The English Language gave birth to William Shakespeare, John Keats, and James Joyce, to name but a few of the many bright stars. It also spawned the likes of Donald J. Trump, a kind of genetically-modified product grown in a hothouse; a man who not only stumbles over every word he utters but coins new and bizarre phraseology to convey what he has in mind. Think of ‘very amazing,’ ‘like never before,’ ‘extremely very bad people’ and the point will be clear enough. Erratic, emotionally unstable, unpredictable, and above all, flaky, President Trump’s lingua franca defies even the most well-intentioned. That he speaks up against everything he does not like is no accident. On the contrary, the method is well-intended and indeed skillfully manicured in more than one way to suit his ‘audience.’ It is meant to impress his base i.e. those ‘wretched’ white potato folks who elected him in the first place. Never mind that his long-winded speeches do indeed put out those of us who sit on the opposite side of the isle from him. That he gets on our nerves with his constant complaints is peu dire. Where are the pleasures of eloquence à la Obama, in that faith we shall live or die, is a question in time answered.
It is true to say that President Trump drives us out of our senses whenever he mouths promises or talks boastfully about his stellar career as a first-class dealer. It is also true to note that he thrives on adversity even when his way of telling contravenes, represses, and indeed cancels those voices that speak up against him. He never stands back. His linguistic scheme is said to include the psychology of the refusal to recognize another point of view no matter how lucid it is. This manner of speaking has to do with hallucination, albeit negative, not positive, hallucination. It is a toxic brew of a sort. It is as if Trump never moved from the maternal order to the paternal one, from the image-sense world of the infantile place to the symbolic order of language. One may venture to profess that he is in fact caught in an arrested state of childhood.
Even so, so far no one has thought that his ramblings and language deficits could actually be a sign of dementia. The claim may lead us to think that President Trump shows signs of mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to loss of memory. Otherwise, why would he repeat himself over and over again in making simple points and why is his semantic field so poor? Increasingly retelling the same thing leads one to think that he cannot escape confining himself to poor generalities. And when he is cornered, he resorts to fillers like ‘thing,’ ‘well,’ ‘you know.’ Suffice it to add that mental imprecision is another sign of dementia. President Trump’s verbosity shows that his language is lost in a weird trajectory. As a result, he always fails to convey precise information and goes instead on tangents. President Ronald Regan did the same thing but no one noticed because the man was funny, very funny.
Like a two-faced Janus, President Trump reminds us of another demented governor—namely, Muammar Kaddafi. Like Kaddafi, Trump is jejune, wealthy, and rebarbative. He is also a pathological liar filled with self-hatred. Needless to add that he is destructively ambitious. And like Kaddafi, Trump enjoys to be in the limelight. He may be said to embody the Kaddafisation of political life in the West. Such a conduct degrades political life and gives credence to dictators in the Third World today. Put differently, after President Trump anything will be possible, even legitimate. It will be part of the order of things as we shall live to see it unfold before our very eyes.
The flip side to the argument I am developing here is this one. It is quite possible that I am wrong in thinking that President Trump is off the track most of the time. Many of us have a feeling that he speaks in ‘codes,’ or better still, in riddles so that his followers will get the point he has in mind and act accordingly. His stance on Anti-Semitism is a case in point. Even though he condemns it, he does so in the feeblest of terms. A way perhaps to signify by some other way to his constituency. He would not for instance go ahead and instruct his Department of Justice to enact a law banning all kinds of bitter hatred. His manner of operation always relies on two conflicting narratives: there is one for his ‘clan’ and another for everyone else who does not conform to his way of doing things. And he seems to be quite astute at engaging in both ways of telling. While it may be possible to see in this kind of behavior a perversion of language, what seems to be certain is that, in the end, he is intent on erecting a wall not only south of the border but also one of denegation, the gist of which lies in the poverty of his idiom. It remains to be seen where it will lead us ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’—to a bottomless chasm, perhaps, or worse, to an abyss of despair and/or time.
Mustapha Marrouchi is a writer on a wide range of topics including literature, politics, cultural criticism, and Islamic issues. He is the author of half a dozen books, includingEdward Said at the Limits. He is finishing a novel tentatively titledIn Praise of Three Spotted Hyenasand an essay onMobbing in Academia.