“Trump 1946-2020” still sounds pretty good
“Wish him a speedy recovery?” No
Round, round Hitler’s grave,
Round and round we go,
Gonna lay that poor boy down;
He won’t get up no more.
A few days ago I woke up to a video on my twitter timeline of a bunch of crabs dancing joyfully to the news that Trump had COVID-19, along with tweets from my friends expressing that they had been waiting – In fact, praying – to see this exact video all year. As many of us know, this news practically lit twitter on fire, and “poetic justice” was among the most common phrases I read. There are no doubt still memes being created as I write this, ones that not only make light of Trump’s condition but gleefully anticipate his death.
Of course, this was going to prompt a reaction to the reaction, especially on a website like Twitter where everything is up for commentary. Many people, including prominent political figures, responded to the news by wishing Trump and his family a speedy recovery, adding that “they wouldn’t wish COVID-10 on anyone.” Others directly shamed any celebration of a person’s potential death. At the end of the day, a dominant conversation became: what’s the moral status of wanting a person to die?
Well, as it pertains to Trump, at the moment the point of such a conversation is basically moot, since earlier today it was announced that he had left his multi-room decorated suite in a military hospital to return to the White House. He is – many would say unfortunately – back to work. But no one can forget how excited so many people were while they wondered if we’d ever see him again. Was this an indictment of the cruelty of others on the internet, vitriol powered by twitter’s anonymity and a mob mentality that caused us all to forget about the sanctity of human life?
I danced to the Trump has COVID crab rave! Of course I did! To say that someone should be ashamed for wanting his life to be in danger strikes me as hugely disingenuous for two main reasons: one, there’s nothing new about this kind of death wish, and two, caring about preserving human life is a big reason a lot of people want this bastard gone in the first place.
How is there anything unique about rejoicing over the mortality of a political enemy? The lyrics I began this article with, written in the 1940s by folk singers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, reflected a similar sentiment directed at not just the German chancellor but his entire army and generals during WWII. Images of Hitler being boiled alive, shot, and hanged, among others, were gleefully sung by not just the writers but hundreds of people who passed the song on. At this time in history, fascism in Germany was not the vague idea taught to us in North American schools today; such fascists really lived, and the genocide they perpetrated was ongoing. I have no doubt that there were people in that time, hearing this song which is now such a staple of the period, who condemned it as needlessly violent.
“But that’s obviously different,” you may say. We aren’t in the midst of a world war (although the United States and Canada are both involved in several armed conflicts and military endeavors), Trump isn’t literally Hitler (although nobody is “literally Hitler” except Hitler, so if that’s our bar for who’s actually a fascist we’ll logically never encounter another one), and the atrocities involved are not the same.
Of course they aren’t. No two serial violators of human rights are the same. No monster grows the same head twice. But people have been saying for years that the patterns of Trump’s campaign reek of fascism, and genocidal practices are in fact being investigated under his administration at this very moment.
The aim of this article is not to equate two fascists, although I insist upon calling a spade a spade. What I aim to do is point out that wishing death upon a political figure has in the past, and still does, represent an outcry against the many, many deaths brought about by their policies. More recently (as in, more recently than the 1940s), in the week that Margaret Thatcher died in the UK, “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead” rose to number 10 in the nation’s charts. It is not the death, necessarily, that is the source of joy; rather, it is the survival of the people who suffered because of the politicians actions, who may very well have died because of the choices they made.
In fact, when a person in power can so easily create systems that breed death – more so than ever during COVID-19, where essential workers, incarcerated people, and migrants in detention contracted the illness – one could inversely argue that cheering for the Trump administration takes lightly the deaths of human beings. When you argue, for example, as Trump has, that the Black Lives Matter movement should be met with military force, is that not an immoral celebration of death? When you deny people the right to move freely across borders as they flee violence and disease, is that not an immoral celebration of death? When you defend increasing funding to police and prisons as institutions – as many are doing here in Regina, each time the budget is renewed – despite the repeated instances of police harming the people, is that not an immoral celebration of death?
Even though Trump’s stay in the hospital was yet another reminder of how much more safety and care those like him are afforded, I’m glad a lot of people online, people who have been bearing unbelievable mourning and grief because of his policies, got to know he suffered. If you want to shame someone’s moral principles, there are plenty of better places you can start. Otherwise, it’s clear that to you, only some deaths, possible or otherwise, are worth any measure of respect.