Politicians Treated Badly

On May 17, in New London, Connecticut, The United States Coast Guard Academy celebrated a new class of graduates. I teach at a military institution (though I should make clear that I do not here write on behalf of one), so I always have an interest in these moments of honorable ceremony.

President Donald Trump salutes as he walks off Air Force One at Groton-New London Airport in Groton, Conn., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Trump is giving the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Giving the graduation speech at the USCGA was none other than the 45th President of the United States. In his remarks, he said the following of himself:

No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.

I have several different perspectives on this statement, but I’m going to keep things to a simple historical response here.

I’ve listed below just 10 (ok, 11) political figures in history who have, in my estimation, been treated far worse than Donald Trump. I likely could’ve kept writing this list all night, but I had to stop somewhere.

Also, trigger warnings for some graphic details.

Abraham Lincoln (Alexander Gardner)

1-5. Here in the United States, Abraham Lincoln (16th President), James Garfield (20th), William McKinley (25th), John F. Kennedy (35th), and Ronald Reagan (40th) were all shot while in office. Reagan alone survived. Theodore Roosevelt (26th) was shot while campaigning for a new term of office for the Bull Moose Party in 1912; he went ahead and gave a 90-minute speech while bleeding before getting medical care — mostly because he’s Teddy friggin’ Roosevelt.

6. This March, former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov, who’d fled to the Ukraine, joined a long list of political critics of Russian President Putin who have been suddenly silenced. There is, in fact, a Wikipedia category devoted to “Assassinated Russian Politicians” (to be fair, not all of these killings are attributable to Putin).

7. Not even one year ago, during the run-up to the Brexit vote, Helen Joanne “Jo” Cox, the British Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, was shot multiple times and repeatedly stabbed by a “far-right” extremist. Her final cries were for people to get away so that he wouldn’t hurt them, too.

8. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid regime of South Africa. 18 of those years were spent on the notorious Robben Island, sleeping on a straw mat in an isolated 8’x7′ cell. For context, President Trump gave his statement on the 117th day of his stay in the White House.

9. In 1327, Queen Isabella of England ordered the execution of Hugh le Despenser the Younger, the former royal chamberlain and favorite of King Edward II (who himself was likely killed by being sodomized with a red-hot poker). Despenser was stripped naked and bound to the top of a high ladder. As the crowd watched, his genitals were cut off and burned in front of him before he was slowly disemboweled. His heart was cut out and cast into a fire, and his body was then drawn and quartered, with his head set upon the gates of London. That’s rougher than a Lester Holt interview, I think.

10. Valerian was an anti-Christian Emperor of Rome from 253 CE until his capture by the Shahanshah Shapur I of the Sassanid Empire during the battle of Edessa in 260. According to De Mortibus Persecutorum [On the Deaths of the Persecutors], a book by the Christian apologist Lactantius, Valerian was subsequently used as a stepping stool to enable Shapur to get on his horse. And then, after Valerian tried to buy his way out of captivity, Shapur either (a) flayed him alive or (b) made him swallow molten gold before having him flayed. After this, his flayed skin was stuffed with either (a) straw or (b) manure, then put on display.

Humiliation of Emperor Valerian (Hans Holbein the Younger)

And speaking of Christianity, here’s a bonus historical figure with some political leanings who the President might want to learn about:

11. Jesus.

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