#1083 and #1084: Nazis Are Beyond Awkward, Do Not Engage.

Behind a cut for Nazis and the extremely triggering Nazi stuff they say and do.

Hi, Captain!

I’m a girl in her mid-twenties. Recently I’ve been pre-dating a guy (hanging out with him and his friends, flirting a little) but nothing official. I’m South Asian and very visibly POC. One of his friends approached me and warned me that the guy has a swastika tattoo on his chest “but is really sweet and it’s from the past and he’s not like that anymore”,

I grew up in Austria and am 100% against Neo-Nazis. They’ve harmed family members before so this made me very wary.

I asked him about it and he said that his old friends, who were Neo-Nazis, peer-pressed him into getting it, He says he doesn’t hang out with those friends anymore, doesn’t believe that stuff and is saving up to get the tattoo removed.

I’m torn. On one hand, he seems nice and swears that stuff is behind me. On the other hand, NEO-NAZI AND SWASTIKA TATTOO, how is that not a comic book villain warning sign. I’m struggling between my belief that people should be given a second chance versus the very real repugnance and fear for my safety.

Should I believe him when he says it’s over and maybe chip in towards tattoo removal? Or should I end this before it’s begun and back away? I don’t want him to feel like he is going to be forever judged for this but on the other hand, I am judging him. I am judging him HARD.

It’s partly the fact that he didn’t tell me himself, partly the fact he subscribed to an ideology that would see me and my family dead, partly the fact that he still has the tattoo and partly my concerns about what he might’ve done while he was with those friends.

It’s nice to say that people shouldn’t be judged forever, but the harm you do to someone can last forever. Even if you change your mind and stop, they’ll still wear the scars.

Am I being unduly harsh here? I feel guilty about it but I want to back off. And if I do, I have no idea how to explain to him that it’s because of something he swears is over.

Sincerely,

Ew Neo-Nazis (she/her pronouns)

Dear Ew-Neo-Nazis:

Tattoos can be removed.

“But that costs money!!!!!” 

Yeah, money to remove tattoos can be earned, borrowed, GoFundMe’d. There are hero tattoo artists who will cover up these “youthful indiscretions” for free. He’s saving up, you say? Great. KEEP SAVING, BRO.

(Also, tattoo removal happens in stages – $200-500/session, multiple sessions depending on size. He could get started for relatively little money. Intending to remove your racist murder symbol and actually removing it are two different things.)

“But he’s really nice now and swears it’s all over!” 

But he’s also someone who once thought it was cool to get a swastika tattooed on his chest like a giant-ass warning label. Like, go ahead and judge! JUDGE HARD. You don’t have to be fair, or pre-forgive him for it, or listen to stuff about second chances. Let it be the warning label that it is!

Nazis murder people and they want to get the state to murder more people. They wear and display symbols to frighten the people they want to kill. It’s not complicated. If this guy wants to leave his Nazi past behind so bad, he can keep saving up for tattoo removal and not try to shortcut his way to redemption with your soft nonjudgmental kisses. He’ll be judged about that symbol as long as he wears it on his body. You don’t have to ignore your instincts to try to prove anything to him. Let him prove himself to you/to the world first. Redemption is a process, and if he wants it, there is still work ahead.

Your script could be “I’ve enjoyed talking with you these past few weeks and I hope you’re telling the truth about leaving all that behind. I don’t think anything is gonna happen with us right now and I wanted to let you know. Good luck getting that tattoo removed!” You don’t really have to explain more. He has a murder symbol permanently inscribed on his body. People like his old “friends” have hurt members of your family! Dating rejection goes with that territory!

Please, please, watch out for any attempts to paint you as The Only Girl Who Understands or The One Who Could Redeem All That. We can be glad people are moving in a better direction, it doesn’t mean we have to prove anything to them or get closer to them as a reward (for doing something they should have done all along, i.e. not be Nazis).

And please deliver the news that flirting time is over by text, from a safe distance.

P.S. Wanting to date Asian women is not necessarily a sign of reformed beliefs about race. Sorry. With Nazis it can always get creepier.

Dear Captain,

I have a „but faaaaamily” problem and I hope you can help.

