Words Matter: Donald Trump, Jesus, Terrorists, and Morons

Words Matter: Donald Trump, Jesus, Terrorists, and Morons November 7, 2017

Word clouds are not just for fun, as most people who work in the humanities know. They allow us to visualize important information, namely the frequency with which words are used in a particular data set. It can help both with analysis, and with communication of that information to a broader audience.

And so with that in mind, here is a wordle or word cloud – actually, a comparison of two – that illustrates what CNN and other news outlets have tried to highlight in the past in plain prose, namely the different ways that Donald Trump responds verbally to murders depending on who commits them:

Trump response contrast

Words matter. The words we say give expression to our values, and sometimes reveal things about ourselves that at least part of our conscious minds deny are true. But when we say “I didn’t mean it,” often what we really mean is that, with hindsight, we regret what we said – not that the words do not reveal, perhaps to our own horror, what we do mean and intend on some deep level.

Of course, thus far President Trump does not seem to be disturbed by, much less regretful of, the way he speaks.

On a related note, I had my attention drawn to something that I missed recently, which tackled the implications of calling President Trump a moron (preceded by an expletive, as noted in the post that I am linking to – you’ve been warned), specifically from the perspective of Jesus’ teaching, which warns against using the Greek word that is the etymological source of the English word moron. Of course, languages change, and so we have no way of knowing whether μωρός was stronger, weaker, or about the same as the English word. But did you notice the irony, in view of Jesus’ teaching, that I refrain from repeating the f word, but have no qualms repeating the m word?

Of course, this connects with the starting theme of this post in other ways. Jesus is recorded as having said that it is what comes out of a person’s mouth that makes them unclean – the words that reflect an uncleanness in the heart/mind. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

My biggest concern, when it comes to criticizing the president, is that the use of common insults actually cheapens the criticism – as though what he is doing wrong in leading not merely himself but the world down a particular path is no more wrong than what anyone else does in day to day life life. Stronger words – in the sense of ones that highlight evil and genuinely expose it in a substantive way – are called for.

Because words matter. And for those who are concerned with following Jesus’ example and teaching, phrases like “whitewashed tombs” or “the blind leading the blind” are preferable to mere insults that offer nothing in the way of a genuine critique and challenge to problematic things we see people doing in the world around us – so long as we are prepared not only to offer substantive criticism, but to receive it, and view the goal in both cases not as mere insult nor denigration, but challenge that we hope will lead to personal and social transformation.

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  • Thank you for this discussion. That word cloud does bring out what has been of concern to many people.

  • John MacDonald

    When there is a problem with our car, we don’t randomly poll a number of people on the street about how to diagnose and fix it. Why, then, for instance, do we randomly poll 12 people who aren’t experts in the law (a jury) as to whether someone is guilty of a crime? Similarly, why do we ask the masses, who in large part aren’t experts in Political Science, to determine who should have one of the most important jobs in the world: President of the United States? If we trust the office of “Leader of the Free World” to a “Popularity Contest,” we can hardly be surprised when the result is someone who shouldn’t have the job.

    • John MacDonald

      When we have a Democracy instead of a Meritocracy, we invite these kinds of problems.

      • When it comes to politics, who decides what is meritable?

        • John MacDonald

          People knew Trump was a bigot, sexist, etc., before the election. They still voted for him. This is one of the problems with Democracy: when everyone, regardless of political/intellectual merit, has an equal say. Consider the following problem: If you discover one day that you have what looks like genital warts and you want “a medical opinion” about what to do, would you randomly go around to people you find on the street and show them your issue, asking them for a diagnosis, and what you should do about it? Of course not. You would go to a medical expert, your family doctor, and ask him/her what to do. Similarly, if the doctor diagnoses you with genital warts and is unable to cure them by freezing them, does the doctor then get “a medical opinion” about what to do next by going into the waiting room and polling the people there about what they think the next steps should be, or would your family doctor refer you to a specialist to get a “medical opinion” about what to do next (in this case a Urologist)? Analogously, don’t you think that if we are going to select someone to do something as important as running the entire country, that experts on Political Science (PhD’s in Political Science with a focus on contemporary American and World political theory) should be the ones voting and running for office? I’m not saying this method is foolproof, but certainly it is better thought out than the current method. Myself, I shouldn’t be allowed to vote because I have no relevant academic background, in the same way people shouldn’t be coming to me to fix their car or to treat their medical ailments :


          • You don’t have to convince me that Trump is the most disgusting and unqualified president in modern history. You also don’t have to convince me that we need more politicians with appropriate expertise.

