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Killing Nazis by Gwen Hilton


The first time I killed a Nazi was while I was playing Medal of Honor: Frontline. I got shot and I died and the screen went black. Then I stood up again and charged from Normandy beach, Utah drop, put precision bullets in the heads of Wehrmacht mounted gunners, threw grenades into foxholes, I killed dozens of Nazis throughout every level. Because I died a lot I got my silver star.
My dad made me watch the Indiana Jones films with him before I could understand anything about what makes them entertaining. Nazis were the enemies and their facemelting occult horror shook my soul.
When I got my PS2 I played military shooters because my friends played military shooters. My mother had offered to buy me a PS2 much earlier than she did if she could also buy me Dance Dance Revolution. I refused the PS2 to get a copy of the legendary Gamecube title Chibi-Robo! She commented on my body and at a later date Dance Dance Revolution entered the house. When I was young, Medal of Honor was the respected military shooter. Call of Duty was a weak clone.
Growing up I was told the Americans had to stop the Nazis. My grandfather fought in Japan, but that was stopping the Nazis too. Then my uncle did 22 years of killing in the Middle East, and he settled down with a nice Japanese woman. He liberated her from that pervert nation trying to ship out disgusting cartoons to make Americans weak. It was the Americans who fought the good fight. It was the Americans that crushed the Axis of Evil. It was Americans that eliminated the Nazi threat fully. Then I grew up. Then I read US newspapers praising Hitler and Mussolini in the 20s up to 1933. Probably beyond. I read about Americans sending Jews back to their death on boats. Those Jewish refugees threaten our national security. I learned about Operation Paperclip and I watched a Jake Gyllenhaal movie that idolized Wernher Von Braun in grad school to learn about the important development of vocational counseling during World War II.
The bargain bin games I bought for less than ten dollars at Gamestop were Fight Club where you got to fight as Fred Durst and a skeleton, and Return to Castle: Wolfenstein. I was bad at Wolfenstein. I was bad at the originals. I was bad at all of them until the PS3 reboot, which was maligned as an under-finished shooting gallery with murky visuals.
When I ranked the boomer shooters it would be Wolfenstein at the top, because it’s the only one that let you kill Hitler. Then it was Duke Nukem because of how raunchy and sexed up it was. A boy I went on dates with if you’d call it that at that age put me onto Duke. At the bottom, Doom. It was great, but not always for me. I would play Wolfenstein 3D on my phone and on emulators and when it existed, as a turn-based RPG.
From the age of 7, my entertainment was catching Pokémon and killing Nazis. It seemed like all my life we were killing Nazis in case they came back. Then my friends got PS3s. Modern Warfare came out and was all about fighting the current war, at home, side by side, eviscerating thousands of faceless Middle Eastern people, each one fully responsible for 9/11 and all future collateral.
When Wolfenstein: The New Colossus was announced the “dissident online right” complained about the depiction of the Nazis. They complained about Nazis parading around the USA with the KKK. People started talking about how the Nazis were people. I knew a man who talked about pervitin and he said German Soldiers used it.
I would play the modern military shooters with the boy I was fucking. He was better and he would humiliate me, and then he would humiliate me, and then we’d go out in public and he’d stand by while I got humiliated, or orchestrate his friends to humiliate me, and then I could suck his dick to get back in their good graces and rejoin the larger group.
We would fight with our words and our fists. We would shoot airsoft guns at each other. We would talk about the real guns in safes. When we fought I fought to draw blood. I’ll never forget the way we talked when we got angry. I would talk about how fighting is for killing. He would tell me to get off his property. I retorted that this is your father’s home. He said one day it would be his. I told him you’ll have to outlive him. He told me to leave.
When he died I didn’t cry. I thought about all the ways he had wronged me. Faggots die unceremoniously. This is how the world keeps turning. I didn’t go to the funeral. He doesn’t exist now.
You better watch how you talk to me, because if there’s one thing I’m good at it’s speaking ill of the dead.
Before he died, after we stopped talking, sophomore year of high school, I started reading Mein Kampf. I was reading Mein Kampf and a tall beautiful blonde boy with a surfer vibe asked me what made me want to read Mein Kampf. We took a music history elective together. Mr. Musick, the music teacher, on a different date listened to me mock how Bobby Brown beat Whitney Houston. Bobby, Bobby. Bobby, Bobby. Bobby! Please, Bobby! Ahahaha. I said something about needing to know my history. The boy pulled out a shitty piece of plastic on a black rope with a piece of paper around it and said, “Dude. I’m Jewish.” So I should stop learning for a boy who only interacted with me then?
