Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, May 31st, 2017.

How Not to Heal the Nation’s Wounds, Kathy Griffin Edition

Trump Maladministration

Comedian Kathy Griffin posed with what looks like the severed head of Donald Trump. Although some are defending this as “performance art,” I say it was a boneheaded thing to do, and I won’t be sorry if she loses work because of it.

Suggesting violence toward a real, living person is stupid and reckless. “It was just a joke” is no excuse. It was wrong, and not funny, when Ann Coulter said “We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee.” It was wrong when righties burned President Obama in effigy and erected billboards suggesting he should be lynched.  Stooping to the Right’s level accomplishes nothing.

Here’s a post I wrote back in 2007 about humor as aggression. In it, I wrote that political art should be judged by the point it makes. Is the point true? Or is it just about mocking someone the artist doesn’t like? What point is Griffin making other than “I want Donald Trump dead”? There are copious things about Trump that are worthy of being mocked; why stoop to this?

I don’t like him, either, but I don’t want him dead. I want him investigated; I want his transgressions exposed; I want him out of office. If his maladministration is soundly ridiculed along the way, fine by me. But no, I don’t wish any physical harm to him. Maybe I’ve been a Buddhist for too long, but that’s how I feel.

Adding more hate and aggression into our political discourse accomplishes nothing. Roger Cohen wrote yesterday,

Tens of millions of Trump opponents cannot communicate with tens of millions of his supporters. There is no viable vocabulary. There is no shared reality.

This is the chasm to which Fox News, Republican debunking of reason and science, herd-reinforcing social media algorithms, liberal arrogance, rightist bigotry, and an economy of growing inequality have ushered us.

It’s perhaps the most important problem confronting the United States, because the end point of hardening fracture and mutual incomprehension is violence — like last week’s fatal stabbing of two men by a Muslim-insulting white supremacist on a Portland commuter train.

America is full of enraged people just looking for an excuse to act out their rage. Feeding the rage is irresponsible. Political expression that expresses nothing but hate or a wish for violence is self-indulgent and stupid.

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