Sunday, March 20, 2016

Donald Trump and the politics of vulgarity

Godwin, here I come!

If you had to choose, would you rather have a well-mannered Nazi as president, or a potty-mouthed Abraham Lincoln?

Too extreme?  Try this.  How many points of GDP growth would you sacrifice for a president who acts like a country club sophisticate rather than one whose State of the Union addresses air with a 10-second delay so that the networks can add bleeps to avoid constitutionally-flimsy FCC fines?

How many additional unemployed people would you tolerate for a president who just kinda seems "presidential?"

Maybe you're one of those "income inequality" people.  Suppose candidate A will burn down more mansions than candidate B, thereby reducing "inequality," but candidate A also hurts your wittle feewings with naughty words?  (See my previous rant on "income inequality")

There are plenty of reasons one might not vote for Donald Trump, and he scrambles the rules of political dialog such that I can break my normal rules and demonstrate my contempt for the man without giving away anything about my preferences over tax rates, abortion policy, etc.  But his vulgarity isn't one of those reasons.

I have no patience for pearl clutching.  Remember this moment?



Oh, no!  Bush and Cheney said naughty things about a reporter they didn't like!  Was the Iraq War worth the cost?  The answer has nothing to do with whether or not this moment revealed something horrible about their characters.  Likewise, how responsible was the Bush administration for the financial collapse that began in 2007?  The answer's got nothin' to do with whether or not calling someone an "asshole" somehow "demeans the office of the president," or some other such blather.

So, let's talk about "bless your heart."  As we all know, the phrase is Southern for "go fuck yourself." Personally, then, I am more aggrieved by the former.  Both phrases tell me to go fuck myself, but the euphemistic version also insults my intelligence by pretending that I don't know the real meaning of the phrase.

Therein lies the reason I don't give a flying fuck about "vulgarity."  Etymologically, "fuck" is considered obscene because of its Germanic roots, whereas "copulate" is fine because it is rooted in Latin.  Latin was the language rich kids learned in school, which was unavailable to poor kids.  Germanic-rooted words, then, are more taboo precisely because they were the words of the lower class.  Note the double meaning of "class," as in both socio-economic status and personal grace.  That isn't an accident.  I have no patience for arbitrary rules that cannot be derived from first principles, and there are none with respect to that which supposedly deserves no respect.

Remember Trump?  This is a post about Trump.  So let's talk about this moment.



Yes, Donald Trump is bragging about his penis size.  Oh, no!  Someone, bring me my fainting couch!

There is a real reason to be concerned about this moment, and it isn't the vulgarity.  Donald Trump was interviewed in 1988 by "Spy" magazine, which called him "a short-fingered vulgarian."  Ever since, he has been obsessed with demonstrating his hand size.

1988.  For 28 years, Donald Trump has been obsessed with his hand size because of a line in a magazine that went belly-up 18 years ago.  There's a little thing I like to call, "perspective."  Trump lacks it.  Remember this moment?



Donald Trump is still obsessed with has-been, D-list celebrity, Rosie O'Donnell.  To the point that he has to take a dig at her.  In a presidential debate.  Perspective.  Or lack thereof.

The problem isn't that Donald Trump talks about his penis in a presidential debate.  The problem is that he is obsessed with the implications about penis size from a 28 year old magazine article.  The problem isn't that Trump takes a cheap shot at Rosie O'Donnell.  The problem is that he feels it necessary.

Is Donald Trump "vulgar?"  Yes.  What of it?  Have we learned nothing from the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century, George Carlin?  Let's all take a lesson from Tyler Durden and learn to let that which does not matter truly slide.

Let's end with George Carlin.  Truly, George, where are you when we need you?

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