Meeting Your Nazi Neighbor

Yesterday’s New York Times included, prominently, this quite odd and disturbing, and now quite controversial, article on Tony Hovater.  He is a 27-year-old white male U.S. citizen who resides, with his wife, near Dayton, OH.  He longs for centralized power that he calls “fascism.”  He identifies himself as a “white nationalist.”  He studies, admires, and minimizes the evil of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.  He, Mr. Hovater, is a disgusting bigot, an anti-Semite.  I’m sparing in name-calling, but it seems accurate to call him an American Nazi.

After reading and then rereading the article, and then reading some of the many good and varied comments on it, I’m glad that it exists.  It correctly appalls many, while educating them on who this man is, as an individual and as a type—inside vote totals and protest mobs are individuals, and it’s good to see one so closely.  (Here, reported in The Atlantic, is a long account of another, Andrew Anglin, who is much more horrifying because of the violence he threatens.)  And it’s good—well, not “good,” of course, but informative—to read and reflect on how Mr. Hovater feels empowered by President Trump.  The President of course (I wish), plus anyone who supports him even slightly, should read about Mr. Hovater and think more about the dangers of lighting fuses.

If Mr. Hovater worked for me, I’d probably fire him.

If he lived near me, I’d be a very concerned neighbor—I’d watch for bad behavior and, seeing anything, err on the side of calling the cops.  They serve the law and the general public—they’re on our side.

I hope that Mr. Hovater’s wife wakes up—I hope that she stays safe, gets interested in politics, gets smarter, and leaves him.

And I hope that Mr. Hovater gets interested to get smarter.  He needs teaching.  Some of it can come right from some of the books on Nazism and World War II that he owns and permitted the NYT  to photograph.  If he’s game to start studying and thinking critically and thus, objectively, better, I’d take him on as a student.  I hope that other teachers would too.  But I’d urge anyone to do this only very carefully—Hovater would have to be game, which seems very unlikely, and he would have to get to work and not just spout what the NYT story reports that he thinks currently.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth any serious teacher’s time.

The odds are that he will continue as he is, thinking and reading and speaking evil ideas.

That leaves me sad, and alarmed, and glad to live in a country with the constitutional fiber to protect all expression, even his.

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