Steve Chapman

That claim might be true if she were the only woman in possession of one. True or not, it was the wrong message to present to Judge Helen Rozenberg, who immediately held her in contempt and sentenced her to 48 hours in jail.

The judge could have ordered the offending party to leave. She could have insisted that she cover up. She could have delivered a stern lecture.

But the only remedy the magistrate could devise was to lock her up like a criminal. In Rozenberg's case, "judicial temperament" is a contradiction in terms.

Critics of the new Arizona immigration law likewise have decided to fight fire with napalm. Rather than merely object that the statute is shortsighted, counterproductive and vulnerable to abuse, they decided to pretend it's the greatest atrocity of the 21st century.

"When I heard about it, it reminded me of Nazi Germany," insisted Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodriguez Lopez. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony said Arizona was "reverting to German Nazi" methods. A New Jersey cartoonist drew Hitler with a mustache in the shape of Arizona.

The only value of statements like those is to reveal how little the speaker knows about life under the Fuehrer. Where are the concentration camps? Where is the mass slaughter? Who is the all-powerful dictator?

Arizona may have become an uncomfortable place for Latinos, legal or illegal, but it bears about as much resemblance to Nazi Germany as it does to Antarctica. If a law like this were the worst thing Hitler had ever done, nobody would remember him today.

In moments when we are presented with a sore provocation, the temptation is to respond with unrestrained fury. But wanton indulgence of anger usually ends up compounding foolishness with lunacy.

You can fight fire with fire. As a rule, though, it's better to use water.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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