By: Lessa Leigh
Kathy Griffin made a video with a fake head that looked like President Trump’s. It was covered in blood, and it appeared to have been forcefully removed from his neck, via guillotine, hacksaw, or machete.
It was hyperbole.
It was also in poor taste, and it was a stupid thing to do, and it was inappropriate. CNN has dismissed Ms. Griffin from her New Year’s Eve hosting gig with Anderson Cooper, and she has offered a swift and seemingly heartfelt apology.
Moving on, I remember all the effigies of a lynched President Obama. Lynching isn’t hyperbole. The United States has never beheaded a President, but plenty of people, especially black people, particularly black men, have died from being strung up on a tree and lynched. The effigies or even just the rope tied into a noose were not hyperbole. They were not an exaggeration. They were actual historical facts rooted in violence against black bodies.
When all the ugly images of President Obama came forward for the eight years he was President, I don’t remember any conservatives calling for the actors to apologize. Liberals were roundly derided for being “weak” and “too sensitive” and “unable to take a joke.” We were told to “grow a pair” and asked if we needed a “safe space” and mocked for requesting trigger warnings.
We took it. With grace and a bowed head, we didn’t demand better of conservatives of any stripe: pastor, business owner, politician, journalist, family member etc. We accepted that the First Amendment, in all its messiness, allows for political speech. We had the wisdom to know that the right of citizens to criticize their government in any form, whether as a vote or a burned flag or an effigy or a fake bloodied head on a platter, was paramount to the foundation of our so-called democratic principles.
The question before us is this: will conservatives, having seen liberals rise up in defense of Donald Trump and in outrage toward Kathy Griffin, remember this moment? I doubt that they do. I doubt that they remember how we spoke out and said, “We’re better than this” and cooed about how appalled we were.
The next question is will liberals ever learn that conservatives won’t apologize? When the next Confederate flag is flown at a public high school or when an LBGQT person is beaten up or when a Muslim woman is threatened on a train or when a synagogue is defaced, where will the conservatives be? My guess is that they’ll be saying things like, “Get those free-loaders out of here, whining cry-babies.” Then they’ll make a comment about “libtards” and the “Jew-run” media.
What I’m getting at is that liberal tolerance should have a finite point. I can certainly tolerate all the ideas that conservatives have…for themselves. I don’t have to tolerate their crappy ideas, if they impede my pursuit of happiness or my rights to life and liberty. We liberals and progressives like to “go high when they go low”, but we’re also going to have to learn how to fight in the trenches. It’s possible to take on the hatred, the misogyny, the bigotry, the xenophobia, and the racism. In fact, it’s necessary.
Our tactics can be anything from humor to personal pleas to shunning to vitriol to research studies to putting a fist into someone. We have to engage. We have to fight. We have to be willing to defend our rights as a country. There will be increased calls to rein in the First Amendment. There will be people demanding moderation. Pundits will engage in respectability politics for ratings, and politicians and preachers will pontificate.
We need to maintain a hardline. If Kathy Griffin is wrong, so is Ted Nugent and Kid Rock. If Ted Nugent is tolerable with his threats to make President Obama eat his gun, so is Kathy Griffin with her fake severed Trump head. Either we ALL do better together or we, as progressives, had better be prepared to get dirty in the muck. We can no longer stand by and politely hold our nose at the stench from conservatives while apologizing for staining the carpet.
Just remember who fired the first shot before you wave the white flag, people.