US movie star-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger called Americans who refuse to wear face masks to stem the spread of the coronavirus — and especially its highly contagious Delta variant — “schmucks” for failing to help protect their fellow citizens.
In comments made in a video interview earlier this week and then reiterated in an op-ed in The Atlantic Friday, Schwarzenegger lashed out at people who subscribe to such views while invoking their “freedom” to make their own decisions, and said “‘screw your freedom.’ You have the freedom to wear no mask. But if you exercise that freedom, you’re a schmuck — because you’re supposed to protect your fellow Americans.”
Schmuck is a pejorative term rooted in Yiddish that means someone who is foolish or stupid.
Though Schwarzenegger said his words may be harsh, he stands by them.
“There is nothing that I’m more passionate about than keeping America great, and it’s the only subject that can make me lose my temper,” he wrote in the op-ed.
“I knew I’d be called a RINO, but that doesn’t bother me,” Schwarzenegger wrote in reference to the term that means “Republican in name only,” a pejorative designation for those considered not conservative enough. The term was weaponized by former president Donald Trump and his allies, who used it liberally to slam fellow Republicans who didn’t fall in line.
“Honestly, rhinos are beautiful, powerful animals, so I take that as a compliment. I anticipated being called a Nazi and a Communist. But I’ve got thick skin stretched over my metal endoskeleton, so I knew I could take it,” wrote the former Republican governor of California.
Schwarzenegger has been a fierce critic of Trump and has urged Republican voters to disown the former president. Following the US Capitol riot in January by a mob of Trump supporters in what has been described as a violent, attempted insurrection, Schwarzenegger likened the incident to Kristallnacht, the November 9, 1938 Nazi pogrom in which thousands of Jewish buildings were destroyed and some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested in what historians regard as the prelude to the Holocaust.
The violent mob stormed the building to protest Congress affirming that the election of then-President-elect Joe Biden. Trump has for months peddled the falsehood that Biden won by fraud, a lie he and many of his allies continue to peddle today.
The criticism of Trump has made Schwarzenegger a target for the ex-president’s most ardent supporters and followers.
In his op-ed, he said he realized how much everyone needs a refresher course in civics.
“I can’t help but wonder how much better off we’d be if Americans took a step back from politics and spent a minute thinking about how lucky we are to call this country home. Instead of tweeting, we could think about what we owe to the patriots who came before us and those who will follow us,” he wrote.
“Selfishness and dereliction of duty did not make this country great. The Constitution aimed to ‘promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.’ It’s right there in our founding document. We need to think beyond our selfish interests,” he further urged.
Schwarzenegger expressed deep worry for the future of America in light of its response to the pandemic. “We have lost more than 600,000 Americans to COVID-19. Are we really this selfish and angry? Are we this partisan?” he asked, further slamming those who call social distancing and masking mandates “fascism.”
“When people call this fascism, I can’t stand it. Just a few generations ago, this country stood up to real fascism. (And yes, I know that my father was on the wrong side of that conflict.) And we didn’t win just because of our love of freedom. We won because Americans came together and did their duty,” he went on, referencing his father’s past with the Nazi party.
In criticizing the Capitol riot in January, the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger spoke for the first time about the impact of World War II on his father’s conscience and behavior. Gustav Schwarzenegger was a local police chief who joined the Nazi party in 1938, and served in World War II as a “Hauptfeldwebel.” Wounded in 1943’s Battle of Stalingrad, he was discharged later that year after suffering malaria.
In his January speech, Schwarzenegger called the stormtroopers who carried out the attacks on Jews and Jewish sites during Kristallnacht “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys,” the far-right group that backs Trump and that the president has encouraged.
“Some people want to create an alternative America, where we have no responsibility to one another,” said the former governor in the Atlantic op-ed. “That America has never existed. They may tell you that what we are doing to fight the war against the coronavirus is unprecedented. They’re full of crap. They are lying to you because they make money from your anger.”
He ended the lengthy feature by asking Americans to come together and do what is required for the sake of their country.
“We need to prove to ourselves and to the world that we can unite to defeat a common enemy, because, trust me, the coronavirus is not the biggest challenge we will face this century,” wrote Schwarzenegger.
Agencies contributed to this report.