Much of the rhetoric the Trump administration uses to describe immigrants applies more to themselves than anyone else. There is an invasion going on — an extremist movement of authoritarian plutocrats using racism to take down our most basic democratic institutions. I thought it would be enlightening to use their own language against them. Notice that I am depicting Republican politicians and their associates, not the rank and file — because many of those people are simply being lied to by Fox. They’re living in an alternate reality, and in many ways are being victimized themselves.
The drawing of Michael Cohen in the first panel is based on the meeting he had with several mafia-esque characters while he was supposed to be in court. If you missed that, here’s the footage set to the Sopranos theme song.
This is one of those issues that’s so sad, it’s hard to write jokes about it. To make matters worse, the administration is making great efforts to confuse people, saying the forced child separations are the fault of “Congress” or Democrats, so many Americans may not even understand who is really responsible. The disinformation is as significant as the policy.
Under normal circumstances, at least, you’d think there would be a great national revulsion. Back in 2005, the country reached a turning point after Hurricane Katrina, which revealed the Bush administration to be the incompetent buffoons that they were. Granted, it shouldn’t have taken so long for that particular epiphany to occur, but it did. In today’s media environment, such a political turning point seems almost impossible. I was shocked to learn that Trump’s Gallup poll numbers have actually gone up since the Canada/North Korea debacle, and have been trending upward for several months.
I have to say, the news from the past few days has me feeling more alarmed than ever. Trump’s behavior at the G-7 was, as others have noted, nothing less than an effort to destroy the West. While this all seems very Putin-esque, I also keep thinking of Viktor Orban, the far-right nationalist Prime Minister of Hungary, who has declared the era of liberal democracy to be over. Given the multi-pronged attacks on voting rights in the US, including Monday’s appalling 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that Ohio can purge people from its voter rolls if they fail to vote frequently enough, I fear we may be farther down the authoritarian path than many Americans realize. And Trump is, unfortunately, just the tip of the fascist-berg. Not to bum you out or anything.
This week’s strip was inspired by the recent Samantha Bee controversy, in which the comedian referred to Ivanka Trump as a “feckless c-word” during a monologue about Trump’s treatment of undocumented immigrants. This came on the heels of Roseanne having her show canceled for making racist and anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter. Many on the right demanded similar consequences for Bee, who later apologized. But the two incidents were not the same. As I tweeted the other day:
Samantha Bee, a woman, calling a white supremacist wannabe-oligarch’s enabling daughter the c-word is punching up. A white person calling a black person an ape and spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is punching down, historical abomination-style.
When it comes to slurs, it’s not about the word itself — it’s about the context. The meaning changes depending on who’s using the word, and who they’re talking about. Samantha Bee is probably the most feminist personality on TV right now. When she drops a c-bomb in the service of criticizing a woman who is complicit in oppression, it may be a crude insult — but it’s not sexist.
That said, I try to avoid using language in this way in my own work, since there’s too much room for misinterpretation. And there are reasonable debates to be had about the merits of certain types of reclaiming; I’ve even drawn cartoons in the past about the dangers of embracing your opponents’ insults (“tree hugger” being one example that hasn’t helped reframe the debate, in my opinion). HOWEVER! I’m not “making excuses” for Sam Bee simply because I’m a fan. Had she said something genuinely supportive of patriarchy, I’d criticize it. I think Rebecca Traister gets it right here:
It is true that in her critique of Ivanka Trump, Bee used an expletive that is explicitly misogynistic; it is wholly reasonable to object to the word cunt for feminist reasons. It is also reasonable and worthwhile to consider why a term for female anatomy has become such a potent pejorative; why does a word that means vagina also mean “very bad person”? That’s a valid question, but it’s crucial to consider it in this context. Bee was not reinforcing or replicating the crude harm that “cunt” has been used to inflict historically: the patriarchal diminishment and vilification of women. In fact, Bee was using it to criticize a woman precisely because that woman is acting on behalf of that patriarchy, one that systematically diminishes women, destroys families, and hurts children.
Given that we can’t even pass the Equal Rights Amendment, it’s probably a stretch to expect that many people get these subtleties. But one thing that is clear: we can safely dismiss the performative outrage from those who never gave a damn about misogyny until now.