I was reminded of a couple of things this week when word came that enemies of the Trump administration — past political opponents, celebrities, old leftists and CNN — received to what amounted to half-assed non-working “bombs” in the mail by alt right domestic terrorists. The first is Randolph Hearst’s media empire calling for President William McKinley to be eradicated and some enterprising anarchist shooting him in Buffalo, N.Y. at the turn of the twentieth century. The 25th president eventually died. And my own perhaps ill-advised challenge to a sitting U.S. Congressman to a fistfight in 2016, which ended in many discussions with local authorities and his eventual defeat. It was the first such defeat of a Republican congressman in New Jersey’s Fifth District in nearly a century to which I took partial credit.
Both of these were desperate attempts to change the body politic through random, and in my case, satirically driven violence. I mean, I would have fought Scott Garrett, but he refused. I was relieved. He seemed like the kind who goes for the groin. But let this be said of anarchists and me, at least we show up. Sending bombs, and poorly made bombs at that, is no way to make a point, political or otherwise. And it is a veiled attempt at stopping the inevitable mid-term backlash to what is now beyond rational argument the worst first two years of a presidency in my lifetime, and perhaps ever.
However, I am not here today to discuss politics, but motive. And I think the motive of these domestic terrorists have less to do with politics or social order than cult of personality, something Donald Trump has refused to give up since becoming president. Not that I blame him. It is the only reason he is president. He could offer nothing else. He is a one trick pony and he has clung to this act as best he can, and as a writer obsessed with the damaged, I get it. What comes of this cult of personality has to do with the people targeted. And either you believe the president knows what he is doing or not. There is very little grey area as it has been for other presidents.
But back to the would-be bombs and domestic terrorists.
In the 1960s, when the idea of domestic terrorism came roaring back for the first time since the American Nazi Party began making inroads to use anti-communism and anti-Semitism — and I guess right-wing politics to make a national play — it was a left wing response to the wholly illegal and astonishingly immoral Viet Nam War, in which many of the terrorists and radicals had been called to order to avoid being mutilated or worse in a god-forsaken stretch of Southeast Asia that a few geo-political intellectuals had deemed the linchpin of a spectacularly flawed domino theory.
What happened this week is merely people wanted to, I guess, kill or threaten people who don’t believe Donald Trump knows what he’s doing. It is kind of like rogue Beer Hall Putchers from 1930s Germany created from the cult of Adolf Hitler’s political groundswell. None of what the eventual Brownshirts stood for was political or necessarily anti-Jewish or anti-Communist. It was simply to eradicate enemies of Hitler. It was for a personality and not a political movement or to cease a shift in the social order.
I find this extremely interesting since, as we know, Trump, whose father was a member of the KKK and was constantly sued in the 1970s and ‘80s for racist real estate tactics in New York, had infamously tried to rhetorically even-the-playing-field for neo-Nazis and Klansman (summarily applauded by such in social and mainstream media shortly after) with his now highly regrettable “both sides are bad” series of monosyllabic speeches after the Charlottesville riot and tragedy. And recently he celebrated on stage the attack of a journalist by a Republican congressman and continued to strangely defend the Saudi government for the torture and murder of a journalist with ties to America. None of this is to say that Trump is directly responsible for these “bomb” deliveries, any more than Martin Scorsese is responsible for the shooting of Ronald Reagan because some goofball decided he wanted to save Jodi Foster like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.
However, it is hard to, as I have written in this space before, defend this president anymore when it comes to his drumming up of the “us versus them” theory, which is only based on Trump figuring out who likes him and who doesn’t. This is fine for a bedroom tweeter after his reality show wraps, but for the president it is dangerous. Because Trump has not abandoned his celebrity persona for that of the leader of the free world there continues this “playing to the base and sorting out enemies” approach that lends itself to personality over the national interest. It is, again, not about politics, right or left wing, it is about Trump, as most things end up with him — how Trump sees the world. It is why he chums up to Vladimir Putin, a man who internationally terrorized the U.S., while attacking his FBI that works to out him and make sure it never happens again. The FBI is investigating him and Putin helped him win the election. It really is as simple as that.
And to ignore the fact that his critics and political opponents were targeted (however haphazardly) with violent terrorist retribution is as silly as simply blaming Trump because he is a child and has no idea what the fuck he is doing.
Nevertheless, this is desperation. And it makes sense. Terrorism is horrifying, but it always made sense to me. It is what freed the nation from the yoke of British rule. It kept the Irish Republic alive for generations. But, to be fair, it is also illegal and, as stated, horrifying, and cannot go unpunished. And most likely, as these guys were sloppy in their bomb making and their postal service deliveries, they will be caught and tried as such and my guess will wonder why any of this mattered for a someone who is not going to be president much longer.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y”. “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”
And coming in June, 2018; “Accidentally Like a Martyr – The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon”