The woman's Halloween costume featured a Third Reich motif.
This was last weekend in a sprawling bar-and-restaurant complex near U.S. 41 on the west coast of Florida. I had made the miscalculation of stopping by in pursuit of a quiet cheeseburger, not realizing that adults in trick-or-treat costumes were making the rounds on this sultry evening.
The woman (or the costume shop from where she had purchased her uniform) at least had the good sense to omit the actual swastikas, but that was the only bit of subtlety. The Heinrich Himmler high-fronted military cap, the boots, the swagger stick she kept slapping against her palm. . .some of the customers, playing along, did little comic goose steps as they passed her.
I looked up from my newspaper and tried to surmise if anyone was going to be offended enough by this odious display to leave. She beat them to it; she and her friends made a few quick passes through the aisles of the place, then returned to the night, ready to continue their revelry elsewhere.
Halloween in the United States is an increasingly odd holiday, no longer child's play, but on this evening I was thinking about another holiday, this one official, that is coming up this week: Veterans Day.
And, having unexpectedly encountered the woman in her getup, I found myself wondering what, six and seven decades ago, they would have made of it: what the 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during World War II, who were sent across the ocean to defeat a brutal enemy, would have thought about this scene.
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