Part 1—Trump and Kelly meet Blow: American president Donald J. Trump is deeply committed to his favorite practice, name-calling.
The name-calling in which he engages is pro-wrestling-level cartoonish. Last year, he endlessly name-called "Crooked Hillary." Recently, he started name-calling "Liddle Bob Corker," employing a clever variation on the familiar word, "little."
Despite his clever use of words, the president's name-calling is extremely low-IQ. It serves to dumb our nation down within an inch of our lives.
Then too, consider Charles Blow. This morning, he starts his New York Times column like this:
BLOW (10/23/17): Donald Trump has a particular taste for the degradation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities and women...The president's conduct in this episode has been typical Trump. He's now name-calling a new target, "Wacky Congresswoman Wilson."
This has manifested itself most recently in a despicable episode in which Trump became embroiled in a controversy—mostly of his own making!—over an unacceptable call he made to a pregnant widow of one of four soldiers killed in a still-murky attack in Niger.
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a black woman, knew the fallen soldier and his widow and was in the car when the president called to offer condolences. Wilson seems to have correctly reported what Trump said.
This set Trump off and he issued a stream of lies to defame Wilson. The White House even sent its chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, out to defend the president. He, too, lied about Wilson.
When asked about Kelly’s lies, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “highly inappropriate” to question a four-star general.
In our view, General Kelly also showed extremely poor judgment in his belittling attacks on Rep. Wilson last Thursday. In her turn, Sanders' statement was simply ridiculous.
That said, what about Blow? While we're at it, consider this:
How might that passage from Blow's column look to The Others—to the many extremely bad, deplorable people who can be found Over There?
Presumably, different bad people might react to that passage in different ways. For us, it called to mind a question we've been asking of late:
Are we all Catalans now?
More on that question below. Our own reactions to Blow's passage went something like this:
Charles Blow doesn't think much of Donald J. Trump. That said, we were struck by the extent to which Blow may have moved out over his skis as he started this morning's column.
He says that Trump made an "unacceptable [phone] call" to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who recently lost his life in Niger. But he doesn't explain what made the call "unacceptable."
Blow has heard no audiotape of the telephone call, nor has he seen a transcript. That said, he starts with thunder—and a strong judgment—concerning the now-famous call.
We can guess how that stance might seem to one of Those People, The Others. If they thought Blow was out over his skis a bit, we couldn't quite say they were wrong!
Rep. Wilson did hear the telephone call. According to Blow, after she criticized Trump's demeanor and statements, Trump "issued a stream of lies to defame Wilson."
We'll be honest. While Trump's name-calling has been typically egregious, we aren't fully sure what "stream of lies" he's alleged to have told about Wilson. Meanwhile, did General Kelly "lie about Wilson" too?
There's no question that Kelly made some factual errors in what he said about a speech Wilson gave in 2015. But how does Blow know that those misstatements were lies?
With that, let's return to our question:
How might The Others view that portion of Blow's column? Presumably, different Others may have different thoughts and reactions. But for us, it made us think of the familiar battle taking shape in Catalonia, a well-known region of Spain.
Catalonia is currently embroiled in a secession movement. Just for the record, Catalonia's population is 7.1 million. Spain's total population is 46.5 million.
As the New York Times keeps reporting, "Separatism has century-old roots in Catalonia, a region that has its own culture and language." Down through the annals of time, our human wars have routinely stemmed from such differences, all across the breadth of the globe.
Is Catalonia so different from central Spain that separation is needed? These are always matters of judgment. But here's one thing that always happens when cultural differences turn into tribal wars:
Inevitably, we humans start seeing the world as Us and Them. And when this familiar process takes place, Those People will tend to get otherized.
Over Here in our own tribal tents, We'll be inclined to make the most extreme possible claims about Them. And when We start to act that way, The Others can see what We're doing!
Just a guess! Many of the very bad people Over There would see the same things we thought we saw in today's passage from Blow. In the eyes of these very bad people, it would seem that Blow was speaking with great deal of certainty about a conversation he hadn't actually heard.
It might also seem that he was using the emotional term "lies" to refer to misstatements which may simply have been misstatements. Those People may even be able to see that Kelly's misstatements didn't go to the heart of his claim about Rep. Wilson's now-famous speech!
Uh-oh! In our view, The Others wouldn't exactly be "wrong" if they saw these matters that way. Imaginably, some of Them might even think that General Kelly went over the top—and that columnist Blow then did so too, as is perhaps his wont.
That said, how does this look to you? And by the way, are we all Catalans now?
In this morning's New York Times, Raphael Minder describes the way Spain is moving toward the highly emotional world of Us against Them—toward the world of tribal war.
Sometimes, disputes of that type can't, or shouldn't, be avoided. Lincoln said that "American slavery" was one of those offenses which could no longer be ignored.
Sometimes, though, disputes of that type are brought on unwisely, perhaps because people within both warring tribes act like General Kelly's now-famous "empty barrels."
We thought Kelly behaved a bit like a barrel in trashing Rep. Wilson last week. Then again, it seems to us that many of our own team's players give off that attitude too.
Uh-oh! The Others are actually able to see us when we behave that way Over Here! All this week, we'll offer examples which may fit that description.
We hate to be the ones to say it, but The Others aren't always wrong in the various things they think they see about Us, the good decent folk Over Here.
Decent people may strive to understand this important fact. Or do We, like so many humans before Us, secretly enjoy the smell of napalm in the morning? Do we secretly enjoy the thrill and glory of tribal war?
Tomorrow: What Kelly says he saw