Today, in response to Donald Trump inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol by white-supremacist terrorists, Arnold Schwarzenegger shared a video on Twitter in which he refers to Trump as the “worst president ever” and directly compares Wednesday’s insurrection to Kristallnacht (a.k.a. the “Night Of Broken Glass,” when Nazi soldiers arrested thousands of Jewish people, destroyed synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, and murdered untold hundreds of people in 1938). The surprisingly well-produced video—which is over seven-minutes long, includes a number of cuts and camera moves, and even has a swelling background track—features Schwarzenegger in full movie star mode, making what is essentially a dramatic “we will not back down” address to the nation. It’s the sort of speech that countless movie presidents have made, except this time the threat to the United States is the president himself, leaving movie stars to pick up the slack. It’s weird in the way that everything is weird now, but also… oddly effective.
Schwarzenegger was born in Austria in 1947, and says he was “very aware” of Kristallnacht growing up. He compares the Nazi troopers to the Proud Boys and explains that it wasn’t just the glass windows of the Capitol that were broken on Wednesday, but that they “shattered the ideas we took for granted.” He also says he remembers what it was like growing up surrounded by men who tried to bury their guilt over what they did in the war by drinking and abusing their families, saying that they all had to live with the fact that they were misled into doing terrible things by liars in power—liars like Trump and other politicians who enable him.
But again, this is movie star Schwarzenegger, and he reminds the viewer of that fact by holding up his Conan The Barbarian sword and explaining that swords become stronger the more they’re tempered. He says America’s democracy has been tempered, but it will come out stronger because “we now understand what can be lost.” It’s a simplistic take on what led to Wednesday’s riot and what we should take away from it, and it’s way too early to say “we got through this stronger than we were before” considering we haven’t gotten through it yet at all, but the unrealistic hopefulness and the overt movie-ness of the speech really do work in its favor.
Also, before anyone really starts excessively celebrating what Schwarzenegger is doing here, let’s not forget that putting too much stock in a celebrity’s political takes is at least part of the reason for why we’re here in the first place. Schwarzenegger was a governor, sure, but his politician persona is indistinguishable from his movie star persona—as evidenced by this very video. This isn’t Schwarzenegger proving that he’d be a good leader by calling out Trump and his enablers, this is a movie star doing what he does best (he even waves a freakin’ sword around). Let’s just keep that in mind.