Greg Gianforte is hard to look at. And he’s hard to listen to. He rambles on about how he doesn’t believe people have a right to retire because Noah of the Bible built an ark at age 500. He’s against LGBT rights, reproductive rights, and even the pitifully low federal minimum wage currently in place. And, for real, he preaches that dinosaurs were on that same ark with his pal Noah about four thousand years ago. You could say Greg Gianforte is hard to take. Greg Gianforte, in fact, is harder to take than a hot pepper enema after botched hemorrhoid surgery. In a fight, however, Greg Gianforte is not at all hard to take.
Ben Jacobs is a first rate journalist. Ben Jacobs is a gentleman. But this past week would have turned out a whole lot better for progressives if when the quasi-delusional fat cat fundamentalist Greg Gianforte lunged for Jacobs’ throat the reporter was ready with an Ali-inspired left jab followed by a piston-like straight right sent from above by Joe Louis. Better not simply because Gianforte is a hypocrite bully pseudo-moralist who was caught red-handed in an elaborate shameless lie only hours after the assault. Not simply because Gianforte couldn’t quite manage to squeeze out crocodile tears while delivering perhaps the most hollow, disingenuous apology ever given during his “victory” speech the following night. But above all else because progressives need to annihilate the right-wing narrative about liberals.
You know how the narrative goes. Liberals are a bunch of soft, meek, weak-minded androgynous urban hipsters averse to real work and dedicated to draining the pockets of decent hard-working Americans via draconian federal taxation, which in turn is used for the nefarious ends of liberating transgenders from one set or another of public restrooms and foisting abortion on happy young Christian couples desperately trying to start a family. Right-wingers, rarely secure in their manhood, often base their marginal heterosexuality not on anything intrinsic about their own internal convictions or inherent ruggedness but rather on a comparison to a stereotypical metrosexual straw man. The hapless right-winger spends most of his waking hours battling his own political Tourette’s and, with it, the singular unquenchable desire to scream out the word FAGGOT!
So when a not so physically imposing transplanted Philadelphian wannabe frontiersman like Greg Gianforte unloads his pent up closeted rage in an act of outrageously unprovoked violence against an unsuspecting journalist, he is not simply excused. He is celebrated. He is speaking and acting for millions of frustrated Ted Nugents never fully satisfied by shooting a crossbow at a doe minding her own business somewhere in the woods. The Greg Gianfortes of this deranged nation now and again provide the general public with a vile vicarious orgasm so treasured they must be rewarded somehow. In the past they might have been hoisted up on shoulders, showered with coins, or granted an evening with the mayor’s nubile daughter. Today they are bestowed with a much less enviable honor—a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Unfortunate though it is, nothing will disrupt this interminable Trump-triggered toxic narrative more than brute force. Let me be clear—I am not advocating aggression. That is their domain, and other than the Koch brothers’ money, it’s really all they have. What I am advocating is working out like a motherfucker, day in day out. I am advocating hiring a trainer and taking up amateur boxing. I am advocating the fervent study of martial arts, especially karate and taekwondo. I am advocating roadwork and a glassful of egg yolks at four AM. I am advocating survival courses given deep in the untamed forest by former Green Berets. I am advocating reasonably polite if perhaps on occasion overly persistent execution of journalistic duties in a public space until the moment some puffy, pasty-faced third-rate imitation redneck lays his grubby hands on your throat. At which point I am advocating an ass-kicking so severe the assailant will forget the lyrics to “I Wish I Was in Dixie.”
Naturally, this new stand-your-ground approach to public discourse will serve both to entertain and redeem us. It will promote group hugs and a newfound camaraderie at the sushi bar. But more importantly, it will swing red states purple and purple states blue. More than any sensible budget proposal or rational foreign policy statement or ambitious infrastructure program, the emerging image of the fierce warrior liberal Rambo with blood oozing out of his pocket pen protector will capture the imagination of those Americans with just enough intelligence to watch WWE and comprehend the instructions in a voting booth.
When Malcolm X co-opted Jean-Paul Sartre’s expression “By any means necessary,” the controversial civil rights leader was in effect advocating violence, though only as a last resort. This defiant attitude has a rich tradition in American history, starting with that little skirmish known as the Revolutionary War. But as we progressives retool our image and hit the speed bag at the gym, quoting Malcolm X won’t get us very far. It is savvier and utterly more ironic to paraphrase that great non-violent conservative, Barry Goldwater: Self-defense in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Rich Herschlag is well into his third decade as an author, consulting engineer, husband and father and is very tired.