Q. My partner, “Chris,” just showed me a gift he bought for his adult son. This gift is a “verified” personal calling card once owned by Adolf Hitler (Hitler allegedly gave them out to people he would meet). Chris purchased this card from an American museum’s rare items collection and spent quite a bit of money for it. He finds this gift funny and amusing.
Chris is a nice and kind person, and he doesn’t have any prejudice against any ethnic groups. I felt very disturbed, angry, disappointed, and perplexed by the nature of this gift. I don’t find anything related to Hitler an appropriate item for gift-giving, laughter, or amusement.
The night I learned of this gift, I was plagued by horrific images and thoughts of the crimes against humanity brought about by this monster. I wrote a note to my partner about how I felt and invited him to do some soul searching about his choice. He read my note, stated that he felt angry and frustrated by it, and said, “I knew I shouldn’t have shown it to you.” He then said, “I don’t want my day ruined by this.”
I feel perplexed as to how this sweet and kind partner could come up with such a gift, honoring an evil person.
I wonder how I can be at peace with it.
A. Using information supplied by you, I verified that the place where your partner purchased this artifact is less a “museum” and more an individual’s private collection located in the dealer’s home. Diving into this disturbing topic, I’ve also learned that there is quite a market for these artifacts, and that collectors use various justifications for purchasing them.
In my opinion, unless a purchaser intends to use artifacts as teaching tools to illustrate both the banality (“calling cards”) and the monstrosity of evil, then there is absolutely no ethical reason to purchase them.
It is certainly not “funny,” in any context.
So yes, I’d say that at the least, your “nice and kind” guy is sensitive regarding himself (he didn’t want your reaction to “ruin his day”), and not actually sensitive to the reality of suffering experienced by millions of people that should be brought to mind by any Hitler artifact.
So yes, I agree that the act itself of purchasing this item as an “amusing” gift is tasteless and troubling. Additionally, his reaction to your honest feedback and concern will quite naturally make you ponder his personal ethics.
You ask how to be “at peace” with this choice. Perhaps — when you are less reactive and he is less defensive — you two will be able to come to an understanding about his choice.
But there are times when you should stand up for your own values. Doing so is rarely peaceful.
Q. A dear friend, whom I met through my ex-husband, recently died. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the deceased’s favorite charity. I intend to make such a donation.
My partner of 15 years thinks that I should ask my ex to contribute to the donation and make it from my ex and me. I strongly disagree for a variety of very valid reasons. While I did meet this friend and his wife through my ex, I have maintained a friendship with them while my ex has not.
For a variety of very valid reasons, I only communicate with my ex-husband when absolutely necessary. In spite of knowing all this, my partner still insists that he is right. I maintain that it is entirely inappropriate as my ex and I are no longer a couple.
And your opinion is...?
PERPLEXED RE: THE EX
A. I’m surprised that this is even up for discussion.
Let your partner know that joint donations between hardly speaking ex-spouses would be the exception, not the norm.
More important, this is your friend, your money, and your choice.
Q. Your advice to “Bay Area Stepmom Cook” was, as usual, tasteless.
You NEVER tell a cook how to cook! Ever. Especially when they are doing it for free, as a favor.
If this son-in-law does not like his mother-in-law’s cooking, then he can cook his own or eat out of a can.
A. Even though she was aware of her son-in-law’s extreme aversion to onions, this mother-in-law insisted on including them in everything.
He isn’t telling her how to cook. She is telling him how to eat.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.