It’s too much for even a parody. Saturday Night Live (SNL), the long-running US comedy show, has been pillorying the political landscape for decades. While undeniably left-leaning, they take shots everywhere — at any political figure, any celebrity, and yes, at any and all presidents. The show is part of the American political and comedy landscapes, something politicians from all sides have long taken in good humor. Until now — until Trump. Trump has, yet again, spoken out against criticism of him on SNL. This time, however, his tweet outburst has raised a few eyebrows, as he questioned the lack of “retribution” in response to the show.
Retribution. It’s an odd word to use at all as a president against a group of peaceful citizens, a group of creatives. It’s even odder in the context of a political comedy sketch. Maybe if it wasn’t the same week he’s called a national emergency to get his wall built, maybe if it wasn’t in the context of more and more deluded behavior, but something about this particular tweet has struck a nerve — and made journalists, politicians, and the general public question whether our current president has had the vaguest of briefings on the Constitution.
Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2019
In the face of Trump’s increasingly autocratic behavior, many are concerned not only about his state of mind, but of his familiarity with the First Amendment and his understanding of the limits of his power. The American Civil Liberties Union and others have spoken out against his response, but as criticism and pushback seems to only baffle the President or anger him further, many feel helpless as they watch the deterioration of the country’s highest office.
It’s called the First Amendment. https://t.co/vlOXOkR2Gq
— ACLU (@ACLU) February 17, 2019
When Trump has said so much and done so much to shake the country and shock the world, it’s hard to see how any individual tweet or off-color remark could still make an impact. But it’s crucial to remain critical, to remain aware, and not to become complacent against the relentlessness that is Trump. Becoming jaded or weary is a sign that the process of normalization has begun to take hold. As long as citizens and politicians continue to be shocked, there is something that can be done.
Dear @realDonaldTrump: One thing that makes America great is that the people can laugh at you without retribution. The First Amendment allows Saturday Night Live to make fun of you again, and again, and again. @nbcsnl
You should read the Constitution, or get briefed on it. https://t.co/4QxoMrLcmI
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 17, 2019
There are so many issues with Trump’s latest temper tantrum. The fact that words like “collusion” and “retribution” can be used in response to a comedy sketch show that dares to show the temerity to criticize Trump says so much about where we are now. And, at the moment, there’s little to be done about that. But as long as people don’t give into normalization, as long as there’s an awareness of the distance between where we are now and where we want to be, there’s hope.