I say this as a writer: We’re well on our way to a time when words, politically, mean nothing. That doesn’t sound like a life or death matter, but it will be. Look: It’s taken less than a week to open a vicious debate, in the United States of America, about how bad white supremacists and Nazis are, or whether a white supremacist is a Nazi, and if not, then they’re not as bad, right? We’re re-litigating the fucking Civil War. When language starts to fail, look out.
Think about this: There was no nationwide debate in America about how bad Nazis are until a group of them killed someone.
Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Virginia woman, was killed in Charlottesville last week when a white supremacist rammed his car into a group of people who were protesting white supremacists. He injured 19 other people.
Naturally you’d immediately say, “This guy is a complete piece of shit and he was there for a piece-of-shit reason under the guise of peacefully expressing a violent piece-of-shit pseudo-ideology. Fuck him, and fuck everyone who was with him, and fuck everyone who thinks like him or excuses him or anyone else who thinks like him, because it’s a blighted, ancient worldview that doesn’t belong anywhere in America.”
Alas, we have Donald Trump.
Yesterday afternoon Mr. Trump, who is improbably still the President of the United States, honored Heather with a special, incredible, and dare I say beautiful afternoon tweet.
That same afternoon, Heather’s mother said this:
Find what’s wrong. Don’t ignore it, don’t look the other way. You make a point to look at it and say to yourself, “What can I do to make a difference?” And that’s how you’re going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I’d rather have my child, but if I’ve got to give her up, by golly we’re going to make it count.”
Please watch her deliver those lines. Then read Trump’s tweet again. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that same day was also the first day in my life where real Americans bent over backwards in public to quibble about how bad Nazis and white supremacists are. That same day, Tucker Carlson took out a second mortgage on his deal with the devil to pull “a “whatabout” defense of slavery:, yes slavery, on Fox News. Fox didn’t fire him, by the way.
For his next act, Tucker will explain why it was fine for people to burn women at the stake who they believed were witches. (At the time. It was fine at the time. It was what they believed. Who can blame them?)
Logic and language are breaking down. Do we really mean “Nazi” when we say “Nazi”? Shouldn’t we be a little more thoughtful about who’s a Nazi and who’s merely a white supremacist? Make no mistake: The right wing has a thin-skinned PC culture, too. Except instead of asking people to stop calling gay people “fags,” they’re asking not to call white supremacists “Nazis.”
But language is arbitrary, and Trump exploited that weakness. Donald Trump’s words mean nothing. And because they mean nothing, they can mean anything at any time. That’s their power, and it’s why the phrase “dog whistle” has gotten so common so quickly. Donald Trump is undermining language. Let me show you with a tweet.
The Most Special, Incredible, Beautiful, Tremendous, Phenomenal, Great, Fantastic, Really, Trust Me, You Wouldn’t Believe It, Believe Me List of Trump’s Bullshit
Let’s look at that tweet again: “Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman. She will be long remembered by all!”
Mr. Trump uses “beautiful,” “incredible,” and “special” to describe almost anything. It’s a knee-jerk, thoughtless, and insulting way to communicate with human beings, and in this context also tasteless, vapid, and obscene.
Donald Trump has tweeted 99 times about things that were “incredible.” And “beautiful”? 288. These words come flying out of his thumbs like snorts from a pig. Like orders from a drill sergeant. Let me show you how shallow he is; why no one believes a word he says.
First, Mr. Trump, I’d like to ask if the physical quality of “beautiful” is the only descriptor that comes to mind when you think of a dead young woman? You used that word twice in a row to describe Kate Steinle, in an effort to emotionally manipulate voters to hate immigrants. It was, in fact, the only description you applied to her. Her physical appearance.
But when Phyillis Schlafly died, she wasn’t beautiful. Nor was she special. You said she was very special. I’m guessing the endorsement she gave you bought her an edge over the young, murdered Nazi-fighter?
And Jack Nicklaus was “totally” special, so I’m guessing you rate Heather’s courage unworthy of further adjectival emphasis.
You love your performances: Think Heather’s action was more or less “incredible” than this SNL appearance?
And was Heather Heyer as incredible as a season of your reality TV show?
Was Heather as, more, or less incredible than this golf cart parade?
Does Heather Heyer’s life, which she gave standing up to evil people, rate as more/less/as “special” as the thing Sylvester Stallone created?
Oh, how about this: Heather Heyer vs. the Russian attack on our democracy that you enabled so you could cheat like a fucking coward to win an election. Can you clarify if this is also how you meant to describe a woman murdered for standing in the face of armed white supremacists?
That attack by a white supremacist was one of the what you might call “special” results of that high crime, by the way.
And could you please clarify exactly how Heather Heyer’s beauty stacks up compared to the cake you talked about while ordering a missile attack on a sovereign nation?
I hope to god you believe her courage was more incredible than your deal-making skill, Mr. Replace, repeal, or replace, or repeal and replace, or repeal and delay, or repeal.
Okay, what about Heather Heyer, who gave her life fighting back against hate, vs. this 50-year-old handheld footage of the Las Vegas strip? (In terms of their incredibility.)
