(There may be a related “political non-violence” piece in the works, but that will have to go on the race blog. By the way: upcoming Race Blog!)
Since Trump’s electoral college win, we seem to have embraced more violence as a country. Not just the lunatic fringe of proud racists and anti-Semites, but also the liberal Left. Let’s call this the “punch a Nazi” philosophy, as it shone most blindingly after a video went viral of Richard Spencer being socked in the face during an on-the-street interview.
Many Facebook Friends loved this. Facebook Friends who didn’t were called racist or stupid or ignorant by fellow White Liberals. I didn’t get involved, because I’m allergic to commentdebate, but I watched reasonable people get taken down and shut down en masse.
I am not pro-violence. I think it’s bad for the perpetrator and the victim, and almost always creates more pain and suffering than it prevents. But not always. I am not a pacifist. I admire pacifism, but I am not a pacifist. At least, I don’t think so. One can only know one’s true stance when forced to defend it. Maybe I could look with compassion and kindness and forgiveness on someone who hurt me, but at this moment, I doubt it.
I believe in defending myself. I admire those who make a conscious decision not to – Jesus and his ilk – but I am a woman who has been physically assaulted and I believe in fighting back. Not just to avoid pain, but to show the attacker that women are not walking targets and hopefully discourage him (yeah, I think I can assume Him) from hurting another woman. If I were a man, particularly a physically imposing man, I could see how turning the other cheek might be illuminating as well.
I also believe in defending others. I would hope that if I saw someone being attacked, or knew an attack was imminent, that I would try to prevent it. It seems more likely that this would manifest as getting between than taking on, but I’m not opposed to physical action in this situation, either.
And I think that’s it. So if Richard Spencer (heretofore referred to as Fuckwad) were an actual Nazi: killing, deporting, and enslaving Jews, homosexuals, etc, I could justify personally taking up violence against him. But only – and this is the crucial element of my philosophy – if it did some good. You might say that Fuckwad promotes racism and anti-Semitism and slavery (which the fuckwad does), and that therefore he is a justifiable target, but does targeting him do any good?
Here’s where the pro Punch a Nazi contingent loses its rational footing. I get that you want to see Fuckwad punched; I get that you might want to punch him yourself, but punching him accomplishes nothing. I know many anti-Fuckwad folks laughed and cheered when they saw the video, but it did not accomplish any of the following things:
- embarrass him: he recovered calmly and smoothly, in a civilized manner, saying he’d taken a hit before, and continued with the interview
- hurt him: see above
- prevent him from spewing his calm vitriol: see above
- turn any of his followers in another direction: Fuckwad presented either as an innocent victim or as the masculine “man” they love to – platonically! – love. Plus, the attacker may appear irrational, violent, and animalistic, playing into the lie Fuckwad and team have crafted.
- move any anti-Fuckwads to worthwhile action: posting about how much you love violence against people you don’t love is not worthwhile action, not if you want to make the world a better place, as you purport to do
I cannot think of one positive thing the sucker punch accomplished, other than, perhaps, making me more wary of liberals. I guess that could be a good thing. If you can think of a positive impact, please let me know. Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing.
Pseu-Bus (soo-boos)* like myself probably shouldn’t say this, but one could better justify killing Fuckwad than punching him. I don’t condone that, either, but it would have shut him up. There’s a tiny, tiny chance that might have done some good in the world, though it’s really unlikely. If he were The Creator of these ideas, or the only public figure still promoting them, then yeah, removing him might dramatically weaken the support for those ideas; but he is far from the first and far from the last, and disabling him would more likely bring about a martyrdom than a dissolution of support. Again, let me be clear: I’m not endorsing this, I’m just saying it holds more water than the punching defense. No one wants to go back in time to “clock Hitler a good one.”
I am not a pacifist because we don’t live in a perfect world and I do think there is a place for violence. If we let go of our egos and reactive anger, that place would be really, really remote.
Beyond that, violence is not my role in the world. There may be a place for violence in the activism that is necessary to save an environment or society worth living in. But every movement has numerous roles – speakers, writers, artists, event planners, even bodies. Don’t look to me to be the muscle. I am an overly compassionate wuss. It breaks my heart to see footage of the losing bench in a finals game, even if it’s the Patriots. It breaks my heart to think of a dog waiting for its dead owner to come home, even if the owner is Fuckwad. I have never felt good after saying something mean to even a vicious, loathed person. Not if they seemed hurt by it, and if they didn’t, then what was the point? I lose either way. Right Speech and Right Action in Buddhism aren’t just about protecting the world, they’re about protecting yourself.
I guess what I’m saying, dear reader, is I am not the resource for all your Nazi-punching needs. I can’t take on that role until it’s the only role left.
*Pseu-Bu: pseudo-Buddhist; in my case, someone who has put together some semblance of a Buddhist philosophy based almost exclusively on contemporary Western interpretations of Buddhism.