Tag: words

Barack Obama and his family at his election victory speech Nov. 4, 2008, in Chicago’s Grant Park. We are not the nation I thought we were becoming as I watched that night. (Everett Collection via Shutterstock)

Donald Trump is like a guy who takes a dump on half the yards in the neighborhood, somehow gets elected neighborhood association president, and then says it’s time for everyone to unite behind him.

Trump crapped on immigrants. He crapped on women. He crapped on President Obama. He crapped on you, even if you don’t think so. He crapped on America. He crapped on the world.

He denied, then bragged, then denied some more, despite proof. And yet, he won, because half of those in the neighborhood who didn’t get this treatment loved him. Now, he and his inner circle have urged the rest of the neighbors to come together, to heal and move forward — and without apologizing to any of them. Really? Forgive and forget? No way. The arrogance of expecting the people he dumped on to meet him all the way, not just halfway, would be mind-boggling if it were anyone else. But he has flung so much poo in getting the best of the party that owes its current existence to poo-flinging, we are well beyond what we once considered normal.

I have watched every U.S. presidential inauguration since Nixon’s second. That streak ends Friday. Call it a boycott if you’d like, although almost no one will notice. But in a still-defining-itself #notmypresident form of personal protest, I am doing my small part to refuse to normalize and legitimize Trump’s presidency.

Yes, I have read pieces — most of them by people seemingly lacking self-awareness regarding the blind spots inherent in their privilege — deriding the substance of, and the hashtag within — the previous paragraph. Many such pieces popped up amid post-election demonstrations across the country and the anti-Trump backlash on social media. A main point is, “Not your president? How’s that supposed to work?” My answer today: That’s for me to figure out. You can treat as normal and legitimate the people and events of your choosing.

As it turns out, I have plenty of company in some or much of my thinking. Dana Milbank and I have similar opinions on the Trump team’s angry call for respect. On the question of the legitimacy of Trump’s ascendancy, Paul Krugman and I (and Rep. John Lewis) largely agree. For a far more eloquent expression than I am capable of writing, I recommend Adam Gopnik’s The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear as a foundation for what’s to follow below.

Despite Trump’s insistence that he “will be president for all Americans,” there is no evidence that he is even remotely interested in proving it, in reassuring marginalized people that he is a man of his word. In fact, he has been known for decades as a selfish opportunist who is decidedly not a man of his word. As someone who has enjoyed the privilege of being a white male from birth, I consider it my responsibility to speak — for myself and for those who are now more vulnerable — about why I will not acknowledge his inauguration Friday.

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shutdown Image by vlastas

Someone somewhere is shutting down someone about something. You can be sure of that. Another thing you can be sure of is that it will be worthy of a headline, and sharing on social media. Someone will soon have a full report. Or, more likely, an attention-grabbing headline atop five pithy paragraphs atop a link leading to the something that someone said — in response to something someone else said — shutting down that person, or that person’s argument, probably for life.

Or, until tomorrow, which holds the promise of new down-shuttings that will probably be so completely shutting, so totally downward shutting, that we’ll be so down with them, we might not remember who got shut down the day before. So you need to pay attention. You don’t want to fall behind on who’s being shut down, and by whom.

As a student of words and how we use them, I’m fascinated by phrasings that fall into heavy rotation in everyday language, especially those that become irresistible to headline writers. One such construction inspired the headline of this very blog post. As I understand it, the dynamic often goes something like this:

  1. Someone says something, typically in an interview, that someone finds offensive, insensitive, tone deaf, in poor taste, or all of the above. Or just plain wrong.
  2. The comment, perhaps 30 seconds from a 60-minute interview, gets picked up and reported — maybe in context, maybe not — and takes on a life of its own, becoming the only thing anyone will ever remember from the interview.
  3. Someone who reads or hears the comment responds with a scathing rebuke, a sharp rebuttal, a heartfelt counterpoint informed by life experience, a retort that is shared on Twitter or Facebook or any of a number of social media outlets.
  4. A blogger with a keen eye for the latest social-media smack-down will report said retort, announcing it to the world with a headline that makes it clear that the response just “shut down” the person who made the original statement.

This doesn’t always start with an interview. Sometimes it starts with a piece of writing. Even given the chance to edit one’s words before sending them out into the world, we say things that cause a stir. But it does seem that interviews are fertile ground for these things, as they often catch the subject off guard, leading to off-the-cuff remarks that can range from merely cringe-worthy to downright toxic.

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