When it comes to Chicago and the Nazi Party, some people will remember the existence of Frank Collin – the self-styled fuhrer who wanted to intimidate Jewish Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Ill., but turned out to have Jewish parents.
To other people, the concept of “Illinois Nazis” is a cinematic punch-line, dating back 28 years to the release of “The Blues Brothers,” when Jake Blues (John Belushi), halted in traffic by a Nazi rally in Jackson Park, tells us, “I hate Illinois Nazis.”
HIS BROTHER, ELWOOD (Dan Ackroyd), then drove his former Mount Prospect police car directly into the rally, causing a batch of would-be brown shirts to dive for safety off the Music Court Bridge.
Yet when Indiana attorney Tony Zirkle sees Illinois Nazis, he sees a batch of potential voters – even though he is running for a political post in another state, so most likely, none of the people he spoke to could vote for him.
Specifically, Zirkle is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress from the northwestern Indiana district that stretches from Valparaiso to South Bend. He spent his Sunday speaking at a celebration hosted by the American National Socialist Workers Party in our very own otherwise wonderful city.
The group gathered in Chicago to celebrate with cake and martial music the 119th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler – the founder of National Socialism and the man who turned the swastika from a symbol of life, strength and good luck to one of racial and religious hatred the world over.
NOW LET ME make one point very clear (I don’t want an attorney thinking he can successfully sue me). I am not claiming Zirkle is a Nazi, a Neo-Nazi, a nutsie, a white supremacist, a Holocaust denier or any other blatant kind of bigot.
I’m willing to take him at his word that he saw the event as just another chance to talk to people who were willing to listen to him. “I’ll speak before any group that invites me,” Zirkle was quoted as saying by the Munster, Ind.-based Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper.
Of course, he went on to elaborate that he would speak to “anyone” by saying he also had been interviewed by African-American-oriented radio stations in Atlanta, Ga., as though black people and Nazi sympathizers are somehow equally out of the mainstream of the United States culture.
It just makes me question his political judgment that he literally sees no difference between the two groups. This moment truly puts him into the category of fringe candidates.
NOW I’M NOT saying that candidates seeking office ought to be snobbish about where they appear to try to get votes. Any worthwhile political candidate is going to encounter groups of people who appear (to him) to be odd. The true political professional realizes that not everybody is like him (or her).
I still recall a Dave Barry-written column about a wacky event he once attended and where former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar also appeared, mistakenly thinking it was some sort of civic group gathering. As Barry put it, Edgar was in danger at one point of having his photograph taken with a man wearing a helmet with a rubber sex toy protruding from its head.
Edgar got out. Why Zirkle couldn’t take one look at the swastika banners and photographs of Hitler hanging from the walls and realize how despicable he would look having his picture taken at a podium with a photograph of der fuhrer watching over his shoulder is a mystery.
The cake was particularly “cute,” with the icing spelling out “seig heil” and Hitler’s picture in icing looking up at people.
IT’S A GOOD thing that Zirkle is most likely a fringe candidate in this race, since the reason the white supremacist group wanted Zirkle to speak before them was because of his interest in the issue of white women being used for pornography and prostitution (as though other women being used for such purposes is not a problem).
He tried running for Congress two years ago, and actually got 30 percent of the vote in the Republican primary against the guy who eventually went on to lose the general election to Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.
But Zirkle tells reporter-types that his goal in running for office is to “educate and inform,” even though his past comments have included statements calling the United States’ attempts at desegregation a failure.
Most of the time, however, Zirkle focuses his attention on pornography, getting worked up over sexual images that he fears are dragging this country into a cultural pit.
IT REALLY IS hard for me to understand why Zirkle would cross State Line Road to solicit votes for a northwest Indiana congressional campaign (the primary is in less than two weeks). Some of the members might live there, but I would guess they are a batch scattered from across the Midwestern U.S., and a National Socialist-affiliated website described the gathering as 56 people from the Chicago area.
Even so, it is not like the National Socialist lobby has been an effective voter bloc.
I still remember the countless campaigns of Art Jones, the white racialist activist who as a youth wore the swastika armband and proclaimed himself to be a Nazi, and in fact was also in attendance at the same Hitler birthday bash for which Zirkle is being derided.
EVEN JONES (WHO himself ran a failed campaign for an Illinois congressional district in the Feb. 5 primary) has given up on Nazis, but not because his views on supremacy of white people have changed through the years.
Back when I was a reporter for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago, I once asked Jones point blank if he was still affiliated with the Nazis. “No,” Jones told me then. “Those people are idiots who can’t get themselves organized to do anything right.”
Jones “got it” decades ago. I wonder if Zirkle will “get it” any time soon, or if he’s going to go on a rant about “the media” being biased against him?
EDITOR’S NOTES: This Crown Point, Ind., attorney helped a batch of “Illinois Nazis” celebrate the 119th anniversary of der Fuhrer’s birth (http://www.tonyzirkle.com/CAMPAIGN/), thinking it would help promote his congressional campaign. I couldn’t help but notice he did NOT include the appearance on his published schedule of campaign-related activities.
Apparently, Tony Zirkle never learned that “Nazi” is the acronym in German (http://thenewsdispatch.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=12532) for “National Socialist.”
Shredding Marilyn Monroe in all her glory? Zirkle thinks he is promoting the concept (http://www.takingdownwords.com/taking_down_words/2006/04/tony_zirkle_no_.html) of men having sex with their wives.
Art Jones of Chicago may not be a Nazi any longer. But his campaign rhetoric (http://www.arthurjonesforcongress.com/) still manages to offend many of the people who find white supremacy most objectionable, particularly when it comes to immigration reform.