On Punching Nazis, part 2

Yesterday, I shared a thing regarding hate speech and how it is/isn’t protected under the first amendment, then I said:

Always. Punch. Nazis.

And I stand by that.

However, Dave made some good points about how that sort of thing is going to look to thus-far neutral people, observing the whole mess. It’s hard to look like heroes, when you’re clearly not being very nice.

And I see the point about winning the hearts of bystanders, but when some guy is arguing for the “benign genocide” of my family, I feel the situation has moved past Diplomacy checks.

Debate isn’t available for those talking points and, if necessary, I will personally deny that option to the speaker.

Neither do I consider it “hitting a guy cuz he said something that made me mad.” (People do that ALL the time, and I don’t hit anyone over it.)

I consider it defense. Pure and simple.

I mean… there’s a lot more I could say about it, but I said most of it already, mostly about how none of this makes me happy, in the least.

To be clear: saying “punch nazis” isn’t bravado on my part, or some kind of machismo. It’s probably not even a smart option for someone in his mid-forties.

It’s a line in the sand.

Everyone’s line is going to be somewhere different. I understand that.

Everyone sees the country and our people in a different light. Some (many, probably) don’t see it in the same light (or darkness) that I do. Some look and think we’re near a precipice.

I think we’re ON the precipice, and it’s crumbling.

My niece lives in downtown Denver (a very progressive, blue area of the country), and she walks to work every day constantly trying to avoid notice, to be invisible, because of what can and does happen, even here. She’s 25 with a master’s degree and she’s averting her eyes for fear of giving offense as a black woman.

My niece was punched by an old white guy at a Broncos game this year, because she was there and he was mad, and my other niece, standing there, couldn’t do anything, because everyone nearby was mad and old and white and she’s none of those things, so she just had to let it be. To stand and take it.

To be obedient.

Because if she ISN’T that, she’s instantly an angry (uppity) black girl who dared to go into a public place, and there are points in time right now in this country where that is a death sentence.

The America I see today, close at hand, is just fine. Yes. Fucking incredible, but yes. There are not-so-distant storm clouds I can make out regarding civil rights and education and the environment, but really are they going to affect me and people like me? To judge by the reactions of those around me… no. Things are fine.

I can imagine a lot of bad, or project forward far enough to see the bad coming, even pretty clearly, but that’s it. It’s not around me.

So I look at things with my nieces’ eyes.

In my nieces’ eyes, some of the most progressive areas in our country host skirmishes in a race war most people don’t even acknowledge is happening.

In Ferguson or Flint, that war has been going on for years, the government is providing aid to the inarguable BAD guys, letting American children drink poison, letting their parents face beatings and worse for speaking out, and there’s no help coming.

So maybe someone doesn’t get why I draw a line in the sand in the first place.

Some nod, but they think my line is drawn too far. I’m overreacting.

Some people want to know what took me so long, because they’re already bleeding.

See, THEY have been trying to win the hearts of bystanders for years, and those bystanders don’t even hear them, let alone help.

Maybe the person on the sidelines who needed to be convinced was me, and I finally am, and that’s IT: there aren’t any more allies coming. Maybe everyone who was going to listen already has.

So I’m taking the opportunities to help that present themselves: volunteering, donations, learning more about public service, and lots and lots of “Trying to make people more aware of what’s going on.” I don’t, though, know exactly what to do to help, or if I’m doing enough.

But I do know what I’m not going to do.

I’m not going to be nice.

“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly, and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away.”

“You know who weren’t nice people?”


Naomi Shulman

We still live in a mostly polite society, mostly under the rule of law, but that is (as was chillingly demonstrated during the first days of the Muslim Ban, by the CBP) a fragile framework – perhaps no more than a fiction, when push comes to shove.

I want that polite society. I want that rule of law.

But I also know that there’s a point where, history has proven time and again, you either Hit, or you Obey.

Maybe we’re not at that point. Maybe we never get there. I sincerely hope so.

But when I hear “the world is better off without the people in your family, and here’s how I propose to remove them…”

That is not when I choose ‘Obey.’

No Time To Be Nice: Now Is Not The Moment To Remain Silent
Naomi Shulman makes the post-election case for speaking out.