It has now been more than 48 hours since that happened, and I'm still trying to figure out how to respond. This isn't going to be a post with answers, or insights. This is simply a case of me trying to figure out what to do.
Condemnation of the attacker is obvious. Violence and murder are completely unacceptable crimes. The attacker needs to be dealt with according to the law, as any other criminal who commits acts of terror.
It's the responses I see from many about how to respond to the Neo-Nazis that trouble me.
I'll pause while most people navigate away, write their condemnation of me, or simply explode.
Of course, if you know me, you know that I completely condemn racism. The Nazi ideology is repugnant to me. But so is violence, and that's where I have so much trouble with the responses I see, and indeed, with the initial response I had.
Yesterday, one of the trending hashtags on my Twitter feed was #PunchNazis. Many people I admire and respect were tweeting positive comments about how Jason Kessler was chased and tackled. Some resurrected the video of Richard Spencer getting assaulted.
The thing that's worse is that there is a part of me that wanted to agree. When I hear about Neo-Nazi rallys, or see sound bites from white supremacists, or even read about the constant attempts to disenfranchise minorities, the temptation to advocate a violent response is there. Part of me truly believes that the world would be a better place without the David Dukes, Richard Spencers, and Jason Kesslers. I'm honestly wishing someone dead.
And that makes me no better than a Nazi. If my solution is to do violence to them because they believe abhorrent things, my solution isn't a solution.
Don't get me wrong, I realize that violence against Nazis will have a number of effects. Fear that they too may be assaulted and killed will keep many from expressing their beliefs openly (and yes, punches can kill). Knowing they might be hounded out of their towns will make them more reticent to say things we don't want them to say. Lynchings and burning swastikas on their lawns will drive them into hiding.
But violence won't solve Nazism. If it did, we wouldn't be here. In some ways, violence against them will just serve their cause. It will create martyrs and reinforce their persecution complexes.
Worse, violence against Nazis hurts us. We can't be a society that condones violence as a response, no matter how repugnant the bile that someone spews. We can have laws that define and criminalize hate speech. We can engage in peaceful counter protest. And we can absolutely defend ourselves if violence is attempted against us. But a fist in the face doesn't cure a Nazi. It just infects us with a bit of Nazism.
I don't know what does cure Nazism, but I do believe we've come a long way since the 1930's. The level of condemnation and the counter protests alone demonstrate that. But we do need more answers so that our generation might be the last that has to face this sort of threat.