[originally 2-1-17 on Facebook]
President Trump said, “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
If we do a Google search, liberals and otherwise anti-Trump zealots are engaging in verbal diarrhea all over the place, making utter fools of themselves, in claiming that this proves that Trump thinks Frederick Douglass is still alive or that he is utterly ignorant about who he was.
Mother Jones pontificated: “The remarks immediately called into question whether the president knew who the abolitionist actually was . . .” The Atlantic in its infinite wisdom, added: “Does Donald Trump actually know who Frederick Douglass was?” And the infallible Esquire ran the headline: “Does President Trump Think Frederick Douglass Is Still Alive?” Subtitle: “His characterization wouldn’t pass a 4th grade book report.”
These guys are dead serious! And that’s why it is gut-bustingly funny to observe.
Although it is a bit unusual language, his expression was actually grammatical. This is the Present Perfect Simple tense in English grammar. According to a web page on tenses, it can be used in the following ways:
* putting emphasis on the result
* action that is still going on
* action that stopped recently
* finished action that has an influence on the present
* action that has taken place once, never or several times before the moment of speaking
As we can see, all but the third apply (since Douglass died in 1895): 4 out of 5.
So, as usual with hysterical, hilariously funny, logically- and charity- challenged anti-Trumpism, there is nothing to it at all. Much ado about nothing . . . Couldn’t they have [that’s the Conditional II Simple tense] taken a second to consult a grammar explanation, as I did [Simple Past tense]? Would that have put them out?
Thus, in the act of (quite astonishingly) condescendingly pretending that Trump has no idea who Douglass was, they show that they have no idea what English grammar is, or how to use Google for two seconds, to see if the tense was possible to use in that context.
I don’t remember the tense names, either. I hated grammar in school, even though I ended up as a writer and got A’s in my English classes. That’s not the point. It’s that they couldn’t look it up. Instead, they went right after Trump, and consequently made asses of themselves. Poetic justice, if ever there was a case of it!
The final laugh is at their expense, and I think that is delicious: exactly as it should be: the mockers show themselves far more ignorant than the target they set out to besmirch.
Sun Tzu, the Chinese Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher (c. 544- 496 BC) wrote the classic Art of War. He stated in that masterpiece:
Master Sun talks often about deception and therefore warns against being deceived by the enemy and underestimating their ability. ‘He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.’ It’s important to properly assess your opponent without prejudice or assumption.
Liberals, third-partiers, and Establishment Republicans are massively committing this elementary mistake and a textbook exhibition of a profound absence of charity right now. I hope that they continue indefinitely, because it is already setting up a massive landslide re-election of Trump in 2020.
There’s another famous saying, too: “if your opponent is self-destructing, you get out of the way and let him do it.”
I asked an anti-Trumpist friend of mine: “How does this show that Trump didn’t know who he was? Please explain this “logic” to me.” He replied:
Does it sound like he knows he’s talking about a historical figure who died the century before last? Or does it sound like he thinks he might be talking about someone who’s maybe still around today?
What grammar books say in the abstract is one thing. How language actually sounds to the ears of native English speakers is another. Context matters. Would you say “George Washington has left a lasting mark on history”? Sure. Would you say “George Washington has done a great job”? Of course not. I can’t stop you from putting your fingers in your ears and saying “La la la, it sounds fine to me!” but every native English speaker reading this knows I’m right.
This is why we have dictionaries and rules of grammar. It would be chaos without them. So he uses some “goofy” language? So what? Because of that, the liberals decide he either didn’t know who Douglass was at all, or thinks that he is still alive? It’s the funniest thing in the world to watch. My love of satire and human folly has never been so much fun as now.
If President Trump doesn’t know who Frederick Douglass was “because” he used an odd-sounding but permissible grammatical tense (Present Perfect Simple), what can we conclude that oh-so-smart President Obama didn’t know, as evidenced by repeatedly saying “CorPsman” with a hard P: which really is stupid and completely unjustifiable (not to mention funny as all get-out)? Maybe he didn’t know that Noah Webster ever lived? Or that there is such a thing as the US Marine Corps [which is pronounced as “kor” and not “corpse”]? The guy never even watched Gomer Pyle!
This silliness reminds me of the time that Trump said “Two Corinthians” in a church, rather than “2nd Corinthians”, and all the nattering nabobs were saying how ignorant and unacquainted with Christian practice he was. It turned out that at least some Presbyterians (especially Scottish ones) say it that way. Trump’s mother was from Scotland. Then I heard from several on my Facebook page, saying that their church (or former church, as it were) did the same thing.
Foiled again! But millions had probably read the potshots and very few the altogether sensible rebuttal.
Photo credit: Frederick Douglass in the 1860s [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]