Scarlet Letter / Trump Joke

slI love dropping bits of pop culture and current events into my classes. They often involve insulting famous people–it’s not personal or ideological, but teachers need to make things relevant and interesting, especially dry 19th century novels.

Today, as one class started their unit on The Scarlet Letter, I read the beginning with them and then summarized the flashback at the end of chapter 2:

“So this story is about a beautiful young woman who escaped poverty and married a deformed older man whose wealth gave her a life of travel and luxury.” I paused and they knew some punchline was coming.

“And then she became first lady of the United States.”

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Conversation With a Man Who Has Trump Derangement Syndrome

This week a friend of a friend posted this video on Facebook, purporting to show that Donald Trump’s supporters are evil and racist and bad and want to commit heinous civil rights abuses.

The following conversation ensued. I reproduce it here to display the total lack of logic and reasoning powers that some of these ideologues have.

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Clinton vs. Trump: First Debate Winner

It wasn’t even close. I don’t like either of them and I’m not voting for either of them, but this fight was a total K.O.

Demeanor: Trump was dour and grouchy most of the time, while Clinton was smiling, calm, confident, and even friendly most of the time. She was never rattled; he frequently fell into traps that she baited.

Names: Clinton called Trump by his first name all night, and he never mentioned it, while he always deferred to her as “Secretary Clinton,” going so far as to make a point of pleasing her with the title. If he thought he was being subtly classy, it was so subtle that it got lost. She won that aspect by default.

Content: Trump actually had plenty of solid content, but his scattershot delivery and constant repetition undercut any power his points had. His content was consistently better than hers, but she also had an impressive roster of facts, and his points got lost in the noise of his painfully bad delivery.

Pivots and pandering: Both candidates pivoted unceasingly, but Clinton’s tended to be smooth and clean. Trump’s pivots were ghastly–bald, clumsy, and as obvious as the rookie he is. Clinton’s worst moment was her pathetic pandering to African Americans on the race relations issue, but Trump was bad there, too. He always sounded like he was regurgitating the talking points some intern made him memorize backstage. Of course, Clinton was doing the same, but she didn’t *sound* like she was.

Rhetoric: Trump actually did score a couple of solid one-liner shots at Clinton, but she had more, and her quotes will be more memorable. Where she always came back strong after he landed a good argument against her, he usually meekly acquiesced and then went off on another weird tangent.

Bottom line: Trump’s campaign has shown the far better fight for months, but tonight Clinton appeared completely presidential. It was a giant victory for her.

R.I.P. Trump

The word, of course, not the celebrity. It’s become appallingly clear that we can no longer use the verb “trump” literally, as in “My evidence trumps yours,” because of the taint associated with the name now. A sad loss. It was a great word.

I don’t expect it to be resurrected any time soon. Several years later, I still can’t refer to that darkening period at the end of the day–“twilight”–without students giggling. And don’t even try to address an issue by suggesting that it has “shades of gray.”

Are Liberals Right? Are We Stupid?

In all the discussions about bias and prejudice that fill our daily media plate in America, perhaps the most pervasive stereotype is the one that gets analyzed the least: that Republicans are stupid, or greedy, or evil, or all three.

I’ve spent years defending us from such ignorant assumptions, but with the advent of Donald Trump–and especially his solid win in supposedly conservative, Christian South Carolina–I’m starting to wonder: are liberals actually accidentally right?

I agree with the summary of ideas about Trump and his flock of followers in this Facebook post.

In my zeal to defend solid principles and our own mistreated minority, perhaps I’ve forgotten one of the fundamentals of conservative thought: our deeply flawed human nature. Nobody–not liberals or any special subset of them, and not conservatives or Christians, either–is immune to it.

Liberals rallied behind an exciting outsider amateur who hinted at mild despotism in 2008, and now a lot of so-called conservatives are doing the same thing. The irony would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

The next time I try to explain why conservative ideas are wise, all a liberal will have to say is, “A third of Republicans support Donald Trump,” and my argument will be over.

Yes, many liberals support Obama–and the current candidates–for the basest of reasons, but it’s undeniable that many Republicans support Trump for the same scary reasons.

It’s enough to make me wonder what a lot of Republicans think conservatism is, or why they’re even Republicans in the first place. Will all of our presidents from now on just be figureheads in a cult of personality?

I suggest we pray for our country.

How Leo Tolstoy Exposed Donald Trump in War and Peace

War and Peace came out nearly 150 years ago, in 1869, but some of it–one chapter in particular–resonates with current events.

A man without convictions, without habits, without traditions, without a name, and not even a Frenchman, emerges- by what seem the strangest chances- from among all the seething French parties, and without joining any one of them is borne forward to a prominent position.

The ignorance of his colleagues, the weakness and insignificance of his opponents, the frankness of his falsehoods, and the dazzling and self-confident limitations of this man raise him to the head…his opponents’ reluctance to fight, and his own childish audacity and self-confidence secure him military fame. Innumerable so-called chances accompany him everywhere.

UntitledTolstoy wrote these lines, near the end of his great book, about Napoleon, but when I read them last night, I thought of Donald Trump. Only small changes are needed–just replace “French” and “Frenchman” in the excerpts in this post with “Republican,” for example, and you pretty much have cutting-edge commentary for today’s op-ed page.

This ideal of glory and grandeur- which consists not merely in considering nothing wrong that one does but in priding oneself on every crime one commits, ascribing to it an incomprehensible supernatural significance- that ideal, destined to guide this man and his associates, had scope for its development….

He had no plan, he was afraid of everything, but the parties snatched at him and demanded his participation….his insane self-adulation, his boldness in crime and frankness in lying- he alone could justify what had to be done.

*

He pretends to fall into a swoon and says senseless things that should have ruined him. But the once proud and shrewd rulers of France, feeling that their part is played out, are even more bewildered than he, and do not say the words they should have said to destroy him and retain their power….One after another they hasten to display their insignificance before him.

Really, just read the whole chapter. The whole thing is basically about Trump. Not only that, but the failures of the GOP leadership are also laid bare here. Was Tolstoy a prophet? Are we doomed to see another 1812 in the not-too-distant future?

Dennis Miller vs. Ben Stein

I’ve loved Dennis Miller since before he even became a conservative, and Ben Stein has written some very worthwhile stuff about economics and the culture wars (although he also made the movie Expelled, which I criticized here).  These are both very smart and very entertaining guys, so I was excited to hear that the former was hosting the latter on his radio show this morning. 

Audio of today’s interview is here.  Stein spent his air time endorsing higher taxes, mostly saying, “Rich people can afford it–they won’t be hurt if they pay more.”  It was almost shocking to hear such a brilliant thinker explain a point with no more intellectual grounding than a child would bother to use.  Literally–I remember a class in junior high where the teacher discussed the national debt, and one clown announced that he could solve the problem: “Let’s mug Donald Trump!” 

Miller, for his part, responded fairly well, but most of his time dwelt on the fact that government tends to waste money, and that new taxes would be largely wasted, also.

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