It's probably a bad sign when the president of the United States can issue two not-so-veiled threats about using the military against Americans less than 12 hours apart, and it feels more or less like an ordinary Thursday morning.
That, however, is where things currently stand, with President Trump gleefully tweeting not once, but twice, about deploying troops against protesters he deemed "ugly anarchists" and "agitators."
First, he threatened Wednesday night to "take back" Seattle, after protesters established a radical "autonomous zone" — a bohemian, cash-free micro-community established in the city's Capital Hill neighborhood — with the tacit acquiescence of some city officials, for now.
The next morning, the president began re-litigating the previous week's protests in Washington, D.C., which briefly sent Trump to the White House bunker, as phalanxes of National Guardsmen and women, assorted federal bruisers, and Metropolitan Police officers attacked protesters, in part so the president could walk outside to have a painfully awkward photo op at a nearby church. The soldiers "could hardly believe how easy it was" to clear out a gathering of unarmed civilians, the president said.
While much of Twitter focused on the president's abbreviation of the Secret Service to the historically, erm, shall we say fraught initials "S.S.," the overall tweet itself — particularly in taken in aggregate with the preceding threat against Seattle is terrifying for much more than a (hopefully) inadvertent Nazi reference. It is, instead, a sign of just how eager the president seems to be of late, when it comes to using violence against any perceived dissent. First, an overt threat against Seattle. Then, a boast with an undeniable subtext: "My troops will fuck you — yes you! — up, if you even think about protesting me."
The president's gravitation toward the violence is, in and of itself, nothing new. Remember, this is a man who (perhaps prophetically) announced he could literally shoot a person on New York's Fifth Avenue without loosing any supporters. He has encouraged his fans to "knock the crap out of" protesters at his rallies, and he's told police not to worry about injuring people in their custody. Trump's instinct to see violence as a first, and final resort is well documented, and plenty scary in and of itself.
What does feel new, however, is the newly apparent ease with which the president seems comfortable making those same threats, not as one-off lines at a campaign rally or press briefing, but as statements of official White House policy aimed at ill-defined crowds or even entire cities. Now more than ever, Trump seems more and more ready to take his thuggish inclination to violence and turn it into an official tool of the state.
Consider this, from The New York Times's investigation into just what took place in Washington, D.C., the other week, after Trump encouraged the use of military force to quell the growing protests outside the White House.
Along with the troops, National Guard units from other states brought weapons and ammunition. Tens of thousands of rifle and pistol rounds were stored in the D.C. Armory and partitioned in pallets, labeled by their state of origin, to be used on American citizens in case of emergency.
Put simply, the U.S. armed forces were carefully organizing their pallets of bullets ahead of potentially shooting their guns at American protesters in the streets of the U.S. capital.
To date the president's worst inclinations to unleash the military en masse against protesters have, thankfully, not manifested as open warfare. And already, a number of military officials have publicly — if extremely belatedly — expressed varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the president.
Still, given the president's years-long assault on our patience, sanity, and tolerance for naked fascism, there is nevertheless a risk that Trump's escalating threats of overt military violence against his own country will be ignored, glossed over, or dismissed as simply more of that classic Trump craziness we've all grown to accept and move on. That's dangerous, and only serves to undercut the very real intimations of what Trump has done, and will likely continue to do, until it's too late.