When Meaning Is Lost

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Credit Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

By DYLAN SKINNER

I’m currently on page 328 out of a 1047-page book entitled What It Takes, written by Richard Ben Cramer. This massive paperweight of a book takes a reader through the 1988 Presidential campaign, following the various candidates — both Democrat and Republican — as they move through each step of the grueling process to assume the highest elected office in the United States.

Between Bob Dole’s unrelenting work ethic, the cheery inner monologue of George H.W. Bush, Dick Gephardt’s golden boy persona, and Gary Hart’s lady trouble that starts so subtly — not to mention scrappy Joey Biden in the days before we knew him as VP Uncle Joe/Barack Obama’s BFF — you start to have compassion for these men and connect with them on a human level.

And that is precisely my problem with Donald Trump. (One of them, anyway.) I find that when I think about what principles I and many other fellow Americans believe in, this one hateful, childish, dangerous collection of cellular material is eroding the meaning behind those principles. At least in the context of Presidential politics.

Consider the following three words for a moment, and what they mean to you.

Truth.

Facts.

Humanity.

The (likely corrupted) election results that installed a reality TV star as President of the United States have not eliminated my own personal commitment to these concepts. Nay, the Trump debacle has actually bolstered it. But on a national level, these ideas are being warped dramatically.

Truth is no longer something the President must commit to telling. Just this morning I watched a short video of Trump talking about his holdings in and relationship with Russia, and in four separate instances he happily confirmed his close connection with Vladimir Putin as well as admitted the proportion of influence that Russian investors have established in his businesses. These clips of Trump’s own words seem to contrast directly with his recent labeling of Russia as “fake news” and insistence that the country holds no sway over him.

Facts have no place in the current Administration. When the Counselor to the President of the United States can go on national television and claim that “alt-facts” not only exist but are legitimate things to fling at reporters, that is a serious problem.

And it’s not just the spewing of this dystopian garbage that’s the problem—it’s HOW said refuse is being spewed. Because even Fox News has stopped parroting everything Trump says, the President’s crap is now being delivered directly to his supporters via Twitter. You know, that entirely reputable place where racist misogynists picked apart Leslie Jones for daring to be a black woman in the Ghostbusters reboot, thus ruining those poor little boys’ childhoods.

Getting all of one’s information from Twitter (of which I am an avid user) is like eating ice cream for every meal: it’s great at first, but then your brain freezes, extreme agitation ensues, and ultimately all you do is crave more.

And lastly, humanity is now an utterly absent concept when it comes to what stems from the Oval Office. I’m not sure how so many people could brush off Trump saying that brown people are evil and that women deserve to be grabbed like fruit in a bodega — and then be shocked that he actually lives those “values” on a daily basis, but here we are.

I see no attempt on the President’s part to connect with the people he’s supposed to represent. To understand their life circumstances, listen to what stories they hold dear, or find out what matters most to them. This man and those around him apparently give zero shits about anything but their own agendas, properties, and power.

As a writer, I can tell you that words matter. As a political scholar, I can tell you that many elected officials forget that basic concept. But never have I seen such a crusade to destroy the power of written and spoken words.

So hang on to truth in these times, my friends. Get your facts straight. And since it ain’t gonna come from Pennsylvania Avenue anytime soon, respect both the fragility and strength of humanity.

#RESIST

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