The class vote was part of the school’s Color Wars, to take place next month. A T-shirt was to feature a hammer and sickle on the front and “Isn’t it Time You Joined the Party” on the back.
If that phrase made you smile, it was meant to. The students were intending to be funny, even envisioning a party hat perched on the sickle.
If it didn’t, not everyone saw the humor.
“I just thought it was very inappropriate and offensive,” said 17-year-old Michael Schur, a senior whose relatives died in Ukraine under Stalin’s rule and whose mother complained to the principal.
Now the design has gone the way of the Soviet Union, and the juniors have substituted a video game figure, Mario, the intrepid Italian plumber outfitted in red and blue.
“We wanted to do something that was a little bit witty, smart humor,” said the class president, Isabel Garcia. “We thought we were being original.”
Some of Schur’s family escaped from Ukraine as Stalin forced the collectivization of farms in the 1930s, resulting in millions of deaths. The famine is known to Ukrainians as the Holodomor.
Would Jews find anything about a swastika to be funny? asked Schur’s mother, Sonya.
But communistic images — from the red star to likenesses of Che Guevara and Mao — have a history of chic, radical or otherwise. Trace it to the intelligentsia’s flirtation with communism in the early part of the last century or the counterculture revolutionaries of the 1960s.
Once Schur complained, the principal, Scott Mosenthal, told Garcia that the juniors would have to reconsider.
As for Schur, did he persuade his schoolmates to view the hammer and sickle differently?
“In the end I really don’t think I made my point,” he said. “I just aggravated a bunch of people.”
We think it’s very commendable Michael, way to stick up to yourself!