gender, language, politics

How to Watch the Debates

 

 

It is useful to see the presidential debates as, above all, auditions for a role, and to see the debaters as actively auditioning for a desired role, and the other participants (moderator, commentators, and audience) as using debate performance to determine the performers’ suitability for the role they seek. Debating, like any other human communicative activity, has its rules and expectations, violations of which can and should be judged as evidence of a candidate’s suitability for the job. If you can’t manage to obey the relatively simple rules of the debate structure for a mere 90-odd minutes, there is reason to doubt whether you are ready or able to play the much harder role for which you are auditioning, for a whole four years. 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, other topics, politics

Paris, 11/13

 

I was having lunch Monday (with Andy Cohn) at a French restaurant, Liaison, in solidarity: Liberté, égalité, gastronomie! Afterwards I find myself wondering what to make of the horrible events of last Friday in Paris, and how to even frame the questions we have to ask and eventually answer.

 

I begin with a topic I have written about before but may require some additional consideration: how to talk about acts of terrorism. My answer: as little as possible.

 

When horrific events of this kind – whether terrorism or mass murder – occur, American media respond in unison: talk about nothing else for a week, and then…drop it, and get back to the reality shows. Both parts are dangerous. It may be tempting to be part of the audience after such tragedies – perhaps hearing the litany over and over is in some way cathartic – but we need to understand that being coddled in this way does us no good. Continue reading

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