Was Heather as “special” as the bald eagle you had at a photo shoot that “literally attacked you?
What about the healthcare bill that would’ve taken insurance from millions of poor: more or less beautiful than Heather Heyer’s heroism?
Ok, now please clarify (perhaps an adjective?) if that same healthcare bill would have been more or less special than Heather.
Third time wasn’t exactly a charm here. But, had you not failed, would the bill have been more beautiful than Heather, who died one month from this tweet?
Hope to god you’ve told your son that this girl who was murdered by a white supremacist for standing up to them was more “incredible” than the article about you in Golf Digest.
The endorsement of a casino magnate: More, less, or equal an honor as consoling Ms. Heyer’s mother? (In terms of incredibility.)
Did Heather Heyer look as incredible as your golf course? Currently equal, per your brain.
But also “incredible”: military technology. Are you sure you got that condolence tweet right?
You don’t really think things through, do you?
Was Heather Heyer, a hero who stood up to evil, as beautiful as your border wall? Never mind: She couldn’t have been, because it doesn’t exist.
Oh, shit! The solar panels will be beautiful, too?
Ah, “Made in America”! Heather Heyer was; your daughter’s clothes aren’t.
Let’s play another round of “What’s More Incredible?!” Okay: Heather Heyer, or the Foxconn investment you negotiated where the state of Wisconsin will end up shelling out one million dollars per job?
Please clarify this for us: Was Heather Heyer as “beautiful” as the experience of following you on Twitter? (Not beautiful at all.)
Okay, this one’s a bit of a curveball, but these are your words: Honor Flights, or the honor of a young woman killed while standing up for what’s good and just and right?
I have no doubt you’d still call this next one beautiful, but I’m still anxious to hear how you rate its beauty against murdered white supremacist fighters.
Speaking of those red dots, you think your own voters are stupid, Mr. President. Your condolences for Heather are the same half-assed flattery you told your supporters about them for a year. Stuff like this.
Did Tampa, FL, give you support that struck you as equal in its incredibility as Heather Heyer’s courage? What about the incredible support you got from the horrific Governor of Wisconsin?
Was she as incredible as your crowd in West Virginia two weeks ago? As beautiful as the Oct. 25 rally for you in Tallahassee? Or maybe as beautiful as the rally the next night, in Kinston, NC? No, wait: Remember that incredible Dec. 16, 2016, rally? Was it more or less so than Heather Heyer?
Man. It’s starting to seem like you say a lot of stuff is so good it’s hard to believe, but you don’t really mean it. Like, not at all. Let me see that rubric.
Now, please clarify: This hero’s specialness as compared to that June 29 2016 Massachusetts day. And that Dec. 1 night in Macon, GA, is a toughie for me, because it was both special AND incredible. That’s pretty close to heroic, I’d say.
You really love Iowa. Any Nazi-fighters in this “special” crowd?
Everyone’s also talking about the “incredible” Heather Heyer.
Was Heather Heyer as incredible as the support you received in MD on April 22, 2016? Because that’s apparently incredible, too. But who could forget how incredible your Dec. 5, 2015, Raleigh rally was. But still: was it more or less so than the Nazi-fighting hero? Or wait, how about that incredible Sept. 10 rally in Pensacola? It’ getting pretty tough to tell what you find hard to believe.
Wait. Birmingham, too? Might want to rethink whether you should tweet about dead heroes, dude.
Now that you’ve had some time to reflect, would you consider Heather Heyer as “beautiful” as your May 25 rally in New Mexico? And a quick follow-up: Are Nazis bigger “thugs” than the people who were outside?
On July 30, 2016, you experienced incredible love for you from your Colorado fans. But do think that was more or less incredible than Heather Heyer’s love for justice and America? I hope you’d say she was more incredible than this debate was, because you got booed.
The crowd in Richmond on Oct 14, 2015, was also incredible. BUT was that incredibility equal to Heather Heyer, who stood in the face of armed white supremacists? Also incredible, though, was the spirit in Columbus.
Okay, okay: What about the crowd in Mechanicsburg, PA, on Aug. 1, 2016: More or less incredible than Heather Heyer, who stood up to the ideologies of hate that eventually killed her?
This is all so unclear to me.
But that’s the point, isn’t it?
Language is breaking, and with it will go meaning, logic, and truth. Trump’s most salient quality as a puppet politician, then, might not be just his lies, but the maddeningly ambiguous and mercurial language he wraps them in.
Let me be clear, then. Donald Trump: You’re a disgrace to decency. Your words mean nothing to anyone. No one actually likes you: They either hate you; identify you unhealthily as part of themselves; or are lying right to your piggy face, exploiting you and your family for financial and/or political gain. You’re a miserable, stupid, mean little man.
But not to hear you say it. Everything is beautiful, incredible, special. Everything is tremendous, like you wouldn’t believe. Everything is great. Except, weirdly enough, America.
Call Heather Heyer’s mother, Mr. President. And don’t say a fucking word.