Cross­ing the line to flirt with an as­sas­si­na­tion fan­tasy PRUDEN ON POL­I­TICS BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - Wes­ley Pruden is edi­tor in chief emeritus of The Times.

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 Nev­erTrumpers would ap­plaud what­ever dirty deed ful­fills their dreams and fan­tasies.

Oskar 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.”

Julius Cae­sar

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