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Christian Dandy Throws A Punch

Eric and Suzanne Metaxas at the White House earlier Thursday

Well, this clip of a street scene in Washington DC, after Trump’s speech, is making the social media rounds. Warning: there’s a guy rolling on his bike down the street, screaming “F–K YOU! F–K TRUMP!” So be warned about the sound:

From what we can tell on the clip (a clearer version of it is here), Eric took a swing at the guy as he rode by him (Eric), Eric’s wife, and a third man, screaming, “F–K YOU! F–K TRUMP!”

Who was the guy? According to Andy Ngo:

No word yet from Eric Metaxas on this incident. I’ll update this blog post when and if there is; please post a link if you see it before I do.

So, what do we make of this? I can’t pretend to be neutral on it. Eric and I have been friends since 1998, and I love the guy. I very much do not love his Trumpy politics, and have shared that opinion with him privately in the past. But I do not make friends on the basis of their politics, and I do not throw friends overboard, publicly or privately, when they say or do things I find objectionable. That is not going to happen here. Period.

I was very surprised to see this, though, because Eric, who is 57 (and therefore probably more than twice the age of the guy he punched) is one of the most genuine, gentle men I know. Over the past four years, when anti-Trump people find out that I’m friends with Eric, they ask me what’s in it for him. They can’t imagine that he has embraced Trump for any reason other than a cynical one. That’s completely wrong. That’s not who Eric is. You can criticize him, and criticize him hard, for his political convictions, but you cannot criticize him for cynicism. Other than my mom, Eric Metaxas is the least cynical person I know. Love him or hate him for it, it’s the truth.

I see that a lot of people on social media are saying that “ah ha, this is who he is” — an Evangelical pugilist who slugs his opponents. Actually, it’s not the Eric I know — which is why it was so shocking to see it. It’s totally out of character. He is the farthest thing from a bully. He is generous and kind and good natured. Anyway, that wasn’t much of a punch — more of a glancing blow. Still, it’s probably enough to be considered a crime in the District of Columbia.

What we also don’t know is whether the cyclist appeared to be pedaling towards Eric, his wife, and the tall black man walking with them (I understand from someone who was on the scene that the black man is an older pastor). If Eric felt that the screaming cyclist was a threat to his party — which you could easily imagine if the guy was headed towards them — then that could explain why he reacted as he did. If that’s what happened, it doesn’t necessarily make it right, but it does make it understandable. My guess is that something like that happened, because I cannot emphasize strongly enough how out of character it is for Eric Metaxas to be violent in any way. I mean, look, this is an Upper East Side dandy who went to the White House in white pantaloons and a pink shirt. Bless his heart, we ain’t talking Proud Boys material here. I mean, Charles Nelson Reilly could take this guy, and he’s dead! Eric must have been scared and furious. If I was afraid that my wife was going to be attacked, I hope I’d have the same kind of reaction.

Having said that, as obnoxious as that mouthy jerk was, Eric should have ignored him and kept walking. Interestingly, First Amendment jurisprudence does not protect what are considered to be “fighting words.” Here’s the Wikipedia entry for “fighting words.” I am sure that “F–k Trump!” would be protected speech; a man screaming “F–k you!” probably would too, especially as this creep was shouting them to no one in particular.

This incident, though, reminded me of my mid-century childhood. I grew up in a culture in which men did not swear in front of women — or if they did, it was mild swearing, never, ever the F-bomb. This was not really a Christian thing; it was simply considered ungentlemanly to do so. “There’s a lady present,” was the kind of line that would cause a man’s blood to run cold, because it was a warning that he had been speaking in a coarse, even profane, way.

Laugh at this if you like, but that’s how it was. It was unthinkable that a non-insane man would go into public shouting “F–K YOU!” with women present. To do so was to invite other men present to deck you. Seriously, most men back then would have considered it their duty to defend the honor of their wives by punching a man who had insulted them with such language. This was not the 1800s; this was the case as late as the mid-1970s, in my part of the world. I know this sounds unbelievable and ridiculous to young people today, but those were the standards of public discourse well within living memory in the United States.

Those are no longer the standards. Believe me, I would understand it if, aside from whether or not he felt physically threatened, Eric Metaxas felt so outraged by the insolence and foulness of that punk that he reacted in a flush of anger. What kind of miserable failson do you have to be to travel across the country from Portland as a grown man to ride your bike down the streets of Washington DC yelling eff you, eff Trump, like you’re a deranged bum?

Let me repeat: I’m not saying Eric Metaxas did the right thing, legally or otherwise. I haven’t talked to him about this, and probably won’t have the chance to, but as anybody who lives or has ever lived in a big city can tell you, you just have to put up with garbage like that. Eric has lived most of his life in Manhattan; he understands that. This is another reason why I believe he must have felt threatened by this particular protester: no New Yorker would take a swing at somebody simply because he used foul language in public.

But I tell you, there’s a part of me that was not sorry to see Eric punch the guy, though it was apparently just a glancing blow. You just get so sick of these people and their filthy mouths, and their berserk screaming at people. You get sick of the pornification of the public square, and the degeneration of civil standards. Sometimes you have to use violence to preserve order.

One more time for the people in the back: Eric Metaxas should not have punched the lout … but that’s not to say the lout didn’t deserve it. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think this is going to hurt Eric with his radio audience — and no, not for Trumpy, hero-punched-a-hippie reasons. I sense that a lot of people are simply fed up with these dirtbags and their intimidating meanness. All over downtown DC last night, crowds of protesters were verbally and physically threatening folks coming from the White House, or in any way indicating support for the president. I posted some of the footage atop my blog entry from this morning. Here’s how they treated Sen. Rand Paul and his wife last night:

Because I care about Eric, and I hate to see him give his enemies fodder, I wish he had not done this thing. But I don’t mind overmuch that he did. I’m not at all sure that America be worse off if man-children like that professional protester, or these screaming brats, had to be afraid that if they ride their bikes toward peaceful pedestrians while screaming the foulest curses at them, a man in the crowd might haul off and knock their blocks off.

UPDATE: A reader comments:

I’ve never posted before but feel I must because I witnessed this event, although I did not realize the person involved was Eric Metaxas. I was a few yards behind, walking down the same street right after leaving the White House. It appeared to me that the bicycle rider deliberately rode very fast directly at someone (Metaxas) who reacted to him defensively and resulted in him falling off his bike. It seemed like a deliberate provocation. It was an incredibly tense situation on that street with random people screaming obscenities at us — one person yelled at me that he wanted me to be guillotined. I can’t imagine not reacting instinctively; it was a very threatening and unpredictable situation.

Yeah, you know, I overthought this. I don’t care that Eric threw a punch at that guy. He had it coming.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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