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A salute — to the Baraboo kid who didn’t salute

November 17, 2018

It’s impossible to know what those boys from Baraboo were thinking without having been at their photo shoot last spring.

But if we’ve learned one thing from social media, it’s that a picture posted on the web paints a thousand words that have nothing to do with what’s really going on — and a thousand words about what is.

And in this case, at least three of those words are foolish, young, and men.

Last week, the image of a group of Wisconsin high schoolers with their right arms uniformly raised was tweeted with the message, “We even got the black kid to throw it up. #barabooproud.” The image was taken last spring, when the members of the junior class in the only public high school in the town of Baraboo were dressed up in suits and tuxedos — which is why they were posing for a fancy group picture in the first place.

Reports indicate that the tweet was taken down and the account, called Welcome to Baraboo@GoBaraboo, has since been deleted.

But the image is out, and it has been denounced worldwide.

“It is so hard to find words,” said the Auschwitz Memorial in a tweeted response. “This is why every single day we work hard to educate. We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising. Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalizing and accommodating hatred.”

Yes, that Auschwitz. Since those smiling kids in the group photo haven’t graduated from high school yet, there is still time to teach them what that place was all about — and why swastikas are illegal in many parts of Europe.

Again, it’s impossible to know what’s up with the image without being there, but one of those kids — the one who found the whole thing uncomfortable and didn’t “throw it up”on command — says the boys probably knew what they were doing.

Reports say the photographer somewhat posed the shot, telling the juniors to wave goodbye to their parents. Thing is, those boys weren’t told to wave with a stiff right arm with their hands in an equally stiff salute. Nobody is waving with the other hand — and one kid is throwing out that OK sign that has been said to be a code for white power.

Or maybe he was just holding his hand in that position, not knowing what he might be indicating, while smirking.

Remember that thing about a picture painting a thousand words? Here’s what we know for sure:

Boys in high school sometimes do foolish things. That’s why they have to be taught not to do them while they are still in middle school.

Polite young people don’t always have the good sense — or the courage — to say no to bad ideas, groupthink or adults in a position of authority. But looking at that photo we know that at least one did.

And men have been dealing with the unfortunate consequences of hate, miseducation and jokes gone awry — dangerous things that don’t grow without approval and reinforcement — since the beginning of time.

We can learn a lot from Baraboo.

mariaanglinwrites@gmail.com

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