Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about punching Nazis. In one sense this seems odd to me because World War II has been over for some time now. But then there was that one neo-Nazi dude, Richard Spencer, who got punched in the face on camera and now everyone imagines themselves as Indiana Jones. But before I get into that, I want to address the Nazi ideology in part because I just finished watching the second season of Amazon Prime’s, “The Man in The High Castle.”
The Nazis make great villains, but it is because they have a logically consistent ideology that on some level sort of makes sense on the surface. I remember watching Star Trek: TOS episode, “Space Seed,” and listening to Khan Noonien Singh say that while human technology has changed, he was surprised about how little humans themselves had changed. In “The Man in The High Castle,” there is a boy who had a genetic disease. They talk about how horrible it is to have this kid suffer with this illness. I mean, wouldn’t it be better if they put him out of his misery? Why would anyone let this kid live and suffer much less allow him to breed this illness into the rest of the gene pool? We breed plants and animals, why not breed people? Why not breed out defective genes and breed in more desirable genes instead? Wouldn’t it be great to breed a perfect human being without illness and with all the best and most desirable traits?
Enter Star Trek: TNG episode, “The Masterpiece Society.” Here we have a world that has been genetically engineered to be perfect. Everyone is happy and has been genetically predisposed to like their job and to do their job well. The people in this society are nice and friendly and as an audience we are supposed to like them. The problem is that they are Nazis. What I mean is that they subscribe to the Nazi ideology of social engineering. If someone is born blind, they are killed at birth so that this genetic defect won’t replicate into their masterpiece society. However, what happens to this masterpiece society when a stellar core fragment from a disintegrated neutron star threatens to destroy their world? In order to survive, they need the help of a blind man and the technology that was specially developed to help him see. That’s one problem with breeding perfect people. Without adversity there is no necessity and without necessity there is no innovation. The masterpiece society has become stagnant.
But it is more than that. It is what I often say about Republicans. Many Republicans see America’s diversity as chaotic and therefore a weakness. The thought process is as follows: Why can’t everyone just speak English? Why don’t immigrants give up their foreign identity and embrace American nationalism? Those gays shouldn’t be allowed to be anything less than heterosexual because it will confuse people… especially the children. Everyone has a place and women should know theirs. It goes on and on. Everything needs to be neat and orderly. Everyone needs to conform to the norm. Anything that deviates from the norm is evil and breeds chaos. Republicans see diversity as America’s weakness. But the truth is that diversity is not the source of America’s problems; it is the source of America’s greatest strength. Diversity brings with it differing perspectives and points of view. This helps us to innovate and create. It helps us problem solve in a way that conformity can never do.
Sure, fascism has its appeal too. I mean think about it. Congress is always in gridlock and bureaucracy is always getting in the way of progress. Wouldn’t the world be better off if everyone got together and agreed on the best thing to do and then just did it. But people don’t always agree on the best things to do, so wouldn’t it be better if there was someone who could make them agree. Someone wise… as Anakin Skywalker told Senator Padme Amadala in Star Wars: Attack of The Clones. For Nazis, that someone wise was The Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. For Republicans, that is President Donald J. Trump.
Just imagine everyone conforming to the same ideology united under a single all-powerful leader. This leader could cut through all the red tape, get things done, and set us on a course to create a better humanity and a better human through genetic engineering. It could be awesome, but the problem is that it almost certainly won’t be. It would be the loudest echo chamber every created and The Leader would be surrounded with “yes-men” by design.
Humans are not robots. We are not all programed exactly the same. We don’t come off assembly lines. We are all different genetically and socially. We have different abilities, traits, skills, perspectives, points of view, etc. We have different desires, wants, needs, and expectations. We think differently and we don’t always agree. And that’s a great thing, even if it means that we argue, fight, get marred in bureaucracy, elect horrible leaders for a few years, etc. This is what being human is about. It is why Nazi-ism fails. It is why fascism fails. It is why Democracy might not be a good form of government, but it is still the best form of government. If we truly want to make America great, we have to embrace America’s diversity and yes that means we should attempt to do so non-violently whenever possible. So let me make this perfectly clear. You can disagree with alt-right/neo-Nazi Richard Spencer and you can argue against him, but punching him in the face is essentially a form of fascism in itself. It sends a message that differing opinions should be wiped out instead of debated and refuted openly.
Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a time for punching Nazis in the face. That time was during World War II. When Nazis were actively on the march, using violence, and throwing people in ovens, then it is more than acceptable to punch them in the face. But today, in the United States of America when the worst thing Nazis can do is saying hateful things, lashing out with violence only reinforces their world view. That was how Hitler rose to power in the first place. After the First World War, the Allies gutted Germany and a charismatic leader came along and played the victim card. He told his people that the world was out to keep the “Master Race” down. Then he picked some minority to blame for all the nation’s problems. For Germany in the 1930s, it was the Jews. But today, it is the Mexicans and Muslims. But that’s beside the point. The point is that Hitler’s view was that the world had punched them in the face and that the German people had to unite to punch them back.
Also, if we accept that it is okay to punch neo-Nazis merely because they express a hateful and dangerous world view, where does the line get drawn? Because there are plenty of fundamentalist Christians who might say that atheism is dangerous and offensive to God. Would it be okay for a Christian to run up to an atheist and punch him or her in the face merely for talking about our lack of belief or for arguing against the existence of the Christian deity? I have personally de-converted people. To some Christians, this makes me a “soul murderer.” Surely, if punching Nazis is acceptable because they advocate genocide, punching atheists would be acceptable too since we are in minds of some Christians, literally damning people to eternal torture.
When supporting violence against non-violent people based on their opinions, we really should be careful. Because we just might be on the other side of the face punch next time. Yes, the Nazi ideology is hateful and offensive. But we can’t fight hate with hate. I’m not opposed to violence necessarily, but it should be our last resort, not our first. Babylon 5’s Captain Sheridian quoting his father said that he doesn’t start fights, but he will absolutely finish a fight. In World War II, the Nazis started the fight and America finished it. Today, the anonymous protester started the fight – not Richard Spencer.