The Face That Launched a Thousand Quips is now for sale on Mugs, T-Shirts and Tattoos
In an age where memes shape political discourse as much as news articles, former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Fulton County mugshot was bound to become iconic. Dubbed everything from “A Medusa reconfigured for the age of mass media” to “a foolish old duffer with anger issues”, the image swiftly traversed the cybersphere, becoming a symbol of indictment, insurrection, and to some, inspiration. It reportedly raised north of 7 million smackers for the Trump campaign.
But beyond the digital ripples it created in the political media circus, the mugshot inspired merchandise that’s raising eyebrows, especially within the Jewish community. The Trump campaign tweeted the slogan “Never Surrender” but one online merchandise shop shirt takes that a step further, displaying the phrase “Never?” above the Trump mugshot and ”Again!” below it. The statement clearly pushes back against the “Never Trumpers” and suggests that the ex is bound for re-election.
But, for Jews at least, the wordplay toes a controversial line. The phrase “Never Again”, long associated with grim memories of the Holocaust. An anonymous official from a Jewish organization focused on combating defamation expressed outrage: “To cavalierly repurpose a anti-Holocaust pledge to promote a pro-Trump narrative offends our history and the memory of the murdered.”
A spokesperson for the pop-up shop, which sells exclusively mugshot merch, pooh-poohed the criticism: “The Never Trumpers started this with their trumped-up charges. They are only promoting Trump’s reelection with their hysterical attempts to ban him from the race rather than letting him run and let the people decide.”
“Too many dyed-in-the-wool liberal Jews are bamboozled by this hyperbolic hysteria, even though Trump was the most pro-Israel President ever, with an orthodox Jewish daughter and grandkids to boot. Jews don’t own the words ‘Never’ and ‘Again’ in every permutation. They’ve made Trump into the underdog, David against Globalist Goliath. Our merch is all about that,” he added.
Robert Zaretsky, insightfully writing in the Forward, offers a more mystical perspective on the mugshot melodrama, drawing connections with Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. The Frenchman’s perspective on faces – viewing each as an embodiment of the profound, the mysterious, even the divine – forces us to confront a broader question: How should we perceive Trump’s face, tinged with scowling defiance but perhaps even divinely infused vulnerability?
The mugshot has become more than just an image. It’s a canvas upon which the public paints its perceptions, biases, and emotions. Some find a deeper resonance, even a trace of the wrath of God. Some have compared it to the wrath on the face Michelangelo’s Moses in Rome, depicting the moment the Lawgiver glimpsed his wayward followers worshipping the golden calf of Baal. Sigmund Freud identified with the sculpture of the liberator of the Jews during his schism with Carl Jung, even though he would go on to write a book, Moses and Monotheism, that claims the Lawgiver was an Egyptian that the Jews later murdered.
As America grapples with this bizarre moment in its political chaos, the mugshot will remain emblematic – of the man, the controversies surrounding him, and the myriad ways in which society interacts with, and interprets, his legacy. Whether viewed through the lens of Jewish mysticism or modern-day merch and memes, it’s an image, and a face, that’s unlikely to fade anytime soon.