Email #257: “come together again”?

The President tweeted on Saturday: “Our great country has been divided for decade, but it will come together again.Sometimes protest is needed in order to heel,and heel we will!”

In Boston on the same day, 40,000 counter-protestors overwhelmed the few dozen members of an alt-right “free speech” rally. But in Berlin on Saturday, 500 neo-Nazis marched to commemorate the death of Hitler’s deputy Rudolph Hess. One of the members told reporters that he was watching the events in Charlottesville with “delight” because Nazis in the U.S. are “finally standing up.” A counter-protestor said she came because of President Trump’s disturbing remarks about Charlottesville: “Donald Trump brought me here today.”

Donald Trump also brought 359 of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s Yale classmates together to write Mnunchin a letter on Friday: “President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings. President Trump made those declarations loudly, clearly, and unequivocally, and he said them as you stood next to him… We believe it is your moral obligation to resign your post as Secretary of the Treasury, effective immediately.”

Though Mnunchin has not resigned, Carl Icahn, the President’s billionaire advisor on deregulation, did resign on Friday, reportedly because of a forthcoming New Yorker article detailing his conflicts of interests. This comes a day after the President fired his chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly for accidentally telling The American Prospect: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. These guys are a collection of clowns.” Bannon is returning to the alt-right Brietbart website, where he says he will “go to war” on behalf of the Trump agenda. Despite firing him, the President tweeted: “Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!”

Fox News is one of the few news sources the President doesn’t call “fake,” but James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox CEO and son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, still condemned the President in an email to friends: “what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people… The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: Standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”

Equally conservative Liberty University alumni are returning their diplomas to protest their university’s president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support of President Trump after his remarks about Charlottesville. Former Student Government Association president and 2006 graduate Chris Gaumer said: “I’m sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists.  And in defending the president’s comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit.”

Due to such protests, the President cancelled his scheduled attendance at the Kennedy Center Honors on Saturday: “The president and first lady have decided not to participate in this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” Though this is only the fourth time in the event’s forty years that a president has not attended, the Center was thankful: “In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees.” The President also cancelled his reception afterwards, because at least one honoree, Carmen de Lavallade, was already boycotting it: “In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House.”

Susan Bro, the mother of the Heather Heyer who was murdered in Charlottesville, is also refusing to meet with President Trump: “I’m not talking to the president now. I’m sorry. After what he said about my child, and – it’s not that I saw somebody else’s tweets about him, I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Ms. Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists. You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying I’m sorry. I’m not forgiving for that.” The President attempted to phone Ms. Bro four days after the murder, but she refused to take the call. When a police officer was shot and killed in San Antonio in November, he called the next day.

Other conservative news sources continue to condemn the President. The Economist called him “politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for the office.” The UK’s conservative The Spectator said: “Yet again, Trump has demonstrated the extent to which he is unsuited to be president. But yet again we can also see the forces at work that led him to power.”

Those forces include you and other members of the Republican party who continue to support him despite his actions. Former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and Homeland Security secretary in the Bush administration Tom Ridge asked: “At what point does a principled party stand up for its principles? You can’t be afraid of losing an election because you stood up for what was right.”

Is your silence about the President based solely on your fear of losing reelection in 2018? I saw last week that you have a new Democratic challenger. Does them mean you will pander even more now to racist Trump supporters instead of standing up for American principles? President Trump is bringing the country together in moral opposition to him. How long will you remain on the wrong side?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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