A blonde solon in an ill-fitting suit lying dead on the Senate floor, bloody knives held aloft by a cohort of celebrating conspirators. It’s an arresting image, the onstage murder of a man we all immediately recognize as Donald Trump under another name, and in today’s fraught political climate – perhaps more so than at any time in living memory – it’s unsurprising that it has erupted into a firestorm.
It doesn’t matter that other politicos have been cast in the role of the very famously assassinated Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s legendary play before (so much so that it’s been called a “common trope”), up to and including Obama. 2017 is not like other years, and Donald Trump is not like other presidents. Tensions are high, and inflammatory art has been known to result in real violence. This country feels like a tinderbox, and hushed conversations regarding how exactly the president might be prematurely removed from office frequently accent dinner dates, street corners, and office break rooms. And nobody is entirely sure who they can trust.
This is, I imagine, what pre-war feels like.
And there on the stage, New York’s Public Theater shows the president repeatedly and brutally stabbed to death by his opponents. The resulting conflagration is exactly what you’d expect from a country torn so sharply in two that the opposing sides no longer often speak; for some, this is harmless art. For others, it’s an incitement to violence. And consider that it wasn’t that long ago that our national conversation was “should we or shouldn’t we take to the streets to fight out our differences?”
The news today of the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise only heightens the urgency of this conversation. The heightened tensions of the day are already boiling over into political violence. The mess The Public Theater has stepped in is extremely serious.