally, in specialized jargon, an adjective may become a noun if the noun following it is omitted, such temporary (filling, in dentistry) or attending (physician, in a hospital), but that’s about all.

It so happens that attending is a present participle, but generally turning a present participle into a noun, even in the limited way discussed above, is even more problematic, because the same –ing ending that forms the present participle also forms the gerund and the verbal noun. Consider the difference in meaning between the questions “What does an undertaker do for a living?” and “What does an undertaker do for the living?”

In those languages in which adjectives readily become nouns, present participles are often used as one way of creating actor nouns, that is, nouns meaning persons or things performing the action indicated by the verb. English is full of such nouns borrowed from those languages, especially from Latin: president (praesidens ‘presiding’), regent (regens ‘ruling’), secant (secans ‘cutting’), tangent (tangens ‘touching’) and hundreds of others. There is also commandant from French (‘commanding’), phenomenon from Greek (φαινόμενον ‘appearing’). While these languages have other ways of forming actor nouns, the present-participle form sometimes is used to distinguish meanings: in French imprimeur is a printer (person) while imprimante is a printer (machine); in Spanish viajero means traveler in general while viajante means specifically a traveling salesman.

Hebrew, too, has various ways of forming actor nouns. For example, melekh ‘king’ comes from mālakh (‘to reign’), and gannābh ‘thief’ (leading via Yiddish to the English ganef or gonif) from gānabh (‘to steal’). But the past-participle way is by far the most common one, in both classical and modern Hebrew, in the same way that the suffix –er is the most common one English. For example, the usual word for ‘enemy’ is sōnē, which is the present participle of sānē ‘to hate’. In Exodus 23:5, for example, the Septuagint (compiled at a time when Hebrew was still a living language) renders sōnē as the noun ἐχθρός ‘enemy’. On the other hand the Vulgate (written long after Hebrew had died out) chooses to interpret it as the present participle odiens ‘hating’. But it is still used as a noun, and a reasonable translation into English would be hater. (A similar thing happens in Deuteronomy 7:10, though there the Septuagint has something more like ‘hater’.) This is not, however, what English translators, from Wycliffe on, choose to do. Since they cannot use hating directly, they write him that hateth.

There a great many cases like this: him that remaineth for ‘survivor’; him that smiteth (or smote) for ‘smiter’ or ‘killer’. But my favorite is the translation of maštīn baqqīr (‘pissing on the wall’) as (him, one or any) that pisseth against the wall.

Modern translations usually render this phrase as male, and that is in fact the meaning. It occurs six times, always in narratives from the time of the kingdoms and in the context of actual or threatened extermination. In my opinion it was, in all likelihood, soldier slang. It cries for a pithy, slangy translation rather than a churchy one. Shakespeare would probably have written it as wall-pisser, on a par with ratcatcher (Romeo and Juliet) or idiot-worshipper (Troilus and Cressida). Can you imagine Mercutio saying “Tybalt, thou that catchest rats”? Or Thersites “idol of them that worship idiots”? Not me.

Hate crime

April 28, 2015

I have always had a hard time understanding the concept of “hate crimes.” I fail to see what makes a hate-driven crime more grievous than one motivated by greed, lust, anger or any other “bad” emotion, or, for that matter, a crime performed in cold blood.

I think I can honestly say that in my relatively long life (I am a week short of eighty years old) I have truly and deeply hated only one person: Adolf Hitler. If by some chance I or some like-minded person had managed to kill Hitler, then that would have been a hate crime. For that matter, most if not all of the many attempted and successful tyrannicides in history, when performed by oppressed people, would qualify as hate crimes. And yet their perpetrators are usually celebrated as heroes.

Recently, someone painted a crude swastika on the door of the ΣAE fraternity house at Stanford University and, as Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, “[s]omeone painted swastikas and a pentagram on the Stanford University campus over the weekend in what university officials are calling a hate crime.” Here is a picture of the crime:

swastikaAs is known to many people, the swastika is a decorative symbol that appears in many cultures. But as should also be known, the Nazi swastika has the peculiar property of having its arms at 45º to the horizontal and vertical, not parallel to them. Having lived under Nazi occupation as a child for almost six years, I can assure you that the swastika in the picture above (which Asimov’s article erronously calls a “Nazi symbol”) does not in the least make me think of the one below:

naziGiven the recent racist history of  ΣAE, the swastika may be some sort of twisted comment about that, and have nothing to do with the fact that the Stanford chapter, supposedly, has a large proportion of Jewish members. Moreover, a swastika was also found on the Casa Italiana, and along with it a pentagram, whatever it may mean; no picture was shown.

My suggestion: let’s stop calling “hate crime” whatever offends somebody or other’s delicate sensibilities, and let’s treat vandalism for what it is.

 


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