The boy asked me how I felt now and I said there are Nazis everywhere. He misinterpreted me. I had recently read about how the ACLU defended the Neo-Nazi’s right to march in Skokie in 1978 to show those Holocaust victims and survivors what’s up with their protected free speech. I watched The Blues Brothers for the first time. I got obsessed with the Illinois Nazis.
An old Illinois suburban Hitler Youth leader ran for office in Lyons during the 2010s and I talked to my coworkers at the law firm about killing him. They said he was an old man. I said we have to kill a Nazi who thinks he can just run for office. They said he’s an old man.
I never finished reading Mein Kampf. Not in high school. Not ever. Not even during my Topics in 20th Century Germany: The German Dictatorship 1875-1945. I don’t think Hitler was a brilliant man or some kind of outsized genius, and my professors didn’t either. The only man I met who talked about Hitler at any length as if he was an endlessly unfolding fractal was Stetson Steele, a middle school history teacher.
Hitler didn’t win, the Fourth Reich did.
I talk so much about killing, don’t worry. I’ll come for myself here too.
I don’t remember if I was told this or if I saw this and did nothing. For Halloween sophomore year a boy even smaller than me came in full KKK garb. Thinner, shorter. Almost emaciated. We made fun of him because he was even more disgusting than disgusting people like me. He got sent home, but no one hit him. He was best friends with the boy who would spit on the floor when the recently divorced curvaceous tall black-haired literature teacher spoke. The boy who spit called the blasian girl a nigger and she stomped his laptop and eye so bad he didn’t come to school for a while. She got a worse suspension. Rumor has it the school tried to expel her. The beautiful teacher mocked the racist during Honors Lit and he said The Odyssey wasn’t art. I talked to my friends about the KKK outfit and they thought it was funny albeit extreme behavior. They talked about how that’s a senior year costume, not a sophomore one. They didn’t believe he was in the KKK even if his robes looked very real. We didn’t want to talk about our brothers and our friends and our fathers in the KKK. We were boys forced to get up so early for algebra and we wanted to get home and shoot faceless terrorists on XBOX Live.
When the genocide of Palestinians started for the first time in my life I didn’t know to call it that. As it continued it faded into the background. I had real things to attend to, like getting pussy and money. You can kill less than 1,000 people a year for a long time.
In my Topics in 20th Century Germany course, my professor asked us after our first book review essay to say if we’d fight the Nazis if they were back now. He was an old man. He said he’d cancel the class in the winter if there was ice in the parking lot. No job is worth dying for at this age. He was born before the end of World War II and watched Nazis who went unpunished speak at his campus in the 60s. He showed us Paths of Glory and cried when Marlene Dietrich sang. He cried over all the dead boys forced past that threshold forever in the name of something they never chose. He asked us if we’d stop the Nazis, even if no one else was, right now, only a few months after Willem Van Spronson tried to firebomb an ICE detention center. Spronson’s family said he was a crazed lone wolf looking for a heroic path to suicide, nothing real. I think that’s how my mother would talk about me. A beautiful man, blonde, the one that gave me his copy of Storm of Steel, said he’d fight the Nazis. He’d fight the Nazis right now. Professor Levy said, oh yeah? And what about ICE? The beautiful blonde man said ICE is not the same as Nazis. And Professor Levy said Oh, yeah?
I didn’t answer the question. When I was young I thought it would be an honor to kill a Nazi with my own hands. I was dumb, so I thought that was the American dream. Then I got older and said I would, but didn’t. My friends and family parroted fascist rhetoric. By the time I got to college, I had been to a few protests and saw how it felt good to yell in the streets and shut down traffic, but no one knew what to do after that. No one wanted to make bombs. No one wanted to kill. We had peacefully protested and now it was time for our government to play on our terms. Sure they executed the nonwhite ones, but we can use their image in death to forever stoke the flames of our cause. If we killed the cops we’d be just as bad. How did things never change?
I stopped saying I’d fight the Nazis alone because I learned how to make the explosives, my preference was napalm, and I never took the next step. I never picked the target or the person and did it alone. When I asked people to kill Nazis with me I asked people I wanted to go down with me. This is our mutual atonement. We can kill a Nazi and redeem our bad behavior. They stopped talking to me. I knew if I was a lone wolf it would get misconstrued, so I had to write a manifesto that people would not be allowed to read, so I had to learn to write before I could kill Nazis. People had to understand it was about killing the Nazis.
