LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What kind of community is GH?

Jul 25, 2011


I don’t know why someone would display this particular piece of history. I feel it is a bad judgment to do so and wonder what type of clientele the owner is trying to attract.

However, what I feel is more telling and important is: Why are the people of Grand Haven tolerating this display of racial hatred on the main street of their town, a place that defines who they are as a community?

A person has his or her own perspective on a swastika from World War II. However, when it gets put in a storefront window, on the main street, in a town that heavily relies on tourism; and that swastika is then seen by tourists from all over the country. It then is a reflection on the community of Grand Haven. 

When I saw this swastika, I suddenly became very uncomfortable and wondered what kind of community I had wandered into. What kind of people live in Grand Haven? Why are they tolerating this display? Why haven’t they reacted to this swastika before? What is the City Council doing about it?  

Grand Haven — for whom are you a haven? Please stand up for what is right. Demand that the swastika be removed from the storefront window. Show your visitors tolerance and respect. 

At a time when Michigan is suffering economically, it is so important to show the very best that Michigan has to offer. A swastika is not that!!!

— Sarah Franzel/Wynnewood, Pa.



I don't believe the city is out to get "you". The cross on the hill is a community decision (which happens to be mostly christian). If you want it changed you should be more involved in your community. I'm assuming you are still a regular participating member of this community are you not? Michigan in general is about 88% christian. Chances of running in to someone who has a "christian way of thinking" in Michigan, let along Grand Haven, is very high. This might explain why ~9/10 people feel comfortable expressing their views on Dewey Hill.


the nativity scene has been around since 1962 - it is a part of Grand Haven's history. Of course there will be opposers, there are opposers to everything! But I would say a majority of the people enjoy the tradition every holiday season just as they enjoy the musical fountain every summer. Kylepetty I'm sorry to say it, but perhaps you are jealous that you did not grow up/come from a community that you can feel proud of...that is the feeling i get reading your posts/replies to everyone else. It seems to be those who have not lived in GH are the ones who are reacting negatively to everything versus the ones that have lived there and understand/appreciate all GH has to offer.


the nativity scene has been around since 1962 ...OH ok that makes sense …that’s plane ignorance .........WTF..... By the way I do live here and was raised here but at one point i realized that the world is a lot different then I was exposed to here in lily white grand haven, Bring a friend of a different race or color and all seems ok until you get the questions like {who are u visiting?} {where are u staying} or another great grand haven question for a visitor of color is {you are not from around here are you?} So go ahead and live in grand haven and enjoy and " understand/appreciate all GH has to offer" to white people because no one of color wants to be near here


"plane" ignorance huh...might want to check your grammar.


Clearly you have not seen everyone in grand haven cause were all not just white! Just because we don't have a equivalent ratio of blacks and whites doesn't mean we are a exclusive city or racist! Your comments that your leaving clearly focus on people of a white race that live in grand haven but how about the other races? We aren't a diverse city.


Clearly you have not seen everyone in grand haven cause were all not just white! Just because we don't have a equivalent ratio of blacks and whites doesn't mean we are a exclusive city or racist! Your comments that your leaving clearly focus on people of a white race that live in grand haven but how about the other races? We aren't a diverse city.


Clearly you have not seen everyone in grand haven cause were all not just white! Just because we don't have a equivalent ratio of blacks and whites doesn't mean we are a exclusive city or racist! Your comments that your leaving clearly focus on people of a white race that live in grand haven but how about the other races? We aren't a diverse city.


Have you asked all 38mil of those people of Color? If those same questions are asked of me should I assume I am not wanted in town? Do these questions fall in the category of Bigotry or Friendly Conversation? I'm curious because these questions have been asked of myself and family when I walk into a small store and I too grew up here. I sure would like to know if these questions are in fact an expression of directed hate, and not just someone trying to strike up a conversation.


Can you please explain to me the many close minded examples around Grand Haven that are deemed acceptable to it's community in contrast to the "Rest of the World"? The rest of the world is an awefully big place... I apologize but I'm assuming once more that you have some pretty concrete examples that you'd like to bring to my attention. So far I only see two: Dewey Hill, and lack of job diversity. You did say "many, many, many things".


Kylepetty: That is so not true!


What part is not true


What I find very interesting is not the fact it is displayed as part of a collection (good taste or bad, your choice) but the number of people who are defending it as some twisted historical symbolism. Really? Come on, is that why he is displaying it? To show a sign of some ancient meaning of love?By your own admission it is a clear reflection of the time period of WWII. That is the intent.


What kind of town is Grand Haven......the kind of town that has had a swastika displayed in it's downtown for YEARS now and most people don't care and alot of people will stick up for this sick display.......everything else that goes along with that kind of mentality happens here also. Actually it's better than it used to be......scarey.


Wow, what a lively discussion!
I'd like to pose a question to those of you who may have disagreed with Ms. Franzel's point of view. First, I realize that yours is a tight knit community, and for many of you, this is part of what makes living in Grand Haven a positive experience. From what I understand, it does sound like a lovely place. So my question: how would you feel if you were walking down a shopping street in your town and you saw a Civil War display dominated by a KKK mask? It would be all part of an historical display, but nonetheless, would you have a visceral reaction? How about a cross burning? I am not a Christian myself, but the sight of a burning cross makes my blood boil. Even if it's within the realm of free speech, I recognize it is a symbol of hate. How about a desecrated crucifix? I myself am Jewish, so yes, I do have a visceral reaction to a swastika. My assumption is any symbol of hate (swastika, KKK, burning cross, vandalized church/mosque/synagogue, burned hoy books) is repulsive to all. Yes free speech; but especially at a time in history when relations between peoples is particularly tenuous...this is the time when we should all be sensitive to hate and hate speech, even if it extends to the display of symbols of hate. Without being overly politically correct. I think Ms. Franzel was within decorum pointing out what some may have not known about their own community; at the least, it sparked a discussion for some things to come to light.

