I fully expect to lose followers, fans and/or friends over this. It’s a divisive issue, and some have expressed their intent to cut ties with anyone who disagrees with them on it. That’s not how a free society works though. I won’t stay quiet for fear that people are so sensitive about disagreements that they need to find the nearest exit. Do what you feel you need to do, but know that I don’t create echo chambers for myself, and I don’t think you should either. Differences of opinion are the first ingredient in healthy discourse and productive conversations.
I’ve gone back and forth on this hot issue, and haven’t spoken about it up to this point. I haven’t commented either way… hell, I haven’t even talked to my wife about it. I consider myself a critical thinker who takes in both sides of most issues before making a decision on where I stand. That’s what I’ve tried to do here, and I hope you feel my take on it is thoughtful and well-reasoned. I’m sure some won’t though, and that’s ok too.
By now, [nearly] everyone knows about the “punch seen around the world.” After the Trump inauguration, Richard Spencer, known white supremacist and alt-right blowhard, was punched in the face while giving an interview. The video of that punch is everywhere. Here it is, in case you live under a bridge.
What followed is a debate that’s been hashed out, argued over, fought about, ranted about, and gotten personal on many occasions… and that’s just on my own Facebook feed. Multiply that by millions and it’s one of the, if not the, most debated subject on the internet this week.
I’ve arrived at my own opinion on this. Ultimately I feel that using violence against someone who holds, promotes, or spreads hateful views is not acceptable. Let me explain. But first, let’s clarify something. This is not a free speech issue. Freedom of speech applies to government control, prohibition, or punishment for speaking freely. The government was uninvolved. Therefore, the First Amendment does not apply here. Also, I enjoyed watching Spencer get punched. I’ve watched the video multiple times. Part of me is glad it happened because everyone enjoys watching a villain get what’s coming. But for the life of me, I can’t advocate it as a solution or a favorable tactic. Here’s why:
- If we say it’s ok to punch a Nazi (or whatever Richard Spencer is), then where do we draw the line? How much violence against him or someone like him is acceptable? One punch? Five punches? A few kicks? Stabbing? Would it have been acceptable for someone to walk up to him with a gun and pull the trigger? If we want to say that violence against an individual who holds abhorrent views is acceptable, then the next thing we need to decide upon is what level of violence we’ll tolerate before the attacker is in the wrong. That’s a whole different argument that will fracture us even further. Some will accuse me of a slippery slope fallacy here, but it actually isn’t. I’m not suggesting one action leads to another. I’m asking where we draw the line of acceptable behavior in society. It’s a sincere question.
- Richard Spencer, the individual, has not, to our knowledge, committed violent acts against anyone. So it should not be acceptable to commit one on him either. I’ve seen the argument that violence against Spencer and those like him is acceptable because he is promoting violence, ethnic cleansing, or genocide against other races. So now we’re violent as a preventative measure? Do we want to make that an acceptable act? Sure, it happens in war. We take out the enemy before they can do harm. But whether you want to believe it or not, we are not at war. At least in the literal sense. On top of that, did this violence actually prevent anything, or did it make retaliatory violence more likely?
- If we deem this act acceptable, then we send the message that similar acts are acceptable. Nazis are horrible people. White supremacists are horrible people. You know that hateful feeling in your gut that comes about when you think about these dirtbags? That’s the same feeling that religious zealots get when they think about abortion doctors. To them, abortion doctors are murderers. They’re actually assaulting women and killing babies. Yet, those who are of sound mind know that bombing abortion clinics or assaulting abortion doctors is wrong. My fellow pro-choice advocates on the Left would agree with me that whoever assaults an abortion doctor is in the wrong. If that’s the case, then we have to hold the same standard on our side. Whoever assaults a Nazi or white supremacist, who is not doing so in defense of an imminent threat to another human being, is also in the wrong.
I fully expect the comments section to light up on this post and many places this gets shared. This is my view of what I feel is acceptable in society and the reasons I arrived at that view. I’m open to hearing the other side, but remember, I’ve been reading your arguments for days already, and chances are I’ve seen your justification already. But I will not fight with you, hold your view against you, or make this personal. I’m not interested in arguing over this. I will, however, have a respectful conversation.
It’s a difficult issue that many feel is cut and dry, on both sides. The truth is, it’s not.