            However, that still doesn’t solve the problem of the measure of meritocracy (or expertise). Is Political Science the only expertise considered relevant for political office? What about Law? Moral Philosophy? Economy? Management? A political science professor is an expert on the study of politics (the history, current dynamics, and varying structures of politics). They are not necessarily expert politicians – studying politics and running politics are two completely different practices. There are scientists who are human brain experts with Phd’s, yet have no medical degrees. When it comes to my brain operation, I would prefer a brain surgeon, not a brain researcher.

          • John MacDonald

            Presumably if we were to revamp the election process to make it a meritocracy, we could revamp the discipline of Political Science to make academic streams available focusing on voting /politician theory. I still think politicians and political voters would best come from the discipline of Political Science. Analogously, just as all Psychology PhD’s are not Psychologists, and just as there are experts in other disciplines of study that have a knowledge base very relevant to Psychology (such as Philosophy), I still think the profession of “Psychologist” is best left to PhD’s in Psychology, just as the profession of Voter/Politician seems best left to Political Scientist PhD’s specializing in that area.

          • arcseconds

            Sounds like a great way to advance the interests of the upper middle class to me!

            Let’s do it – no-one likes the poor anyway.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not sure why you think PhD’s in Political Science wouldn’t want to advance the interests of the poor? Anyway, I gave my solution. The problem is we need better voters and better politicians. How do you suggest we approach this goal?

          • arcseconds

            I’m not sure why you think they would? Currently they probably mildly do on average, but is this for any reason other than because it’s an academic area of little commercial viability, so culturally they tend to be left-wing, just like their colleagues in philosophy and history and anthropology? And surely this isn’t unconnected with the fact that they tend to work in Universities, which are state funded in many countries.

            (Even so, it’s not hard to find political scientists with terrible attitudes towards the poor and minorities. We can even be suspicious of the attitudes of people who promote the wefare state — it’s better than many of the alternatives, but I’m not sure it’s really the best approach, it can be terribly patronizing, and I think there is such a thing as learned dependency, although I’m not convinced it’s as large a problem as some people like to suppose. )

            However, if you change the circumstances to invest them with political power, creating a class of mandarins, that changes the motivation for being a political scientist, so you can bet your bottom dollar that people who are interested in advancing their own self-interest and the interests of their class would find it much more attractive to enter this field, and fund others who share their interests to do so, too. One could expect it at minimum to look like law or economics, where right-wing attitudes are far more prevalent.

            It’s surely a fantasy anyway, as I do not see any citizens of any actual democracy ever agreeing to such a thing. At a long stretch, I think someone like Trump would have the best chance of doing something like this, as a way of decreasing the influence of minorities, although the fact his base also hates elites doesn’t help in this regard.

            The only real answer is to have a more politically engaged and informed population. And in fact if you had a class people who were truly fit to goven, and a population enlightened and broad-minded enough to let them, your scheme would be unnecessary as they would be voted in anyway.

            But if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have politicians vying for people’s votes. That’s an obvious route to deception, manipulation, and personality drama, where more attention is paid to trivialities like what they’re wearing and what kind of pets they have than anything about policy.

          • John MacDonald

            So you’re a bit of a cynic about professional academics, are you? – lol

            Arcseconds said:

            (1) “The only real answer is to have a more politically engaged and informed population.”

            – And how would you accomplish this?

            (2) “But if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have politicians vying for people’s votes.”

            – If not voting, what is your process for people becoming government officials?

