A few quick knife thrusts to the chest and lungs to elicit information. Being pummeled to an inch of death. Glorified one-liners and catchphrases meant to intimidate one’s foe. Threats of punishment, prison or, day I say it, Guantanamo to strike fear into the hearts of anyone that defies American exceptionalism and military might. What am I talking about, you ask? Some may immediately think of a big blockbuster action film. Others may site American war dominance abroad or the growing social awareness of American police brutality at home. Nowadays many would point towards the political pulpit and the inflammatory rhetoric being used to shepherd voters to the polls. If you were to ask me, I would point to all four.
Last night I hit the cinema and saw London Has Fallen – the heart-pounding, thrill-seeking, American-grandstanding sequel to Olympus Has Fallen. Now I am the first to admit I love action movies. I’m a total and complete screen junkie. I love the corny lines and over-sized gun and bomb effects. I revel when our hero, after days of sleeplessness and riddled with bullets that would bring down any other normal man, stops the bad guy from blowing up the building or assassinating his intended target. I get this internal feeling of satisfaction when America comes out on top. Laughing at the snide comments about fellow frenemies Russia and China, I forgive the actions that could easily be labeled torture because they are committed in the name of American survival. Violence sells. Add some sex and spandex clothing and you’ve got yourself a multi-million dollar blockbuster.
And the fascination doesn’t stop there. American gun lust has driven gun sales through the roof. Not only does America have more guns per person than any other country in the world but it also “supplies three-quarters of the world’s arms trade.” I know what some of you are thinking. It’s just business, baby. But it’s not. Our need for guns and use of violence to get what we want and when we want is just part of the narrative that defines what it means to be a “true” American.
Violence permeates American culture and policy. We glorify violence. Applaud it. It has crept into everyday life; shaping our social values, defining enforcement rules within infrastructures and service, like airports and school security, militarizing our police, and creating a punishing state in which violence and strong-arm tactics are acceptable modes of discipline.
Just look at our current state of politics; specifically those surrounding Trump. At a recent rally in North Carolina Trump denied any wrong doing by his supporters and claimed that his rallies have been violence-free. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, his rallies and the actions of his supporters and those by local law enforcement perfectly demonstrate how strong-armed tactics, mob mentality, and restricted free speech have become all too common in American politics and society.
Over the past several weeks, violence has been the defining characteristic at Trump rallies. Not only have protestors have been repeatedly punched, kicked, and threatened with violence and death, but they have also been unfairly targeted, manhandled, beaten, and arrested by local law enforcement; leaving those actually committing the crimes cleared of any wrongdoing. Journalists have been hit especially hard recently. Corralled into “press pens” and warned to stay put, journalists who have dared to video tape freely outside of their designated cells have been physically restrained and arrested. Press credentials no longer act as a shield to ensure accurate and real-time reporting – they are now the targets.
For the longest time we didn’t take Trump seriously. He was just another form of American entertainment. His bluster, abusive language, and bully mentality reflected the types of shows we have seen on TV. He was just doing his Celebrity Apprentice stint to sell some books and reclaim the spotlight. Or so we thought. We let our grasp on what’s real and what’s entertainment blurred. We shrugged him off and chose not to see the truth behind his actions or the fact that his policies represent a racist and angry side of the American electorate.
But this isn’t reality TV or a blockbuster action film. The threat of physical violence and even death must be taken seriously. Trump will not stop fanning the flames of hate. His incendiary rhetoric, call to arms, and hate speech will only increase as we draw closer to the convention. He needs every angry, white vote he can get if he is to take the nomination and he knows this. The only question now is whether or not people will continue to stand by and fail to speak up.