Backstory: I have a brother 10 years my senior who bullied me my whole childhood and well into early adulthood. He *also* happens to be a huge racist and I think he’s an awful person.

He is constantly saying extremely racist things but my family more or less just roll their eyes and laugh it off. Everybody keeps telling me he doesn’t mean it, he just wants to provoke, he’d never actually do [awful thing], I should stop taking him so seriously! Nobody else does!

Captain, at this point it has started to feel like gaslighting. I’ve started questioning myself if maybe I really just have too much emotional baggage to see him (more) objectively, it’s just talk to get a rise out of me, I should take it less seriously (Thankfully I have friends who met him recently who kept me sane by being like ‘Wow, he *really* is as bad as you said I couldn’t believe it‘)

I want as little to do with him as possible and have mostly managed to do so. I don’t even care if he means the racist stuff or not. If he does then he’s horrible and if he doesn’t he’s slightly less horrible in a different way. I’ve tried to explain this to other family members more than once but for them, it all boils down to ‘Well, [my name] and [Brother] just don’t get along‘. It drives me crazy!

Example: a few weeks ago he off-handedly said „Welp, time to gas them all.“ I think I said something like „Wow. Did you seriously just say this?“ and left the room. His fiancée then felt the need to explain to me for 20 minutes what I wrote above: that he just says this stuff because he knows it annoys me, he doesn’t mean it etc.

Captain, something just snapped inside me. That was low even for him and I’m fed up with everyone telling me over and over again to shrug it off. I can live with seeing my brother every now and then; I merely happen to think he’s awful and I wish the rest of my family would understand and respect this instead of constantly brushing off my very real concerns!

Now, Brother is marrying next June and I am seriously considering not attending for the sole reason of making a point. I have this vague hope I guess that my family will finally get that this is about more than some stupid sibling rivalry. Downsides: massive „but faaaamily“ backlash, possibly poisoning the relationship with my brother’s fiancée forever (wedding = no excuses short of dying), you name it. I don’t know if would be worth the fallout let alone achieve anything besides nuking family relations for the next decade.

One friend suggested I sit down with Brother and have one (1) frank talk about my feelings, see what he has to say and then decide about the wedding. She has a point insofar as I’ve never actually done that. I tried to think of what outcome I’d like and/or how I’d react if he *did* say something like ‘Sorry I’ve hurt you, I wasn’t aware and I’ll try to keep down my racist comments around you’ and followed through with it but I haven’t come to a conclusion. It sounds sensible to give it a try…on the other hand, the very thought sets my teeth on edge.

Captain, what should I do? (No) Wedding? (No) Talk? Both? Neither?

Thanks in advance,
He’s A Fucking Nazi Okay (she/her pronouns)

Dear HAFNO:

Let’s talk about “ruining” relationships.

Your brother bullied you for years and then became a Nazi. I think he is a lost cause, at least for you, at least for now. If you do communicate with him about his politics it might be best as a “This is why I can’t talk to you anymore” letter, sent from a safe distance. (My trust in Nazis and bullies not to get violent when confronted is very low). But I don’t think you have a duty to put yourself in his line of fire. I don’t think he’ll suddenly see the light because you caringly and gently tell him that Nazis are bad and you’d like him to do better.

Your brother’s fiancée is marrying a Nazi. What relationship with her is possible here? Y’all gonna pick out Nazi-china together? Sorry, I think you gotta let the possibility of a good relationship with her go. She’s making her choices, either to participate in whatever it is or to overlook it. She’s already become his apologist, pressuring you to let his horrible comments pass. She’s not your friend.

If your family laughs off the racist and violent stuff your brother says, maybe they are also big old racists and it’s time to point that out or make tracks away from them?

Your script for family could be “Brother became a Nazi and frequently says threatening and horrible things. I just can’t spend time with him, but have fun at his Nazi wedding I guess.” 

Your family: “You’re really not coming to the wedding?”

You: “Has he stopped being a Nazi?” 

Your family: “But you have to go to the wedding!”

You: “I’ll happily go to all non-Nazi weddings! Gotta miss this one.”

Your family: “But he’d never actually do any of those things, don’t take him so seriously!”

