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NO! You Cannot Punch Nazi. Here’s Why

August 4, 2020

I thought of what quote to start this with. I had several choices. This one seemed most appropriate.

First they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemoller

Niemoller was anti-Nazi. Incidentially, he was also antisemitic. Niemoller was one of the most vocal critics of the complicity and guilt of the Germany for what they did to the Jews.

The point of his poem though, is to point out that we cannot simply abandon those who are not “us.” No one is safe. No group can safely be dismissed because once we start dismissing or marginalizing groups who is to stop them from eventually marginalizing you? Or me?

But, what about Nazis, or neo-fascists? Why should we defend them? Why not just attack them whenever and wherever possible? Didn’t we fight a war to rid the world of fascism?

No. We did not fight a war against fascism. We are talking about World War II, of course. On one side were the good guys; America, Britain, France. On the other side were the bad guys; Germany, Italy, USSR, Japan. Except that eventually the USSR became one of the good guys, after they got kicked off the bad guy’s team. And Italy kind of went from bad guy to “less bad guy.”

But, the war wasn’t about fascism. Not really. In fact, the United States didn’t even want to join the war. Sentiment was pretty high against the war at the beginning. If we were fighting fascism, why was it so hard to get us into the war? Roosevelt and Churchill came up with the “lend-lease” program to try to keep the UK afloat while Roosevelt tried to convince the American public that they should go back to war in Europe.

It wasn’t until Germany started attacking their neighbors that we started to get concerned. Had Hitler simply rebuilt Germany, even as a fascist, American would not have gone to war to remove him.

Instead we were fighting Germany. And Japan, of course. Not all the enemies were fascists. But, all the fascists were enemies.

And then the war ended. But, when Germany surrendered, an interesting thing happened. When the war ended, the Allies quit killing Nazies. And even during the war, we took Nazi soldiers prisoner, but we didn’t kill them. We didn’t punch them in the throat.

Because the war wasn’t with fascism. It wasn’t a war against Nazism. It was a war against Germany who happened to be run by fascists and Nazis. We tried and convicted the war criminals. We tried the guards. We arrested those people who were “just following order” and killed innocents. That wasn’t about fascism, Nazism, or any ism. It was about murderers and criminals.

And those people should be arrested, tried and if convicted, punished.

So, we didn’t fight fascism we fought Germany. And we are certainly not still at war with a country that we’ve been allies with for 75 years.

But, is it really okay to say hateful, racist, horrible things?

Yes. Yes, it absolutely is. And the reason is the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress ofgrievances.

There is no “hate speech” exception to the “freedome of speech” clause. Some will suggest that hate speech is the same as assault. It’s not. Assault is assault. And just as we have a problem with Niemoller’s story of marginalizing groups, we have a real problem if we start trying to police “hate.” Is all hate speech created equal? We can condemn hate speech against “good” people. But, literally every group has someone who hates them. Or even disagrees with them.

Who deserves to be protected? Only those we agree with? That’s impossible. So, we either have to protect everyone or we can protect no one.

Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote a book called Friends of Voltaire. She wrote the phrase,

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

There is an old story about a farmer who had a problem with rabbits. The rabbits were getting into his crops and doing terrible damage. The farmer tried everything. But, no matter how many traps he set. There were also more rabbits that continued to devastate his fields. Finally, in desperation, he captured a tiger and released it in his fields. It made quick work of the rabbits. In only a few days the tiger had killed and eaten every last rabbit. In a few days the tiger again grew hungry.

And it was then that the farmer realized he still had to deal with the tiger.

Trying to attack those we disagree with, trying to strip them of their rights, trying to marginalize them, is as ineffective as inviting in a tiger to deal with a rabbit problem.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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