Meghan Markle Tops Donald Trump

An estimated 29 million Americans tuned in early Saturday morning to watch Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry. That’s about 5 million more than in England itself, and about six million more Americans than who watched Will and Kate Middleton marry seven years ago.

Why did so many more viewers tune in to this wedding versus the last? Are there more televisions now than there were then? Is it that we love Harry more than Will; because we’re all fans of Suits, the show on which Markle starred; or is it because Meghan’s biracial and her entry into the British royal family is a watershed historical moment?

Sure, all of that makes sense, but it seems to me that so many Americans are enthusiastic about Meghan Markle becoming the Duchess of Sussex because we like seeing a polished and seemingly empathetic American representing us on the international stage. With the buffoon president’s steady stream of racist, hateful rhetoric, general dishonesty and pungent nastiness sullying our national name, it’s nice to have an American standing with/for dignity and grace —and not just an American, but a biracial woman whose path — and the once-stodgy royal family’s embrace of — is the emotional and sociopolitical opposite of all President Trump represents.

Meghan Markle is the face of America’s future; Donald Trump and his reactionary racism are its past.

(PS: I was going to have a photo of Trump next to fresh-faced Markle for juxtaposition purposes, but it just didn’t feel right having his ugly mug next to such beauty.)

Donald Trump is the Definition of “Trump” (Old French)

While we’re on the subject of the English language, let’s talk about “Trump.”

When used as a verb, U.S. president Donald Trump’s surname is most often interpreted as “to surpass” or “to beat,” a terminology familiar from card games. Such usage  was popularized in the 1580s, when Middle English reigned, and which traces its origins to around the 1520s, when “to trump” was first used as “to triumph.” But this is not the first “ to trump,” and while Donald Trump undoubtedly prefers this dominant definition, the first, which is worse, is far more fitting — and French!

Continue reading

Fun with Words: Trump and Obstruction

This semi-regular feature, Fun with Words (aka Etymological Adventures), has previously explored the linguistic roots of collusion, a word with which we’re all familiar due to – well, you know: Donald Trump and his constellation of cronies’ shady dealings. Today we’ll briefly explore another once-rarish term that Trump’s thrust into our everyday usage, collusion’s cousin by association: obstruction.

Born from the Latin word, obstructionem, itself the offspring of Ob, Latin for “in front of,” and the verb strurer, for “to pile or build,” the term “obstruction” emerged in English around the 1530s, and translated literally into “building up” or “creating a barrier” – a barrier like a wall, which, as we all know, real estate mogul Trump wants to make literal at the Mexican border.

In the meantime, Trump’s busying himself building a rhetorical wall against justice, a barrier built through lies and coercion, through acts like intervening in the Michael Flynn case; firing James Comey over his refusal to intervene in said case; drafting a faux narrative for Donald Trump Jr. to regurgitate vis a vis his meeting with Russians; Trump’s recent politicized demands that the DOJ investigate the FBI; and let’s not forget the barriers created by Trump’s unsubtle attacks on people involved in these investigations, not least of all against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Trump has tried to influence by warning him not to nose around his personal finances…. All of this and more builds up a wall of lies and obfuscation that is the very definition of obstruction.

Perhaps one day truth, justice and karma will tear down that wall, burying Trump in a mess of his own making.

(For more Fun with Words, click here!)

CNN Ribs Trump in New ‘Facts First’ Ad: VIDEO

Donald Trump applies the phrase “fake news” to any story or outlet with which he disagrees, but he’s particularly fond of using “fake news” to slam his least favorite cable news source, CNN.

Now CNN’s using these attacks as the lynchpin in its new “facts first” ad campaign. Their approach is far more subtle than Trump’s – that man has never been subtle – but hopefully more effective.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading

Putin Wants You to Respect Trump

Brutish, undiplomatic President Trump’s something of a pariah among international leaders. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras once referred to the former reality show host’s agenda as “evil,” while an unnamed European chief reportedly Trump to Mussolini — that’s what Joe Biden heard. But Trumpy does have at least one fan on the world stage: Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president yesterday decried all the anti-Trump rhetoric in the States, claiming opponents’ disapproval is “disrespect.” From the horse’s mouth: “Inside the country, disrespect is shown for him. This is a regrettable negative component of the US political system… One can argue but one can’t show disrespect, even not for him personally but for those people who voted for him.”

He went on,”Mr. Trump was elected by the American people. And at least for this reason, it is necessary to show respect for him, even if you do not agree with some of his positions.” Spoken like a true dictator.

