The controversy over Rolling Stone magazine’s recent cover featuring a photo of the Boston Marathon bomber got me thinking …
I remember sitting in speech class my sophomore year in 1966 when someone brought a Life magazine to class. The cover was a photo of a Hell’s Angel motorcyclist (assuming the guy actually owned a motorcycle). The teacher went ballistic. She didn’t see a motorcyclist. All she saw was a German helmet atop the idiot’s head. She gave us an impassioned lecture about recent history. She explained how her generation had sacrificed thousands of young men to halt the march of Socialism in Germany and Europe. And the guys who were shooting at those young men all wore helmets just like the one on the magazine cover.
Obviously, the pictured biker was not a Nazi. He just liked the idea that some folks would find the helmet repellent and more readily label him as “a rebel.” He seemed oblivious that his own person was already repellent enough and did not require the vile associations conjured up in a normal mind by the German helmet.
That teacher’s impromptu lecture was wasted on most of us that day. We had grown up in the shadow of WW II and knew something of what it had cost our parents. (My Mom’s childhood sweetheart had been killed in Sicily. My Dad’s favorite first cousin had been killed in Belgium. My Dad and his brother both joined up right out of high school, after they had both stood by their cousins fresh grave in the graveyard of Hopewell Baptist church in Indiana.) We had heard the stories from our Moms and Dads. We had quietly looked at the Purple Heart on the wall by my Dad’s uncle’s easy chair. We saw the cousin’s picture, but never saw the cousin.