Arnold Schwarzenegger has lived a long and varied life. The first superstar bodybuilder transitioned into a career as one of the biggest movie stars in history, and he followed that up with two terms as the 38th Governor of California. In a video posted to Twitter on January 10th, Ahnald brought all of his considerable talents to bear on America’s wavering democracy, and he did it with historical analogies, deeply personal stories, and of course, an enormous broadsword.
Schwarzenegger began by framing himself as “an immigrant to this country,” a man raised in Austria in the shadow of Nazi rule. “I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, 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,” he said, before turning his attention to the pro-Trump mob that recently stormed the Capitol building. “Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States.”
The former Governor offered a glimpse into his childhood, saying that, “Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history.” He then moved into one of the most candid moments of his public life. “Now, I’ve never shared this so publicly because it is a painful memory,” he said. “But my father would come home drunk once or twice a week, and he would scream and hit us and scare my mother. I didn’t hold him totally responsible,” he continued, “Because our neighbor was doing the same thing to his family, and so was the next neighbor over… 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 firsthand how things can spin out of control.”
From there, Schwarzenegger pivoted to America today, when our democratic norms have never been more in question. “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, and I know where such lies lead.” He added, “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.”
Schwarzenegger was elected governor as a Republican, and here he lambasted current Republican officials who have ignored or enabled Trump. Ever the showman, he also brought a prop: the mountainous sword he had wielded himself in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. Schwarzenegger said,
“Now you see this sword? This is Conan’s sword. Now here’s the thing about swords: the more you temper a sword, the stronger it becomes. The more you pound it with a hammer and 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. Now, 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’s 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.”
He ended the video with a call to unity. “No matter what your political affiliation is,” he said, “I ask you 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.'” Check out the whole rousing speech below.
A few famous artists participated in the protests outside the Capitol, including Ariel Pink and John Maus. Pink has now been dropped by his record label. Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer actually stormed the Capitol building, and is currently being sought by the FBI and Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police. In the aftermath of the insurrection, Trump was permanently banned by Facebook and Twitter. Sacha Baron Cohen called the bans, “the most important moment in the history of social media.”
My message to my fellow Americans and friends around the world following this week's attack on the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/blOy35LWJ5
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) January 10, 2021