I bought a 10-dollar shirt that said Made in Palestine on UIC’s campus after Israeli snipers had shot kids and identified journalists at the border wall, but only a few, y’know. The Palestinian woman asked if I wanted that shirt. There were two shirt options. I didn’t get it. The journalist might have even been an American, but we’ll sacrifice them for the right cause.
This year when the ethnic cleansing, the genocide, the extermination, the “war” ramped up I bought a copy of Homefront: The Revolution for 2 dollars. I bought it so I could play Timesplitters 2 for the first time, which you could secretly unlock in the game. I bought it because what’s more heroic than killing an internal threat? I had the game in my cart and made the purchase drunk, accidentally. I downloaded the game looking forward to my Red Dawn fantasy where I get to kill hundreds of faceless North Koreans trying to assert their fascism beyond my city of Philadelphia. The combat was slow and sluggish. You snuck around trying to kill silently. Modern wargaming needs to depict modern warfare. You walked through bombed-out buildings in bombed-out streets trying to save America. The violence of the colonies had finally come home to roost in the metropole. I died at the end of a mission and when I respawned the game was broken. I didn’t want to play for two hours to get to that point again so I let the game be. I got angry. I got sad. I died once and it was over. I was trying to distract myself from the genocide by shooting faceless people from east of here and thrust into my own limbo after a bullet tore through my polygons.
As the genocide continued I thought about how I wasn’t going to do anything. I’m going to sit idly while my country funds extermination, essentially doing it themselves. I’m not going to ask my friends to kill my fellow countrymen. They don’t want it. My girlfriend doesn’t want me to die. There’s no reason to go to jail for something that won’t change. I thought about how I get to watch a genocide in real-time. I get to see social media posts from people hours before they are bombed and burned to death. I thought about how if I went to a protest, maybe just maybe I could stomp my feet to the rhythm of bombs falling on hospitals and prisoners halfway across the world. I thought about how if I screamed and yelled that my tax dollars from every job I ever had already paid for bombs that had already been dropped. I paid for this genocide when I worked at McDonald’s, Jamba Juice, and the law firm, and the other law firm, and the other law firm, and when I was an independent grifter I mean contractor, and when I worked at the bowling alley too. The bombs I paid for have already been dropped. I’ve been paying for them my whole life.
I bought 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, a PS3-era superhero game where the bulletproof rapper with an S on his chest tears through a nameless Middle Eastern nation killing towelheaded “cockroaches” to get his concert payment back. Get in the Humvee, destroy the city, we gotta get our money. I thought about the bombed hospital and my friends and family who had sided with Israel and spread lies about Palestinians while I played the game. I beat the entire game in one day using bullet time to make mincemeat of yellow kitchen cloths designed for easy headshots to make gamers feel strong.
When I had Blood on the Sand as a child my cousin had to buy it for me because it was rated M. She worked for Americorps in the city. She showed me the Michael Jackson music video for “Black or White” and told me I was racist when I said it was one of the worst songs I ever heard. She called the 50 Cent game racist and felt bad for helping me out. She told me to not play it around her while she lived at our home. She was helping the people of Chicago and I was ruining her free time with vulgar entertainment.
When I played the game in largely one sitting it was fun. The violence was arcade-style at a time when people sought out hyperrealism. The game didn’t even sell 60K units. You were bulletproof. There were visceral close combat kills set to quick time events that let you watch 50 stab into terrorists’ bellies while saying “I just made history.” Every single bullet shot by enemy combatants missing you and your victim as you disembowel him, always him, the brown adult man terrorist who deserves to lose his life.
I bought the game because I was going to write something because writing something is the closest I can come to doing something. And we all know writing is an advanced style doing nothing. When I was in counseling grad school we were told to not go to protests in case we’d get arrested and lose our licenses. It’s important to remember what you actually can do. And it’s important to remember that what you actually can do largely maintains homeostasis and takes all your energy and the energy of 100 other people or more to make a small single-block local difference. Don’t talk to the burnt out about genocide. Who will run the food pantry? Now that the violence of the colonies has come home to the metropole and I get to watch my neighbors kill 6-year-olds I can admit in full I’d never kill the Nazis. I’d never stop a genocide. It feels too good to let the time pass by. I’m about to start Knausgaard’s My Struggle, and I can’t risk my life only a few pages into book 1 of 6. When it comes down to it, if it’s between my life or yours I ain’t done breathing.

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