David Darby


Unprecedented has likely appeared in news reports an unprecedented number of times since Donald Trump’s election. It is a polite word for the mainstream news media, showing professionalism and balance. It avoids too much attention to the acts that are unprecedented: number of the president’s falsehoods and lies, the level of corruption (number of felons and other miscreants) in his administration, and the extent of his race-baiting comments.

Inexplicable is another resurgent word that also seeks the high road in journalism. It is “inexplicable,” for instance, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not contemplate and plan for the children of incarcerated parents in the recent Mississippi raids. Of course, crass, incompetent or outright stupid might have been used just as appropriately in this instance.

In today’s nation of hostile camps, it behooves us to pay greater attention to our own words and those of others. We should use words according to their meanings and which correspond to real facts. Vitriol, name calling and poppycock abound these days. Pay attention to the words you use or show your ignorance.

Then there is President Trump. Some of his words are sophomoric insults and not meant to reflect proper word meaning. Sometimes he simply misuses a word. Other times he uses a word while the actual facts he is addressing have no relation to the word’s meaning. Treason, conspiracy, fake, exonerate and un-American are examples. Then there is the greatest, most, best, highest something or other since sliced bread in the Trump administration. This is invariably aggrandizement and seldom matches fact. In misusing these adjectives he turns his statements into falsehoods. Given the president’s continual misuse of words and incessant confusion about both fact and meaning, it may be best not to listen to him for actual, factual information.

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The Trump detractors are not without fault. Words like treasonous and racist have specific meanings, the latter requiring an understanding of intent. It would be best if Trump critics were also careful in their word choices. Lunatic has also been used to describe the president. But “lunatic” has a mental instability characteristic in all of its meanings and would require special analysis to be used properly. It is interesting that antonyms for lunacy include lucid, rational, reasonable, judicial, discretion, forethought, prudence and sagacity. You may make of that what you will.

There are words which accurately and factually describe President Trump. They include indecent, lying, corrupt, vindictive, lawless, race-baiting, groper, narcissist, demagogue, and (unindicted) co-conspirator, to name a few. His actions conform to the definitions of these words.

If you wish to differ with Trump’s policies – for example, undermining our allies, separating immigrant children from their parents, coddling murderous despots, abrogating treaties signed by President Obama, ignoring UN resolutions, undermining environmental quality, ignoring climate change, providing tax breaks primarily for the wealthy, and so on – this requires defending your opinions with facts and analysis. Choose your words carefully in doing so. It is better that way. Rest assured, the president and his allies will not.

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David Darby retired from a career in U.S. and Montana government and advising more than a dozen foreign governments. He lives in Billings.