            N.B. I’m happy you’re back blogging here. I enjoy your ideas.

          • arcseconds

            Like a lot of cynics, I prefer to call my cynicism ‘realism’ 🙂

            Seriously, though, the story we (including said academics) want to tell about people is something like they’re all embedded in a particular cultural context and social situation, and their views on society and how to make decisions and even what is good are heavily informed by that context, and don’t necessarily reflect reality. So when a business owner espouses free-market principles, this doesn’t surprise us, as it is unusual for people to be heavily critical of a system that benefits them personally, and common for people to rationalize why such a system is good. And, of course, it’s also common for people to believe much the same things as their peers believe.

            We also don’t think they are reliably informing us of the truth. No doubt it’s true they have experienced the market working out for them and a lot of people they know personally, but it doesn’t follow from this that the market is the best way to run everything in society,or even that it’s not having significant downsides for other people (or even, for that matter, having significant downsides to the business owner herself). The business owner is unlikely to know enough about how laissez-faire economics works across a whole society, or enough about how alternative systems work to really have an informed position about this, and even if they somehow did have this information we might expect a biased treatment.

            (You can tell the same sort of story about a working-class socialist, too.)

            If we accept that this is true of most people, business owners included, I don’t see why we’d expect academics to be somehow different. I know we’d like them to be different, but that’s not the same thing!

            If we found that no matter what their starting-point, people going into political science invariably came to the same conclusions about society that often run against their previous convictions and are also notably different from the policies espoused by political parties, I might be more inclined to believe that on the whole they have a grip on something. But I don’t think this is the case: they generally hold fairly conventional political views that aren’t all that different from those held by academics with no specialist interest in politics. Plus while they’re mostly kind of lefty, it’s not at all hard to find neoliberal and conservative political scientists, which makes me inclined to think that while of course they know a lot of fine-grained detail about politics, their overall judgments about what kind of policy to have and their vision for society just arises from the same place as everyone else’s, not out of superior wisdom and insight.

            (Whereas you do see a convergence of opinion in biblical studies of this kind: people often start off with strongly-held traditional beliefs about the Bible, but few are left with those intact. This is much more remarkable, and is a sign that the discipline has a real achievement here.)

            Anyway, political scientists on the whole don’t really look at ‘which system is the best’ or even ‘how do we help the poor’. Here is the table of contents of the current issue of the American Journal of Political Science:

            Race, Representation, and the Voting Rights Act
            The Fulfillment of Parties’ Election Pledges: A Comparative Study on the Impact of Power Sharing
            A Bottom-Up Theory of Public Opinion about Foreign Policy
            Coercive Leadership
            Spatial Models of Legislative Effectiveness
            Strategies of Resistance: Diversification and Diffusion
            Socialization and the Economic Views of Affluent Americans
            Unlikely Democrats: Economic Elite Uncertainty under Dictatorship and Support for Democratization
            To Revoke or Not Revoke? The Political Determinants of Executive Order Longevity
            Identifying the Source of Incumbency Advantage through a Constitutional Reform
            Foreign Aid, Human Rights, and Democracy Promotion: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
            Racial Inequality in Democratic Accountability: Evidence from Retrospective Voting in Local Elections
            A House Divided? Roll Calls, Polarization, and Policy Differences in the U.S. House,

            So we can see it looks like they are looking at questions like ‘who holds this particular political view, and how do they come to hold it?’ and ‘when do political parties achieve their election promises?’. Interesting enough questions, and the answers might be helpful when trying to sway people and how to implement a specific policy, but you could know the answers to all of those sorts of questions and still have no idea (or terrible ideas) about what the best policies actually are.

          • John MacDonald

            Arcseconds said:

            “Here is the table of contents of the current issue of the American Journal of Political Science”

            – As I said, you would have to create an academic stream in the field of Political Science Education focused on training individuals in the theoretical and practical issues of becoming expert Voters/Politicians, in the same way that there is an academic path in the field of Psychology to becoming a recognized expert (PhD) Psychologist, ready to go about the practical and theoretical business of effectively treating people’s Psychological issues based on sound methodological practice and research. I don’t see how requiring extensive academic training in the field of voting/political practice is any different than what we would demand of any other analogous profession.

