A perverse mix
Arnold Schwarzenegger likened US President Donald Trump’s Insurrection Day to the Nazi-era “Kristallnacht” in November 1938, when Jewish communities in Germany and Austria were attacked; residents killed; homes, businesses, and even cemeteries looted or razed; and Jews from 6 to 60 arrested for transport to concentration camps.
Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California in 2003-2011, was moved to recall that “Night of Broken Glass” as he watched footage of the mob breaking into the US Capitol on Jan. 6, shortly after listening to Trump deliver a provocative speech on a theme he had been amplifying since November without benefit of evidence: a “rigged” presidential election, “fraud” marking the vote count, the “radical left” taking over the American way of life…
The weary observer watching how a spectacle not seen in America in 200 years is panning out would note that it took an immigrant from Austria to connect the horror over the mayhem that occurred at the US Capitol to Hitler’s terrorism — a “rampage,” he said, of “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.” The Terminator was referring to one of the groups that traveled to Washington, DC in response to Trump’s call for a gathering of “patriots” to protest the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election as president. Described as far-right and neofascist, the group is cut out for the kind of political violence that the US President had been repeatedly suggesting was necessary since it became clear that he had lost the election.
It’s a mark of the man’s leadership: Even before he moved to the White House, Trump has employed language that now stands out as proof of the manifold risks posed by words. Directed at blacks, persons of color, women, immigrants, and other minorities, as well as his political enemies, his hate rhetoric has been a powerful tool to bully and exclude, and to divert accountability for, say, a slump in economic fortunes in the US underclass from his administration to migrants from “sh*thole countries.” An arch glibness to complement the maverick style that sets him apart from Brahmins and helped him win the presidency in 2016 has served to expand his base among white supremacists and conspiracy theorists like QAnon, even — ironically, as seen in the mob that stormed Capitol Hill — among blacks, persons of color, women, immigrants, and other minorities.
Which is why the election results against which he had baselessly inveighed, and which he repeatedly swore he would not honor despite the courts tossing out his election lawsuits, have likewise been rejected by these same groups that harbor a resentment unaddressed by the political elites, and to whom he directs his battle cry of making America “great again.”
“Words can be dangerous and lead to physical harm,” said law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow, speaking on CNN a day after the attack. In summoning his supporters to a protest rally on Jan. 6, Trump tweeted: “Be there, will be wild!” Indeed it was — and hindsight trains a glaring light on the outcome of misinformation and lies methodically streaming from his Twitter account, illustrating how, in the Land of the Free, one branch of government could now literally assault a coequal branch. Other speakers at the rally stoked the furious simmer: Trump’s eldest son and namesake coyly talking about the importance of strength, the seemingly deranged Rudy Giuliani mouthing such stuff as “trial by combat”…
Per reports and footage of the attack, the protesters carried firearms and other weapons and vehicles parked nearby contained explosives, indicating deadly intent. Chilling images presented themselves: a noose hung somewhere in the building, someone carrying plastic handcuffs, as though the protesters meant to do much more than preen in superhero costumes, smash windows, break down doors, and take selfies of themselves on seats of privilege.
Five people, including a police officer, died as a result of the attack. Newly surfaced videos show the mob dragging and beating another police officer…
Shortly before Kristallnacht, according to accounts, Hitler’s minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels rallied a gathering of old storm troopers to stage “spontaneous demonstrations” against Jews. The harangue resulted in unspeakable crimes: Schwarzenegger recalled a childhood marked by the sight of broken men—kin, neighbors—driven to drink and despondency by a profound guilt over their participation in the pogroms.
Now the world watches as America strains to deal with the clear and present danger of violence shaking the ground and charging into its very heart, a violence instigated by its populist leader and his enablers, nourished by lies and brute notions of power and entitlement—and complicated by a raging pandemic.
A perverse mix to which Filipinos, long exposed to dangerous words, are no stranger.
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