What makes a hate crime?

I live in the Alta Vista neighborhood, and we’re infested with schools. Sarasota High, Alta Vista Elementary, Phoenix Academy, plus daycares and a big charter school. It’s possible you could never need to travel more than two blocks for school from age 2 months to age 18 years.

All the schools maintain their properties to top-notch standards, and they’ve been good neighbors for years. So imagine my surprise during a late afternoon walk to come across two pictures of Adolph Hitler on school grounds.

The first was on a sign along the chain-link fence surrounding Phoenix Academy. The second was one block further west, down Tami Sola, on a no-parking sign next to the Lady Sailors softball field (and technically not on school property).

It is a mystery who put up the Hitler posters in the vicinity of Phoenix Academy and Sarasota High School.

I didn’t have a camera with me, but I was able to carefully peel off the first image from the sign, which ironically said the area was under video surveillance. The second sticker disintegrated. Both were identical, about the size of a postcard backed with a soft adhesive.

The pose was iconic Adolph: Fists raised on both sides of his head, in full oratory. You’d know who it was even if it was a silhouette. But it was a photograph, with the toothbrush moustache and all. And the caption was a chiller: “Next Time … No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

Thanks for advertising. We need to know neo-fascists are in the neighborhood. It is the sort of thing that should give our local conservatives pause. Somebody in this central Sarasota neighborhood is actively promoting fascism.

I can only hope these two mini-posters were put up yesterday, and I was the first person to see them and tear them down. That the neighbors across the street had not seen them yet. That the students who regularly flock these sidewalks had not seen them yet.

And I can only pray the school employees who maintain the property had not seen them yet. The posters were on the perimeter of Phoenix and SHS, but the lack of trash and litter on the fringe of those schools indicates somebody is paying attention to the properties.

Let me push this too far. Some bozo spends $10 on the Internet for a few stick-ups. Nobody seems to mind Adolph is in the ‘hood. Just as graffiti artists “tag” neighborhoods, so can political extremists. Maybe in this case it was some teen besotted with History Channel fascism.

If Adolph is welcome, who’s next? If we allow hate speech in our neighborhoods, and around our schools, where does it stop?

Am I making too much of some prank? Maybe. But seeing Mr. Hitler on an evening stroll around my neighborhood schools just reeks.