          • arcseconds

            I don’t have any sure-fire solutions for political engagement. Free or low cost tertiary education probably helps? On that note more community-based education, so you don’t have to sign up for a three-year degree but could go to some six-week night courses about economics, politics, etc, I think that would help.

            If people got together locally to discus politics that would also help, especially if it were tied to some kind of local action. National politics can be alienating because it’s big and remote, but if you were cleaning up the local park or something while talking about national politics, I think that could be powerful.

            I’m also interested in outsourcing my political duties. It’s bothersome and boring following politics, particulary local poltics, but some people love it. What I’d quite like is to find someone who shares my views closely enough but can be bothered reading council proceedings to, I dunno, give me updates every six months or something, and tell me who to vote for. Alternatively, I could do it — I’d be considerably more motivated if a few hundred people were listening to me.

            Alternatives to elections – the simplest is a kind of grand jury. Select 200 people at random from the population, and they could govern. I honestly do not feel this would be worse than career politicians working for a political party – the spin would be largely eliminated and you’d have a group that genuinely represents the population, rather than a bunch of predominantly upper middle class white men pretending they represent the population.

            Another possibility is voting on priorities and policies, not people. Really ‘how much do you value health care versus having a huge army or letting the rich get even richer?’ is a more important question than the ‘who wants to have the top job and have they got what it takes?’ game-show.

            Yet another interesting idea is that you transfer your vote to someone you trust to make better political decisions than you, who could then pass yours and theirs and any other votes that have been ceded to them to someone they think can make better political decisions than them, and so forth.

          • John MacDonald

            Arcseconds said:

            “Alternatives to elections – the simplest is a kind of grand jury. Select 200 people at random from the population, and they could govern.”

            – Somehow I think my model of PhD’s in Political Science voting and governing would be somewhat more effective than your model.

          • arcseconds

            Why do you think they will not just govern in the interest of the mandarins you have just created?

          • John MacDonald

            Did you have a bad experience with a professor in university?

          • arcseconds

            Both good and bad experiences, because I’ve spent far too long in higher education. I know enough to know they are not on the whole saints, and in fact often not all that smart. When you give academics power, say over their own department, then you see the same kinds of things that you normally see when you give people power – pursuing personal projects, motivated reasoning, empire building, etc. Just ask any academic about their HOD! (that’s a bit of a joke, but most academics have had bad experiences of university administration somewhere along the line).

            Even within specialist disciplines they’re not necessarily all that wonderful. Again, you can ask any academic about biased journal editors, or their also-ran colleagues.

            For people supposedly committed to basing things on evidence, outside their speciality they are frequently no better than other people – e.g. far too optimistic about their own personal projects (e.g. how student numbers will grow with their new initiative) and insisting on teaching in the same way that they have done for the last 20 years, which isn’t that different to how they were taught before that, etc.

            Of course, I can point to people who probably would be excellent governors or judges of policy, but I cannot give you a selection process that weeds them from the hidebound old gaurd, the empire builders, the entitled narcissists, the quasi-competent, or the people who are really really good at statistics but cannot get to meetings on time. And I can also think of people who would make excellent rulers amongst IT professionals and musicians.

          • John MacDonald

            That’s why politicians, methodologically, need standards of practice, and in terms of job security, need committees/supervisors overseeing and evaluating them in terms of such criteria as, to use the one you gave, “acting in the interest of all the people.” Accountability and standards of practice go hand in hand with ongoing professional development too.

          • John MacDonald

            Generally speaking, I think politicians should have rigorous standards of practice and accountability, so that if the supervisor/supervisor committee of a politician/voter found the politician/voter was not, to use your example, acting in the interests of everyone, then they would be subject to further education. If it became a problem that the politician/voter was simply not willing to correct, they would be removed from their job.

