The Minuteman by Greg Donahue

This audiobook tells a timely story that happens to be a hundred years old. Greg Donahue published the Audible original audiobook The Minuteman in January of 2020. I don’t know whether or not it was published as a response to the rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S. during the Trump administration or what, but unfortunately it remains a relevant look about how to respond to hatred and fascism. Do you fight fire with fire? Do you fight fire with water? Maybe a little bit of both?

The Minuteman himself was Nat Arno, a New Jersey boxer who got into mid-level crime and oh, also, community organizing to fight Nazis in America. A polymath, of sorts. “Nat Arno” was Nat Arno the boxer, but his given name was Sidney Abramowitz. He was a Jewish man in Jersey in the years leading up to World War II, and he led “The Minutemen” (anti-fascist enforcers against Nazis, etc.) for years before heading to the battlefront and then home.

“The Minutemen” showed up at pro-German, anti-American meetings throughout the 1930s, using tactics like stink bombs, tear gas, and good old fashioned beatings to try and stomp out the rise of fascism in America. They frequently made headlines, negotiated with law enforcement, and occasionally tried to break up the Nazi family picnics (a real thing!?).

Arno had fans and detractors, and I imagine his methods would be controversial today, as well. Fighting fascism is a given, but the question is, how? With violence, or with something else?

Donahue doesn’t exactly give an answer, here, but there do seem to be a lot of people that were glad Arno did what he did, and Nazis taking beatings were decidedly not among them. But did those beatings exacerbate or detract from the righteousness of Arno’s cause? A fun read, but also one that makes you think how to face evil in the world.

(Interestingly, there was a She-Hulk run in the 2010s about a similar story with a warehouse full of Nazis in the U.S. I have that whole series and that was the first thing I thought of when I read this book!)