Cycle Guy

When I moved to GH five years ago I went to the barber shop in question. We talked about living in GH and I made the comment that I felt GH lacked the diversity I enjoyed in Muskegon. His reply was "Well, we don't need that diversity here". I feel the swastika, the German helmet, etc. send the message that non white non christian people are not welcome in GH. Needless to say, I did not return to his shop. That cross on top of Dewey Hill every Sunday is inappropriate. I would like to see an attorney step forward and challenge it.

No One Special

I agree with what someone said earlier. If you don't like it here, then leave.
Grand Haven isn't a perfect place, but it's a good place. The folks here aren't perfect,
but, overall, most people here are pretty good people. Most residents here just try to live a
simple life. The cross on the Dewey Hill that is only up ever-so-often is a reminder to many to never lose faith and always look to hope. If you don't like the cross, then don't look at it. Most of us here appreciate it when it's up, and it's really not too often. I'm growing very tired of all the do-gooders trying to change everything and everyone in the name of their need to shove their diversity down the throats of everyone else. I think we all tolerate a lot and turn the other way often, ourselves. We don't all agree. But, Grand Haven is a good place. We would like for it to stay that way and that means that people who want to come in and change things aren't going to feel very welcomed because we're pretty set on keeping it the way it is. As for the shop with offensive displays...I may not agree either, but it's the merchants decision and right to display what he/she wishes. I don't have to give them my business.


Stroller_in_seattle, Very good point. Thx


Agreed. This is a great opportunity to address the elephant in the room.


What I find interesting is those who are from here love it, those who are not do not. Perhaps GH is not as welcoming to outsiders as we'd like to think we are. Maybe that is the lesson we should learn from this letter rather than bashing the author because she happened to critique our town.


What kind of community is Grand Haven? If GH was a sandwich it would be 2 slices of soft white bread filled with 2 slices of American cheese(maybe Velveeta for the gourmand)and the crusts would definitely have to be removed. And if they were really Christians,they would read the beatitudes over and over and over again.


Wow.......the question is answered......"How dare you challenge our prejudice and bigotry??" " We are a christian community and we are justified.......don't come here if you don't understand our intollerance!" (Have to say......not all of us are 'those kind of people')
.......please come back and help us make it better!


Dear Sarah Franzel:
You sound so angry and frustrated. If I have a bad day, I like walk down to the beach, listen to the waves and watch the sunset. To try and help you feel better, I would like to sing you a song. It's by Hall & Oats, maybe you know it? Anyway I hope you feel better.

Baby hair with a woman's eyes -
I can feel you're watching in the night -
All alone with me and we're waiting for the sunlight -
When I feel cold, you warm me -
And when I feel I can't go on, you come and hold me -
It's you... And me forever -

Sara Smile -
Won't you smile a while for me -
Sara -

If you feel like leaving you know you can go -
But why don't you stay until tomorrow? -
If you want to be free, you know, all you got to do is say so -
And when you feel cold, I'll warm you -
And when you feel you can't go on, I'll come and hold you -
It's you... And me forever -

Sara Smile -
Won't you smile a while for me -



Here's a link to a 1978 live recorded version. BTW I really like the part where Dary sings... "Its you, and me forever, yeaaaahhhhiiii. Come back soon! :)


I've lived in grand haven all my life . The flag in the storefront window represents a time of history that changed our world which clearly you don't get. Grand haven is not a "tight knit" community, we accept everyone that comes into our community. We are also not racists we treat everyone equally. For you to say that about the all people in grand haven is gutsy... since i bet you haven't met all the people in grand haven. The flag in the storefront window may come off as something bad to you but for others it represents a hard time that we went through and fought through. You shouldn't go around and blame all of grand haven for the flag in the window.


Hey I have a better idea....if ya dont like it, dont COME HERE!!! we dont need any more uptight snobbish tourists getting in our way.


Surf-rider "....if ya dont like it, dont COME HERE!!! we dont need any more uptight snobbish tourists getting in our way" Do not invite the world and only want white people.


Where did he say in his post "only white peope". I'm having trouble finding that part. I admit, I could have missed it somewhere.


You people are hateful, just hateful. I don't know what it is about you people, but you seem to love everything the Nazi barber stands for. I just don't get it. The best thing that could happen to your town would be for the Anti-Defamation League to make an example of Grand Haven and shame you people into practicing the love that your churches preach.


This lady doesnt see the 'big picture'


I also live in GH. We don't want people, regardless of race, to come into the town and ruin it for everyone else. We live in a safe and clean environment. Unfortunately every race has people in it that gives the race a bad name at times. Trash happens to come in every color of skin if you really take a look at it closely. If you see a certain race acting the same and contributing to crime, or filth, or whatever the case...we are going to be more apt to try to keep people like that out of our nice community. We don't need GH turning into Holland or Muskegon...where crime rates are much higher, property values are much lower, and people live in fear. I don't blame race, I blame idiots.

With regard to this swastika display, you can't please everyone all of the time. Freedom means that sometimes your opinions will not be the same as another person's. The person displaying this "peice of history" also has to realize it will not please everyone, and may offend some. But people need to stop being personally offended by things that aren't meant to hurt them directly. Accept people's differences, live with an open mind, and realize certain people have an appreciation or a connection to items that you may not agree with or connect with personally. Don't make it into a race war, don't assume everyone is the same, and don't let it ruin your vacation with your daughters. Only you control how others can make you feel.



Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.