Those who know me may be surprised to hear that I think it's foolish to avoid violence. Violence works.
Violence is sometimes the best way to end a conflict, and the threat of violence can stop a conflict from beginning. I know as a teacher I'm required to say that school children should avoid hitting bullies, but you know what? Sometimes the fastest way to stop a bully is to punch one in the face.
When we first moved to Wherever with Aran, no one in school knew him. He was a six-foot tall seventh grader who had odd mannerisms and speech patterns. A kid on Aran's bus took it on himself to bully Aran about it. (Why the hell anyone would bully someone who's more than a foot taller than they are, I don't know.) The kid bugged Aran and bugged him and bugged him. Nothing Aran said would stop him. Finally, Aran hit his break point and smashed him in the face in full view of a bunch of other kids. The kids stared. The bully scrambled away. No one ever bullied Aran again for the rest of his school career in Wherever.
This is the way bullies operate. They go after people they think are smaller, weaker, or otherwise less powerful than they are. They go after such people because they figure such people won't hurt them. I can hit you all I want, and you won't do a damn thing.
Nazis and white supremacists are extreme bullies. They go after minority groups they perceive as weak or ineffective.
You'll notice that under the Obama administration, Nazis and supremacists didn't say much. They didn't march much. But under bully Trump, they've become bolder. They figure no one will hurt them. They've started their shouting and demonstrating and the GOP in charge isn't saying anything against them, which makes them bolder. This is how the Nazi party got going in Germany.
Words don't stop these people. Words do nothing at all. They see people who use words as weak, wimpy, and soft, people they can bulldoze right over. And they have. Trump has helped them. Words won't get these people to change their minds, either. By the time they're so hyped up that they're out on the street demonstrating, they're past the point of persuasion.
There's only one way to stop them.
The police use it. When a demonstration gets out of hand, the police have no compunctions about breaking out the hoses, night sticks, and pepper spray. Violence. Though this didn't help poor Heather Meyer.
The kid who bullied Aran stopped because he knew if he continued, he'd get physical pain. It was the only language he understood. It's sad, but true. Nazis and supremacists are exactly the same. They understand violence. They understand pain. They want to dish it out, but when it comes to taking it, they'll flee. Why? Because, just like Aran's bully, Nazis and supremacists only pick on people they perceive as weak. And for them, "weak" means "non-violent." If they know a group will hit them, punch them, smash them, they'll slink away--or not even show up in the first place. This is why the anti-Nazis and anti-supremacists should be perfectly willing to use their own methods against them. It's a powerful method that works.
The anti-violencers have said that using violence only gives the alt-right protesters a grievance. The alt-right will claim they've been unjustly hurt by those awful left-wingers and antifa people.
This is a ridiculous argument. The Nazis and supremacists ALREADY believe they're victims of the left. They ALREADY think the left has been hitting them. Just listen to Fox "News" for ten minutes. The victim mentality of the right becomes apparent within seconds. America has become anti-Christian, anti-white, anti-man, they moan. We're going to disappear! They're hurting us! They're crushing us! There's nothing the left, including the antifa, can do that will change this mentality. Look at the scenarios this way:
1. NO VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT: The right continue to bitch and moan about how they've been victimized by the left, and Nazis demonstrate in the street, unmolested.
2. VIOLENCE FROM THE LEFT: The right continue to bitch and moan about how they've been victimized by the left, and Nazis think twice before demonstrating.
Which one is better? The right will bitch no matter what. At least with #2, we shut up the Nazis.
The anti-violencers like to say that violence drives the Nazis and supremacists underground. We need to keep them out in the open, where we can see them and know who they are.
Nazis who are out in the open, demonstrating in the streets, are automatically granted a certain legitimacy. They're recognized as a movement. People who are on the fence or who might keep quiet about their Nazi views are encouraged to open up about them, perhaps demonstrate themselves, swell the ranks. The Nazis become BOLD. They ACT instead of just demonstrate, as Heather Meyer tragically discovered. An open movement receives support. It expands and grows more easily. How would Hitler and his new Nazis have taken over Germany if they had remained a small underground movement? Answer: they would not have done it. They would have faded away and died.
An underground movement is harder to find. People who have vague feelings of sympathy for it don't know where to get to it or find like-minded people. They have hunt for it, take risks to find it, rather than just walk down the street or turn on the news. An underground group remains smaller, less powerful. If you don't believe it, ask yourself how much you knew about American Nazis until two months ago. The fact that you're reading this blog says quite a lot.
The gay community has benefited from coming out of the underground. LGBT people demonstrated in the streets, held parades, gave interviews on the news as neighbors, family, and co-workers, and started showing up as characters in movies, television, and in books. It happened more and more and more, and LGBT people have become more accepted as a result. LGBT people who were in the closet felt more comfortable about coming out and swelling the public ranks. Straight people discovered they had friends, family, and co-workers who were LGBT, and more of them supported the LGBT movement. We have a long ways to go, but we've made enormous strides forward in the last 20 years. And it all happened because of VISIBILITY.
This is a positive. However, Nazis and white supremacists are now trying to use the same strategy. Become more visible, swell the ranks, become more accepted.
How different would world history be if anti-Nazi supporters had used a little violence against Hitler and his ilk back when they were small and just getting started? How different would the world be if a town had smacked up Mussolini back when he only had 100 supporters? Gandhi may have gotten the British out of India--eventually--but his methods wouldn't have been able to stop World War II.
If Nazis and supremacists know they run the risk of having their signs shoved up their asses the moment they starting heiling Trump, they'll back off. They'll stay underground.
If the bullies know their target isn't weak, they'll slink away. Aran's bully knew this. And so do we.