          • John MacDonald

            Do you think it’s a good idea to hand over the responsibility of making legal decisions about someone’s guilt (and sometimes sentencing) to a randomly picked panel of “non legal expert jurors?.” Or, suppose Dr. McGrath and Dr. Carrier had a public debate on the historicity of Jesus, and you wanted to determine who presented the better argument. Would the best way to figure this out be to poll the debate audience of “interested non experts” as to who they thought won the debate?

          • arcseconds

            I think it is better than the alternative that is currently practiced, leaving it up to upper middle class white men (this is still the case mostly) who have never been poor in their lives and never known anyone who was poor, never been sexually harassed on a bus, etc.

            Anyway, it’s quite a different proposition if it becomes your job for a few years.

            I think the experts in the interests of ordinary people are in fact ordinary people. Or at least I have little confidence there’s a better system one can create to get at this. As far as judgements about policy goes, there is no more guarantee they are better at policy decisions than people selected at random: what we are selecting for with politicians is a combination of popularity and loyalty to a party (and, in the US, the ability to raise vast amounts of money). Mandarins might be better at determining policy, but they will tend to further the interests of their own class, just the same as everyone else who gains political power.

            Don’t forget we already have a political class that’s much like you’re proposing: the civil service, many of whom have advanced degrees in political science. They already exert a lot of influence on policy, particularly the boring sorts of policy like building codes that no-one cares about unless there is a disaster of some kind. Boring policy accounts for a large proportion of the business of government, and I’m sure to a considerable extent the civil service does a reasonable job on a lot of this stuff. Which they could do no matter who their masters are. But they also have a tendency to e.g. bury things that are inconvenient. You have seen Yes, Prime Minister, presumably.

          • John MacDonald

            Arcseconds said:

            “Mandarins might be better at determining policy, but they will tend to further the interests of their own class, just the same as everyone else who gains political power.”

            I fail to see how politicians being held to an extensive training period in theoretical/practical knowledge implies that, once they get the job, somehow they will naturally act against the very directive of the office, which is to act in the best interest of the people. Professional Psychologist PhD’s don’t go mad with power and start brainwashing clients and becoming cult leaders when they go into practice. I’ve tended to find that, on the whole, professors tend to be enlightened, critical thinkers who have very developed moral compasses.

          • Kate Johnson

            Nothing will ever change until we take big money out of politics, and the chances of getting big money out of politics at this point with “Citizens’ United”, is zero.. Just like Rome, the foundation is corrupted and will eventually fail. Like the sea rise from global warming, I’m not sure there’s anything that can be done about it at this point. Shouldn’t stop us from trying, but I’ll admit, I’m not optimistic.

          • arcseconds

            John’s suggestion of a meritocratic system, and mine of a ruling-council-by-lot, are pretty hypothetical: I don’t think there’s much chance of any modern democracy moving in either direction in the near future. Both require both ordinary people and the party political machine to give up at least a perception of power.

            There are huge problems in the USA. However, your comment assumes the context is the USA, but this blog has an international audience — in particular neither John nor myself are Americans.

            There are huge problems elsewhere, of course, but the Citizens United decision is of course not binding outside the USA, and many other countries have fairly strict laws about electoneering and campaign financing, and arrangements to level the playing field. It’s still the case that people with money have undue influence, but I’m not sure there’s any way to stop that short of stopping having people with money.

          • Kate Johnson

            Actually I’m entirely surprised when any citizen of this country wants to advance the interests of the poor. It’s certainly not the norm by any means. Self protection, self absorption and greed seem to be the cornerstone of our culture these days. Hence the Trumpster. He is just reaping what we’ve sown.

          • John MacDonald

            That’s why I am arguing that politicians need to be evaluated by supervisors/committees (regarding such criteria as “governing in the interest of ALL the people”) in the same way teachers are evaluated by Principals to ensure they are doing their jobs competently. If the politician is not adhering to proper standards of practice, they should undergo professional development. If the politician does not improve after repeated opportunities, they should be fired by their supervisors. My argument is all about standards of practice and accountability.

