New Prose by Josh Elyea: “On Punching a Nazi”

Passing Through


He had a habit where he’d slowly and meticulously pull the hairs out of his beard and pile them, as though they were kindling to start a fire, on whatever surface lay in front of him. It was a disgusting habit, one he was not fond of and one he would’ve judged others for having, and despite his most earnest and steadfast attempts, he was simply unable to quit it.

He wondered if that’s how Trump supporters felt about their casual racism, about their callous disregard for their neighbours. Maybe they wanted to stop, he said. Maybe they were aware of the shame of their habit, maybe they knew what they were doing was wrong. Maybe they just couldn’t stop.

Who cares whether it’s conscious or not, she says. This is the 21st century—we have Google and Wikipedia, for chrissake—and you’ve got the totality of human knowledge at your fingertips. There’s no excuse for ignorance, she says, and he knows she’s right. She’s cool, of the old-school variety. Think Dana Scully, but with more heart. When she speaks, it’s with a sort of callous candor, a ruggedness of speech that only works when underscored by a passionate sincerity. She listens to old jazz records and calls Louis Armstrong by his proper name (Satchmo, she says with love, and she blows him a kiss across the time-space continuum). As he stares, it seems as though she’s blurred into the landscape, a variety store Venus on the warpath, ready to lay waste to the barbaric conservative politics that have, almost overnight, eclipsed the American consciousness.

The future is female, she tells him, and he knows that she’s right. How could it not be, with an arbiter like this?

Maybe it’s time to take off the kiddie gloves, she says. Maybe, just maybe, the left has been playing nice for too long, and it’s time to stop rolling around in the mud with the GOP.

It’s time to call alternative facts what they are: propaganda.

It’s time to call Trump’s Muslim ban what it is: racism.

It’s time to call the alt-right exactly what they are: Nazis.

Maybe it’s time to stop giving credence to the idea that we’re all entitled to an opinion, regardless of whether that opinion is right. You’ve got the right to an informed opinion, but fuck those people who choose ignorance over equality. Maybe we need to stop playing to our slowest members, and maybe we need to grab these petulant, misinformed, archaic relics of a bygone era by the scruff of their hypocritical necks and smack them until they realize that the only ones who don’t deserve a place in the world we’re building is them.

Of course we ought to strive to live in harmony, of course. In fact, that’s exactly what most of us are trying to do. But there comes a time when punching a Nazi isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.


these words by Josh Elyea were inspired by the work of Mairi Timoney