Former Governor and movie mega star Arnold Schwarzenegger
As an immigrant to this country, I would like to say a few words to my fellow Americans, and to our friends around the world, about the events of recent days. I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kirstallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.
Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol. But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol: they shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy, they trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.
I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy. I was born in 1947 two years after the Second World War. Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most-evil regime in history.
Not all of them were rabid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many just went along step-by-step down the road. They were the people next door. Now, I’ve never shared this so publicly because it is a painful memory, but my father would come drunk once or twice a week and he would scream and hit us and scare my mother.
I didn’t hold him totally responsible because our neighbor was doing the same thing to his family, and so was the next neighbor over. I heard it with my own ears and saw it with my own eyes. They were in physical pain from the shrapnel in their bodies and in emotional pain from what they saw or did.
It all started with lies, and lies, and lies, and intolerance. So being from Europe I’ve seen first-hand how things can spin out of control. I know there is a fear in this country – and all over the world – that something like this could happen right here. Now I do not believe it is, but I do believe that we must be aware of the dire consequences of selfishness and cynicism.
President Trump sought to overturn the results of an election and of a fair election. He sought a coup by misleading people with lies. My father and our neighbors were misled also with lies. I know where such lies lead. President Trump is a failed leader. He will go down in history as the worst president ever. The good thing is he will soon be as irrelevant as an old tweet.
But what are we to make of those elected officials who have enabled his lies and his treachery? I would remind them of what Teddy Roosevelt said: ‘Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.’
John F. Kennedy wrote a book called Profiles in Courage. A number of members of my own party, because of their own spinelessness, would never see their names in such a book, I guarantee you. They’re complicit with those who carried the flag of self-righteous insurrection into the Capitol.
But it did not work. Our democracy stood firm. Within hours the Senate and the House of Representatives were doing the people’s business and certifying the election of President-elect Biden. What a great display of democracy.
Now, I grew up Catholic. I went to church, went to Catholic school, I learned the Bible and my catechism, and from those days I remember a phrase that is relevant today: ‘A servant’s heart.’ It means serving something larger than yourself. See, what we need right now from our elected representatives is a public servant’s heart.
We need public servants that serve something larger than their own power or their own party. We need public servants who can serve higher ideals: the ideals in which this country was founded, the ideals that other countries look up to. Over the past few days friends from all over the world have been calling and calling and calling me, calling me distraught and worried us as a nation.
One woman was in tears about America, wonderful tears of idealism, about what America should be. Those tears should remind us of what American means to the world. Now I’ve told everyone who has called that, as heartbreaking as this all is, American will come back from these dark days and shine our light once again.
Now you see this sword? This is the Conan’s sword. Here is the thing about swords: the more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes. The more you pound it with a hammer then heat it in the fire, and then thrust it into the cold water, and then pound it again, and then plunge it into the fire and the water, and the more often you do that, the stronger it becomes.
I’m not telling you all this because I want you to become an expert sword maker. But our democracy is like the steel of this sword: the more it is tempered, the stronger it becomes. Our democracy has been tempered by wars, injustices and insurrections. I believe, as shaken as we are about the events of recent days, we will come out stronger because we now understand what can be lost.
We need reforms of course, so that this never, ever happens again. We need to hold accountable the people that brought us to this unforgivable point. And we need to look past ourselves, our parties and disagreements, and put our democracy first. And we need to heal, together, from the drama of what has just happened. We need to heal, not just as Republicans or as Democrats, but as Americans.
Now to begin this process, no matter what your political affiliation is, I ask you to join me in saying to President-elect Biden: ‘President-elect Biden, we wish you great success as our president. If you succeed our nation succeeds. We support you with all our hearts as you seek to bring us together.’
And to those who think they can overturn the United States Constitution, know this: You will never win. President-elect Biden, we stand with you today, tomorrow and forever in defense of our democracy from those who would threaten it. May God bless all of you and may God bless America.