          • Kate Johnson

            If only. Couldn’t really be worse than how it is now, huh? Unfortunately reform is unlikely.

          • John MacDonald

            You know why public school teachers work so hard on planning, assessment/evaluation, instructional strategies, etc? Some do it out of love for the job, others because they have no other choice and want to keep their job. But in any case, public school teachers have been trained in these standards of practice, and enact them in their duties. In the end, they have no other choice. They do these things or they get fired. “Politician” is a government service job just as “public school teacher” is, and should imply just as many standards of practice and accountability.

          • The study of political science includes the study of democracy and democratic institutions. And I’m sure that there are quite a few (if not most) political science professors who favor, in broad terms at least, our democratic system of government. If you put government into their hands, they may well turn around and put it right back into the hands of democratic voting processes.

            Traditionally, many of those in government have advanced degrees in law, which seems a very appropriate expertise for many of the primary functions of our three branches of government: the legislating, adjudicating, and executing of law.

          • John MacDonald

            My thought experiment here is meant to imagine a better system of voters/politicians, one where voters/politicians have extensive training in these jobs before they are allowed to practice as politicians or voters, and who are subject to rigorous standards of practice and accountability. If you don’t like my solution for creating better voters/politicians, where it would presumably be less likely that we would produce a “Donald Trump Situation” again, how would you go about improving voter/politician competency?

          • I agree that our government leaders need more expertise than Donald Trump, but I don’t agree that such expertise comes with a political science PhD (there are a number of other applicable areas of expertise). A democracy may not be the perfect form of government, but I do think it’s the best the world has come up with so far. Past experiments in concentrating power into the hands of the elite have led to tyranny.

            However, our legal and constitutional system does provide us with some possible options. What about a constitutional amendment allowing congress to pass laws stipulating educational or experiential minimum requirements for each office of leadership. The one current branch of government that seems to have this de facto requirement is the judicial system – I don’t know of any current federal judges without a law degree. With this sort of legal requirement, we would not take the vote away from the populace, but we could at least limit the options to candidates with the appropriate expertise.

          • John MacDonald

            I think such a constitutional amendment would be a wonderful step in the right direction. The current model we have for politician requirements is like teachers teaching who had never been to teacher’s college.

          • I agree about requirements of expertise, as long as it is achieved within the framework of a democracy.

          • John MacDonald

            I prefer the method where my storm troopers and favorite Sith Lords storm congress, lol.

          • Well, that’s often what it means to take away the vote of the people – fascism.

          • John MacDonald

            Standards of Practice and Accountability come with a price, which is why public school teachers are expected to be fluent in standards for things like short/long range planning, assessment/evaluation, instructional strategies, differentiation, etc. : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNSq5wYdwb0

          • If only we paid public school teachers a decent salary …

          • John MacDonald

            Suppose you were an elementary school Principal who had posted an employment ad for a vacant full time contract fourth Grade job vacancy. As the Principal of that school, would you even consider interviewing applicants for the fourth grade job that had no educational certification in elementary education? But this is the current state of politics. And it’s even worse. In the case of politics, using this analogy, not even the Principal (the voting masses) has certification in elementary education. My point is just that the voters/politicians should need extensive educational certification before they are allowed to occupy some of the most important offices (voter/politician) in the land. What other analogous, high profile, sophisticated job can you name where you can successfully apply for a job without training in that content area background?

          • Easy. Chief Executive Officer of a billion dollar business. CEO’s without college degrees?

            Richard Branson – Virgin Group
            Todd Jones – Publix
            Bill Gates – formerly of Microsoft
            John P. Mackey – Whole Foods
            Micky Arison – Carnival Corporation
            Larry D. Young – Dr. Pepper
            Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
            Sheldon Adelson – Las Vegas Sands
            Robert Pittman – iHeartMedia
            Richard Schulze -formerly of Best Buy
            John Tague – Hertz Global Holdings
            … and many more …

            And that list goes on and on.

