The activists, academics, politicians and journalists whose frantic daily search for outrage in something someone said somewhere have left us a presidential campaign focused on menstruation and reports that Fox News chairman Roger Ailes calledDonald Trump to whisper sweet nothings in his ear. It’s like the boys’ locker room in middle school without the air of sophistication.
So it’s little wonder that a good chunk of Americans think something is wrong. Our country has real problems that we far too frequently put aside so we can revel in public floggings delivered by our linguistic morality police. If they don’t deliver solutions, they at least deliver ratings.
So, as the grievance-industrial complex profitably fills its prisons with the latest arrestees, we’re stuck in a crisis that will never end. The world is stuck with a sad reality: Donald Trump is not alone. Politicians, celebrities and big business bosses, just like actual people, say stupid and insensitive things.
The landfall of Hurricane Trump couldn’t have come at a better time. For Americans who’d like Washington to focus on reality and not the pointless controversy of the moment, the flippant billionaire seems to be a source of the problem, but they have it all wrong. He’s the solution. With Storm Donald and his whirlwind of offensive comments now blowing by at 140 ratings points an hour, there might be some hope that, in the chaos, our farcical national debate might change.
That certainly won’t happen anytime soon and certainly not because Trump himself will turn the conversation toward substance. No, the change will come only after the storm blows itself out, leaving in its wake a more substantive debate among more credible candidates. But before the tempest stills, Trumps unique combination of ego and bluster might turn the speech police into the laughing stocks they deserve to be.
Maybe last weekend’s blood feud between Trump and Megyn Kelly of Fox News won’t turn our self-appointed language guardians into a punchline, but just wait a day. TV anchors, opposing politicians and the social media mob can’t get worked into a good frenzy before another Category Five Trumpism flattens the next taboo. By the time the tut-tutting morality police show up, Hurricane Donald’s path of destruction has moved on to another state or another network.
In a sane world, we wouldn’t need Trump to save us from the cacophony cops any more than we need those cops to save us from bad words. But we don’t live there anymore. Over the last couple decades, this culture of constant speech policing has grown ever louder and the sins that it focuses on ever smaller. The result is madness.
The stupid words of one Senate candidate in the Midwest can be turned into a smear against a whole party. A scientist’s juvenile breast-obsessed shirt can turn a guy who just landed a spaceship on a comet into a blubbering ball of remorse.
Today, comparing Iranian leaders who openly say they want to slaughter millions of Jews to a government that actually did slaughter millions of Jews is somehow out of bounds. CEOs lose their jobs because they made campaign donations backing a cause that the majority of Americans, including the president of the United States, then agreed with.
While we’re mentioning President Obama, Republicans are trying to weaponize an alternative set of lingo laws to use against Democrats. When Obama made the obvious point that government, through roads and courts and education, provides the infrastructure and the opportunity for entrepreneurs to make their billions, the GOP posse attacked. Obama was convicted of insufficient delicacy towards the feelings of businessmen. Cue the river of tears.
How loopy have we gotten?
Today, if you attack racism, but don’t genuflect properly, your attack on racism can be racist. Ask Kelly Osborne who, appearing on The View, uttered an insufficiently politically correct defense of Hispanics against Trump’s attacks on allegedly criminal Mexicans. While Trump’s ferocity blew on, Osborne delivered an abject apology.
The only sane response is laughter. The fury of Storm Trump has blown away the cover of respectability that let the speech police and their social media mob hijack our ability to talk to each other without having to constantly talk about how we are talking to each other all wrong.
Before Trump’s campaign (hopefully) eases the Republican primary back into a low-ratings tropical depression, there’s a chance the former Clinton groupie may have actually changed Washington more than any president ever could. Maybe the next time, the speech police turn on their sirens and draw their guns, regular sane politicians will just laugh at the fools impersonating law enforcement.
For that, the next guy or gal in the Oval Office should give Trump the Medal of Freedom. If he keeps talking, we can use it as a gag.
David Mastio is USA TODAY’s deputy editorial page editor.
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