language, other topics, politics

Cold Comforts, or None at All

 

It is comforting to think that Donald Trump is a nutcase who has given his mouth over to his egomania and just opens it up and lets whatever come out, without concern for the fact that he is destroying the Republican Party’s hopes for success in this year’s Presidential election, and perhaps forever. After all, he’s not a real Republican.

 

It is comforting to think that Bernie Sanders is a nutcase who has let egomania triumph over reason, refusing to get out of the race for the Democratic nomination and show some support for his rival, without concern for the fact that he is destroying the Democratic Party’s hopes for success in this year’s Presidential election, and perhaps forever. After all, he’s not a real Democrat.

 

Those are the comforting scenarios. But they might not reflect reality. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

The Truth About Youth

 

It used to be possible (and maybe it still is) to get an apron with the legend, “Kissin wears out. Cookin don’t.” I want to propose a modernization: “Excitement wears out. Pragmatism don’t.”

 

Both of these useful slogans arise out of the experience that comes of age, that is, wisdom. The young are all for kissin and excitement, and believe that if they can achieve them, they will have them forever. Older people know better, having discovered that what works is what is conducive to a pleasurable life; the purely fun stuff can be interspersed, but is not the point of the exercise.

 

This thought occurred to me as I was reading an article in the Sunday New York Times’ “Week in Review” by Jill Filipovic, “Hillary’s Office Politics.” In it Filipovic defends the young women supporting Bernie Sanders. Her point is that these women reject Clinton not because Clinton reminds them of their tedious old mothers, but rather because they have not lived long enough to come up against serious sexism and misogyny. Their youthful sexiness gets them past many obstacles, and others they have just not yet encountered. When they have been out in the workplace and the world for a while, and are no longer able to trade cuteness for goods and services, they will understand (says the author) what the Clinton candidacy is about. Hence older women favor Clinton. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

Who’s Gotta Narrative?

 

One of the reasons repeatedly offered for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination, was this: Obama had a compelling “narrative,” which Clinton lacked. This explanation had the virtue of allowing us to believe that America didn’t have a problem with sexism or misogyny, just as Obama’s victory proved that we were now “post-racial.” The explanation felt good, but didn’t answer, or even address, a few relevant questions:

 

  • What is a “narrative”?
  • Do presidents have to have one?
  • Since when?

 

And now eight years later, the pundits are trying to explain Clinton’s rhetorical difficulties in the unexpected battle with Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination. Their task is exacerbated by their determination to avoid any explanation using words like “sexism” or “misogyny,” since America is a non-sexist and non-misogynist society. That makes it hard, but they’re trying. Continue reading

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gender, language, other topics, politics

Really Disgusting!

Donald Trump is a man with an interesting mind – perhaps too interesting for someone who wants to be president.

 

Consider his problems with the girlie stuff: for instance, the examples discussed in an op-ed column by Frank Bruni in the December 23 New York Times. In it Bruni notes several cases of the Donald’s extraordinary squeamishness about what we might term bodily products, in one case Marco Rubio’s sweat, but in many more, and with greater revulsion, women’s various secretions. The column was occasioned by Trump’s effusions at a meeting in which Trump went off at length on Hillary Clinton’s taking a bathroom break during Saturday’s Democratic debate (in which Trump himself played no role, of course). You can savor the Trump discours in this clip.

 

As Bruni notes, Trump’s “fastidiousness” is nothing new. He has repeatedly found it necessary to comment, always irrelevantly and always with “disgust” and loathing, on women’s bodily fluids. Everyone remembers (how could anyone forget?) his effusion against Megyn Kelly after she had the temerity to question him about his misogyny: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.” This coment was both bizarre and ingenious: bizarre because there was no blood coming out of her eyes, figuratively (whatever the figure might mean), nor as far as the eye could see, out of her wherever, which was perfectly clothed; and because this is just not the sort of statement one hopes for from someone who might just possibly in the near future become our President. But it was crazy like a fox, designed to direct the hearer away from any intellectual response, toward a purely emotional response to the imaginary specter of flowing menstrual blood – the worst kind. Continue reading

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language, politics

Understanding the Unintelligible

Donald Trump may be a jerk, but he’s a compelling jerk. Jeb Bush may be the closest anyone can come to a rational Republican, but he’s a bore. Understanding this distinction clarifies the Republican primary process, which otherwise might seem even weirder than it is.

 

Candidates’ behavior on the stump falls into three neat piles: linguistic, paralinguistic, and extra-linguistic. The linguistic behavior is what shows up in the printed transcript of a speech: the words and grammar alone. Paralinguistic behavior is everything else that emanates from the vocal cavity: intonation, pitch, speed, loudness, and more. The extra-linguistic part of a message includes facial expression, gestures, and stance. Continue reading

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