You: “I take threats to quote ‘gas them all’ pretty seriously. I guess my question is, why don’t you?” (Did people who knew Heather Heyer’s murderers think they were “just joking”, too?)

Your family: “Oh, you’ve never liked him, this is just that dumb sibling rivalry.”

You: “You’re right, we’ve never gotten along, but now that he’s added ‘Being A Nazi’ to ‘Being a bully’ I’m afraid it’s impossible we’ll ever get along. So I’ma skip his wedding and let the people who are cool with him being a Nazi celebrate in peace!” 

Your family: “Do you really think not attending his wedding will change his mind? If you want to change Brother’s mind, you gotta stay engaged!” 

You:I don’t think anything I do will change his mind, but I do think that avoiding Nazis is a good way to take care of myself.” 

Your family/His fiancée: “He just does it to get a rise out of you!”

You: “Well good news, it’s working! If you don’t want me to be mad/appalled/avoiding family gatherings, maybe one of you who likes him can tell him to knock it the hell off?” 

See also:

  • “Why is that funny?”
  • “Why are you so relaxed around Nazi views?”
  • “Why are you so sure he doesn’t mean it? Does that mean if you thought he really meant it, you’d tell him to knock it off?” 
  • “Why am I the bad guy here?” 
  • “Why are you so sure it’s a joke?”
  • “How do you think people should react to statements like that? Do you think there is a right way to push back?” 
  • “Do you realize that when you tell me that it’s not a big deal, it makes it look like you agree with him?” 
  • “Why are you okay with him saying terrible things but not okay with me being unhappy about that?” 
  • “Why are you pressuring me to be okay with this?” 
  • “Do you agree with him? Is there something I should know about you?” 
  • “You’re worried about me ruining a relationship with my brother – why aren’t you worried about you ruining your relationship with me if you keep excusing his Nazi comments?” 

And I’ll tell you a secret: I know why they try to pressure you to accommodate your brother instead of trying to get him to stop bullying you and stop being a Nazi. I know exactly why:

  1. You are a woman and they see it as “your job” to make peace.
  2. They know that you are reasonable and that he is not. (They know that reasoning with him would be a complete waste of time, whereas you might be pressured into just letting it go)
  3. Nazis and bullies are scary, why antagonize him and put themselves in his crosshairs when you have traditionally absorbed all or most of his worst behavior?

THEY KNOW. This is Dysfunctional Family Shit 101. It is not your fault. But it is a reason to not trust your family to ever really get this or change how they interact with you.

My dear Letter Writer, it’s easy for me to say all this because I’m not the one disowning my entire family, and I recognize that none of this is trivial and all of this is scary. But…your brother is a Nazi. Your family seems cool excusing Nazis and taking your side against Nazis. Their definition of Faaaaaamily is “It’s okay to be a Nazi (but not okay to skip a wedding.)” That is Fucked. Up. I think it’s time to focus on everyone in your support system who can be trusted to not be Nazis, and put a lot of distance between yourself and your family, with a few exceptions.

Those exceptions: Do what you can to form YOUR OWN relationships (not mediated by your parents or aunts or uncles or formal family events) with people in your family who don’t enable the Nazi bullshit and little kids too young to know what’s up. Send birthday cards, text, snapchat, keep in touch, love them and let them love on you. Use some of Valerie Aurora’s scripts if you need to push back on problematic stuff.

And then make the peace you can with letting the rest go. I’m so sorry. I don’t think you can negotiate with them around this, or convince them to take your side, or convince your brother to stop being a Nazi asshole.

P.S. Q: Do you know what we call the people who voted for Hitler because they had “economic anxiety” and hoped his economic policies would make their lives better and they didn’t really care about all his racial politics?

A: Nazis. Those people are called Nazis.

P.P.S. We are addicted to redemption narratives, to our peril. I implore you (you = all of us) to take all the precious energy you might throw into changing Nazi minds and “patiently and logically refuting their arguments” (which really means “giving their arguments attention and taking them seriously”) and put it into organizing against the work that they do. They are killing people now (link has Nazis being Nazis in their own words). They are planning to kill more. Don’t be distracted by wondering if they would stop killing people if you were just a little bit nicer or more respectful to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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