If you see a drunken dumbass saluting the ghost of Hitler in the streets, kindly smack them in the face.
That’s this weekend’s object lesson from Germany, a nation that knows a thing or two about Nazis. When one such drunken dumbass, an American, started throwing out the stiff-armed Nazi salute in downtown Dresden, he got what he deserved: a swift punch.
The attacker wasn’t caught, but that punch had a lingering, positive impact: the American, a 41-year-old man who was found by police to have “an extremely high blood alcohol level,” according to The Associated Press, is now in legal trouble himself.
See, it’s against the law in Germany to rep your Nazi beliefs. Publicly displaying symbols and slogans connected to the National Socialist group — which is lawfully classified as an “unconstitutional organization” — can land someone in prison for up to three years.
The drunken American may or may not face a criminal charge; according to AP, he’s now under investigation.
There’s a lesson here, however. Free expression is only a right until it threatens the safety of other people. Germany wisely decided after World War II that Nazi beliefs only exist for that purpose, and so they were outlawed.
That’s what our drunken American is now discovering firsthand, and what a pair of Chinese tourists discovered less than a week earlier when they decided it would be a good idea to “Heil Hitler” in central Berlin.
Aligning yourself with hateful beliefs isn’t a joking matter in Germany, for obvious and understandable reasons. And as the chaos in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday made abundantly clear, the world would probably be a lot better off if such ideas weren’t permitted to take root anywhere.