by Mitchell Abidor
IN THE AFTERMATH of the shooting in Alexandria on June 14, the New York Times published an article describing it as a “test” of the movement Bernie Sanders founded. The journalist, Yamiche Alcindor, described this as “a moment for liberals to figure out how to balance anger at Mr. Trump with inciting violence.” She cites examples of Sanders’ allegedly overheated rhetoric, with Bernie calling Trump “dangerous” and "a demagogue.”
Alcindor and the Times are not alone: we’ve been gorged on chatterers saying those opposed to Trump need to rein things in.
I beg to differ.
If you google “Trump dangerous” you get 70,200,000 hits; “Trump demagogue” gets a mere 399,000. These are not incendiary terms used by a fringe; they do not incite to violence. They are virtually statements of fact. They are common coin, and their truth grows more and more apparent to more and more people daily. Witness Trump’s collapsing poll numbers.
And what, I ask, is the “overheated” tone liberals are adopting? Calling Trump a liar? So did James Comey. Saying he might have colluded with the Russians? Congress is investigating this. That he obstructed justice? A special counsel is looking at this.
Is the left out of line for expressing outrage when Trump pulls the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement? So is much of the capitalist class and the rest of the world. Were we too vocal in opposing the travel ban? So were the courts.
The cries for impeachment, another example of leftwing excessive outrage, far from being calls for the barricades and for violence, are the purest expression of the (chimerical) wish to have change implemented legally.
No, saying that James Hodgkinson is a sign that the left has gone too far is just another silly attempt at false equivalency; an attempt at making the left look as bad as the neo-Nazis of the right. Tens of millions share Hodgkinson's rage. No one else took up the gun.
The left can cause no harm to the nation. It poses no danger, nor does the Sanders movement (and the complaints that Bernie called for revolution are disingenuous as well, since it was always an electoral one Bernie called for, modeled on Denmark, not Cuba). Trump is a danger to the U.S. and the world. Let’s put things in their proper order, and let none of us bow our heads in shame or cease crying out against the man occupying the White House.
LET US ALSO be honest about something: the Kathy Griffin severed-head photo and, even more, the new production of Julius Caesar, with Trump as Caesar, do speak to many of us. The director of the play can come up with all the artistic reasons in the world why he set the play in today’s America, all of them valid, but we all know deep down that it was in order to give us the delicious frisson of seeing Trump murdered. (Remember that he is killed by senators; the notion that anyone in the Senate would be strong-willed and principled enough to stand up to, much less assassinate, a leader, is pure science fiction. It is not a call for a new Sante Caserio, the anarchist who killed Sadi Carnot, the president of France in 1894.)
Griffin’s photo was grotesque, and appalling for that reason alone, but who among us doesn’t understand her enjoyment in holding an ersatz of Trump’s bloody severed head up for all the world to see, like Louis XVI after his visit to Dr. Guillotin’s invention. No one in the world thinks a comedian is sitting sharpening the blade: She is expressing a part of the zeitgeist in its most extreme form, which is what comedians do. It was, as Jerry Seinfeld said, “a bad joke,” but it was nothing more. That the Twittersphere is now holding Griffin responsible for the shootings is further sign that Twitter disgraces humankind.
Enjoying an artistic representation of an act is not the same thing as committing it or condoning it in reality. We’ve all thoroughly enjoyed deeds performed in films, plays, and books we’d never consider carrying out. Nicholson Baker did something similar during the unjustly-lamented Bush years, in his novel, Checkpoint, in which one of the characters wants, for the good of mankind, to kill the president. Those who read it didn’t view it as a guide to action, but rather as a form of catharsis. It might not be an attractive catharsis, but there are dark places in the human soul, and dark creatures -- Bush, Trump -- bring them out.
No apologies, my friends. We have said and done nothing out of order. James Hodgkinson was one man; we are millions. He was one of us, but he didn’t act on our behalf, in the same way that I speak only for myself. But we should not restrain our outrage because of the shootings at the ballfield. There is such a thing as righteous anger. We are right, and the horrors of Trump need to be denounced loudly and fiercely.
Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is a translator and writer living in Brooklyn. He has published many books of translations from the French, his articles have been translated into German and French, and his Voices of the Paris Commune has just appeared in a Turkish edition, put out by Kafka Kitap of Istanbul.