          • John MacDonald

            So you prefer people holding important government offices without standards of practice or accountability as part of the job description? Why do you think they adopted the model I am proposing for the government job of being a school teacher? C’mon Beau, I feel like someone trying to explain Rock and Roll to Space Aliens! Think about it, would you let someone who never went to teacher’s college or never was subject to evaluation by their Principal teach your children?

          • I said nothing about my preferences. I just gave the obvious answer to your question:

            “What other analogous, high profile, sophisticated job can you name where you can successfully apply for a job without training in that content area background?”

            I have already talked about ways of requiring expertise of government offices in another comment,

          • John MacDonald

            I read that comment, and think it is a very insightful move in the right direction.

          • Kate Johnson

            Thank you John. This election was like having a choice between a experienced surgeon with a couple of malpractice suits and a flashy hairdresser to do surgery on you, and a huge segment of our population picked the hairdresser, apparently believing the presidency is a entry level position, like a job at Walmart that requires absolutely no specialized skills or knowledge whatsoever. Not only that, but it apparently requires no discretion, no discernment, no self control, no honesty, no maturity, no common sense, etc…..the list goes on and on. This is why many of our allies/former allies now believe this country has “jumped the shark”, and don’t even share all their intelligence knowing that Trump is incapable of keeping his mouth shut.

    • Actually, we don’t determine the presidency of the United States by a popular vote of the masses. It is determined by the Electoral College.

      If it had been a popular election, Hilary Clinton would be president.

      • John MacDonald

        Trump was the most popular in the right states. It’s still a popularity contest.

        • I agree, but it’s electoral popularity, not the popularity of the masses.

  • I think there are two things at play in the rhetoric of words we are seeing in Trump’s (and other populist/nationalist) responses to white versus minority mass murders.

    Responding with harsh, fighting, and perpetrator-focused words to minority violence emphasizes an “us versus them” mentality that undergirds nationalism.

    Responding with soft, religious, victim-focused words to white violence takes the emphasis away from seeing our nation as a source of violence and away from addressing our own violent tendencies with measures such as gun control.

  • Remove Kebab


  • arcseconds

    As usual, Jesus doesn’t give us any caveats here (no “of course, some people really are idiots, it’s OK to call them out”) and presumably the ‘brother’ stuff doesn’t pick out only literal brothers.

    So is it in fact OK to call Trump a moron? Seems not, to me… not sure where this leads the stronger language you’re advising.

  • arcseconds

    I am not sure how useful it is to use the word ‘evil’ to describe Trump and what he is doing. I don’t think it helps when talking to people that are sympathetic to Trump, as it’s sure to make them highly defensive and to just screen you out. It also doesn’t help much when communicating with people who don’t like Trump – once someone’s put in the ‘evil’ basket we often stop trying to understand them or how they got to where they are. Or otherwise it leads to a discussion as to how aware Trump is of what he is doing, and what his aims actually are. That could be an interesting discussion, but I think it’s a bit of a side-show. If he’s deluded enough, is he evil? We do have an insanity plea, so on the whole we do accept that some state of delusion makes one not culpable.

    But for most of what we’re interested in, the exact nature of his mental state is not that important. He is some combination of deluded, incompetent, selfish, impulsive, narcissistic, bad at assessing risk, lack of care about outcomes, the exact mix doesn’t matter too much. He’s done harmful things, would have done more harmful things had he been more competent, and engages in alarmingly risky behaviour. He’s not fit to be President – that’s all clear enough, it’s what is really important, and it doesn’t require any speculation about mental states or pontification about the nature of evil.

  • AWRM

    Was Paul using the word “Racca” that Jesus warned us about using when he called the Galatians “foolish”, I wonder? it seems to be translated into English as the same word… No big deal for me but this article made me wonder.

    • I’m not sure whether the Greek word that Paul used, ἀνόητοι, would have been viewed by him and his contemporaries as equivalent to the Aramaic word raca, and I don’t think we have evidence that will allow us to figure it out. But it is a great question!

  • Not if the pastors truly believe in the teachings of Jesus…