There’s a bit of a hullabaloo in Boston today. As Jews and non-Jews alike observe the Day Of Remembrance, a group of Neo-Nazis from Arkansas are coming to town to hold a counter-protest. Yesterday they held a rally in Somerville, MA, and today they’re heading into Beantown. (Stories here and here.)
Naturally, a lot of people — and not just those planning on attending the Day Of Remembrance assembly — are disgusted, outraged, and horrified. And I am sympathetic with them.
But I have a shameful confession to make. Whenever I hear about a Neo-Nazi rally anywhere in the US, I get a thrill. I love hearing tales of Neo-Nazis assembling in public, and I have a number of reasons for this:
1) It’s a reminder of just how important our Bill Of Rights is. The fact that these assholes can stand around in public and spew their slop is proof that as long as their rights are respected, so to will ours.
2) There’s an old saying that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” I’d much rather have these assholes out in public, where they can be clearly identified and documented for use in future police investigations, than skulking around in shadows and acting from anonymity. David Duke’s never directly hurt anyone; Eric Rudolph was responsible for several deaths. And Timothy McVeigh never ran for any public office based on his beliefs.
3) They are their own worst enemy. I’ve never seen a public rally that garnered a single shred of sympathy. They do their best recruiting quietly, in one-on-one situations. I’m quite certain that they’ve lost far more recruits with their public appearances than they’ve gained.
I’ve always wanted to organize a counter-rally to a Nazi gathering. I’d get a bunch of people together, and we’d assemble nearby. Then we’d all laugh at them. We’d have Charlie Chaplin impersonators. We’d have Photoshopped pictures of Hitler, post-suicide. We’d point out that Nazi Germany’s greatest military triumph was beating France, and who the hell hasn’t done that before? We’d have posters made from World War II comic book covers, showing Hitler getting his ass kicked by Batman and Robin, Captain America, and the like.
And then, in unison, we’d all turn our backs on them.
These Neo-Nazis have wrapped a huge amount of their ego and self-esteem into the outrage they generate. They thrill with every shout, every threat, every attack — it reinforces their self-image as a noble, oppressed group seeking higher ideals. But when they simply can’t be taken seriously, that’s what really hurts them. And that’s exactly what I want to do — hurt them in the worst way possible.
I’ll admit it’s a smidgen personal for me. When asked to identify my ethnic heritage, I often put “Other” or “Mutt.” Like most Americans, I have fairly thoroughly mixed ancestry — English, French (to my eternal shame), and a healthy dose of Scandanavian — which makes me, I guess, largely Nordic and therefore a member of Hitler’s Master Race. These Nazi assholes claim to be acting on behalf of me and others like me, and that infuriates me no end.
So let them continue their rallies, their assemblies, their protests. It does them far more harm than good, and it gives me a chance to laugh at them more.