The liberals and the left have been flirting with the fantasy of an assassination of Donald Trump since the early hours of last Nov. 9. If all the rants and diatribes, which make up the conversation where snowflakes, “intellectuals” and the morally elite gather to chat and chew, can’t accomplish the elimination of the president by peaceable means, then why not by “any means necessary?”
Such fantasies are all over the internet, dismissed as the raves of the ignorant, the crazy and the foolish, but beginning to seep into respectable conversation, so called. The idea of terminating the president with extreme prejudice is the stuff of theatrics now, as in comedienne Kathie Griffin’s severed bloody head of the president. That was widely and roundly denounced, eloquently by Chelsea Clinton, once a first daughter with knowledge of what it’s like to deal with threats to the family. She rightly remarked that jokes about assassinating a president, any president, “are not funny.”
But that’s only the first public joke about killing this president. The second time, as this week in a presentation of the killing of a not-at-all disguised Donald Trump cast as Julius Caesar in a play in New York City’s Central Park, the “joke” was treated respectfully with all the caveats accorded by the educated and the respectable: “It’s art, don’t you know?” So shut up and applaud.
When Delta Air Lines and the Bank of America (both based in the South) withdrew their sponsorship of the play, part of Manhattan’s “Shakespeare in the Park,” The New York Times made a point of quickly endorsing the play as worthy of its continued corporate sponsorship, good citizenship be damned. Art must be served, whether art in behalf of mocking those clinging to guns and religion or art as a fantasy of killing a sitting president loathed by “people like us.”
A spokesman for Delta, which has sponsored Shakespeare in the park for four years, said that “no matter what your political stance may be, the graphic image of ‘Julius Caesar’ at this summer’s Free Shakespeare in the Park, does not reflect Delta Air Lines’ values. Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste.”
Bank of America, a spokesman told Deadline magazine, “supports arts programs worldwide, including an 11-year partnership with the Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park. The Public Theater chose to present ‘Julius Caesar’ in a way that was intended to provoke and offend. Had this intention been made known to us, we would have decided not to sponsor it. We are withdrawing our funding for this production.”
Whether the director, Oskar Eustis, intended to stir up the mob or not, even someone of the artsy-craftsy persuasion should know that in the present atmosphere, not just in Gotham but everywhere else, fruitcakes and even more or less respectable “activists” need no encouragement to do great and fatal harm to America’s institutions.
In their fury to assuage their anger and feed righteous hysteria, many liberals and “progressives” cannot restrain their rage that Donald Trump, crude and all-around lout, has through lawful and constitutional means become the leader of the government. A fruitcake with a gun, bomb or long-bladed scimitar rightly imagines that these millions of Never-Trumpers would applaud whatever dirty deed fulfills their dreams and fantasies.
Eustis’ updating of Shakespeare’s play allows nothing subtle to get in the way of making his point. Julius Caesar is depicted as a petulant, blond tyrant in a blue suit, bathing in a gold bathtub, with a pouty Slavic wife standing by with wifely promise.
The drama critic of The New York Times observes that the play adds “immeasurably to the feeling that the story is not unspooling in some dim past but in Central Park tonight. In that sense this ‘Julius Caesar’ is a deeply democratic offering befitting … the public, and the times. If in achieving that goal it flirts a little with the violent impulses it otherwise hopes to contain, and risks arousing pro-Trump backlash, that’s unfortunate but forgivable. [The director] seems to have taken Cassius’s admonition to Brutus when Brutus is still on the fence about taking action. ‘Think of the world,’ he begs.”
But this is only a play, and the arteests and other retailers of Trump hatred insist that art is only art, and it’s up to the audience to keep art and reality straight. At least when it’s art in behalf of a righteous cause.
What could be more righteous to the millions suffering Trump Derangement Disease than someone eliminating the president? Like all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the critic of The New York Times observes, “Julius Caesar” begins “with astonishing rhetoric and ends as an abattoir.”
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.