In a short Twitter video posted last Sunday, on January 10th, Austrian-born actor and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger denounced the attacks on the U.S. capitol, comparing them to the 1938 Kristallnacht (in English: the Night of Broken Glass). In the video statement, he also came out in support of President-elect Joe Biden and called Donald Trump a “failed leader.”
Seated in his office between the American and Californian flags, Schwarzenegger addressed his “fellow Americans and friends around the world,” drawing an immediate comparison between the mob that broke into the capitol and the infamous pogrom of Nov 9, 1938: “Wednesday was the “Day of Broken Glass” right here in the United States,” Schwarzenegger said. Not only were windows broken but “the very principals on which [the] country was founded” had been trampled into the ground.
He continued on a personal note: “I grew up in Austria […] in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy,” he said, sharing his childhood experiences living amongst “broken men,” like his alcoholic and violent father, who had blindly followed “lies” spread by “the most evil regime of history.” The Hollywood icon emphasized the lessons from the past and the importance of awareness of the consequences of “selfishness and cynicism,” referring directly to the outgoing president.
While a staunch republican, Schwarzenegger placed the blame for the riots squarely on Trump, stressing the gravity of his attempts to overturn the election and encouraging full support for the duly elected Joe Biden: “President-elect Biden, we wish you great success as our President,” he said. Quoting Theodore Roosevelt, Schwarzenegger asked Americans “to stand by the country,” and make the “nation succeed.”
Brandishing a prop sword from his 1982 breakthrough film Conan the Barbarian, Schwarzenegger then made an analogy: “Our democracy is like the steel of this sword. The more it is tempered, the stronger it becomes.” America “will come out stronger because we now understand what can be lost,” Schwarzenegger said, before addressing those who tried to reverse the U.S constitution directly: “You will never win.”
Using simple words and strong rhetoric, Schwarzenegger’s heartfelt appeal was both a history lesson and a motivational speech; and while reactions have ranged from gratitude to nitpicking the historic parallels, many felt it was a much-needed statement following an unprecedented assault on American democracy.