I get the feeling that many of the nice liberal men earnestly discussing the ethics of punching Nazis have never dealt with a real, live, honest-to-goodness toddler. You know, a two-year-old. But I have. There’s this thing about toddlers. They can walk, and talk, and sometimes you can either reason with them or distract them. And you should definitely do those things when you can.
And then there comes an afternoon when the toddler gets overstimulated. Hungry. Tired. All at once. And before you know it, you have a complete meltdown on your hands. The child who a few minutes ago was enjoying the birthday party is suddenly crying, throwing blocks, pulling the cat’s tail and screaming when the cat scratches, beating his own head on the hard wooden floor — out of control. Here’s the thing: at that point, you can’t reason with the toddler. It’s not the toddler’s fault; toddlers simply lack the internal structures to set aside their own frustrations long enough to discuss them with you. An hysterical toddler doesn’t care about anyone else’s rights, or how his behavior is spoiling the trip to the zoo, or about how the dog feels when its tail is pulled. It’s not your fault, either. It’s just how toddlers are. There’s no good telling yourself that when the toddler goes low, you go high. There’s no point to having a calm discussion about why we don’t throw toy trucks at the window.
So when you have a toddler in full-fledged meltdown, yes, you can say to them, “I can tell you feel angry. I want you to use your words to tell me how you feel.” But as you say that, you also interfere with the toddler’s rights. You calmly take away the blocks, pick up the toddler and hold his hands so he can’t hit you, carry him arching and screaming into a quiet room, and you hold him until he calms down, or you put him to bed, or you strap him into his car seat and drive home. You do those things because nothing else works and you have to stop the toddler, for his own good and to protect others.
And, of course, it goes without saying that you should never, ever punch a toddler.*
But you should punch Nazis because you can’t take away their blocks, carry them into a quiet room, and put them in their crib. But Nazis, every bit as much as toddlers, have shown that they aren’t susceptible to calm, reasoned discussions about respecting diversity and agreeing to live and let live. Nazis have shown that they will abuse the norms that allow them to express their views and will use those to suppress others. Nazis literally want to exterminate African Americans, Moslems, Jews, LGBT people . . . . the list goes on and on. And they will do so unless they are stopped. So, just as with a toddler, the grown-ups have to do what’s necessary to stop the Nazis from hurting, if not themselves, other people. We’ve moved into a dangerous time when Nazis are recruiting, are aligned with the White House, and are trying to take over Europe.
So, yes, it’s OK to punch Nazis. And, next time, do something about those stupid media people standing around asking cute questions: “So are you the hipster version of the neo-Nazi movement? What’s with that cute frog pin?” The Leni Riefenstahls of the world need to be stopped, as well as the Nazis they normalize and glamorize.
*No child should be subject to corporal punishment.