A wily tactician, Putin’s probably buttering up Trump ahead of some policy request, because Putin, like the rest of us, know that the key to Trump’s heart is through his ego.

Trump Appointee Warns Team Trump on Ethics

Well, David J. Apol’s most likely toast in the Trump Administration.

Recently appointed by Donald Trump as acting head of Office of Government Ethics, Apol yesterday released a memo to all department heads to act ethically, a move that comes after a number of Trump Cabinet officials have come under fire for abusing their offices and wasting millions of taxpayer money on frivolous personal travel.

Former Health and Human Services chief Tom Price resigned two weeks ago for just that reason, and it appears Apol’s hoping to prevent similar scenarios from playing out in the future.

“I am deeply concerned that the actions of some in Government leadership have harmed perceptions about the importance of ethics and what conduct is, and is not, permissible,” Apol wrote in the letter, released yesterday. He adds, “The citizens we serve deserve to have confidence in the integrity of their Government.” He also gave Trump and his band of millionaire cabinet officials a reminder of how to act ethically, i.e.” “Demonstrate personal ethical behavior by modeling a ‘Should I do it’ mentality (versus a ‘Can I do it?’ mentality)” and “promote a safe culture for reporting misconduct.”

We know Donald Trump doesn’t appreciate being undercut by his underlings — though he’s more than willing to undercut them — so my bet is that Apol will be getting the ol’ James Comey treatment sooner, rather than later.

American Bigotry: 1832, 2018

Just a note, in case you’re interested: On this date in 1832, virulently racist President Andrew Jackson named Elbert Herring the first commissioner of the recently reorganized Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Freshly incorporated into the War Department, this newly emboldened agency soon enacted, at Jackson’s specific request, the forced removal of thousands of Native Americans from their rightful land, leading to the Trail of Tears. This wasn’t the first time Indians would be kicked off their land, nor would it be the last, but it was the largest such event of its kind, and the most brutal: an estimated 2,500-6,000 died as they were shoved west and involuntarily settled on reservations.

On a related note: Donald Trump cites Jackson as an inspiration. Could Jackson’s anti-Indian attitudes be inspiring the current president’s use of ICE to round up and detain Mexican immigrants, even those who are already naturalized citizens?

“Join, or Die:” America’s First Meme

Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 version of the iconic reptile.

The “Join, or Die” snake is one of America’s most recognizable, beloved and replicated icons. Emblazoned on flags and t-shirts, pillow cases and iPhone cases, and even on tv show title cards and in comic books, the image is upheld today as a both specifically as an emblem of American independence, and generally as bid for unity against a common oppression. But the world’s most adored reptile didn’t start this way.

Created by Benjamin Franklin in 1754, the “Join, or Die” snake originally signified loyalty to the English empire. It wasn’t a call to action, but an order to fall into line. It was only later that “Join, or Die” evolved into a revolutionary rallying cry — and when it did, it became America’s first meme, too.

Continue reading

Third Time a Charm for Selma March, 1965

On this date in 1965, 53 years ago, 8,000 people set out from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery to protest ongoing suppression of the black vote, violence against black people and the general racism of American society. This was their third attempt at such a march.

The first planned launch, led by current Congressman John Lewis, on March 7, came to a horrifying end when horse-mounted police and regular old racists blocked their path at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, beating 600 or so protesters with nightsticks, fists and boots, an attack that left dozens injured, including a young woman named Amelia Boynton, whose unconscious body became emblematic of the injustice happening down south. The event was immediately dubbed “Bloody Sunday.”

The second go, two days later, on March 9, was truncated due to a court order: a judge was still considering the protesters’ routes and the organizing organizations, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Martin Luther King Jr., agreed to stop short of the county line, turning back right before the spot where previous incident unfolded. This event became known as “Turnaround Tuesday.”

Yet even this small show of black resistance to overwhelming racism enraged hateful white folk, including a mob that beat Jacob Reeb to death, an incident that only drew more attention to the terror in the Heart of Dixie.

Thus, even more people, about 8,000, turned out at the start of the next planned march, on the 21st, gathering as a powerful mass as they took off behind Lewis, Dr. King, and others from Selma on their four-day journey to Montgomery, by which point their numbers had swelled to 25,000. And no longer were these just student and religious protesters — they now had President Johnson’s blessing. Supportive before, Johnson was appalled by Bloody Sunday and vowed not only to get a Voting Rights Act passed, but sent personal representatives to Alabama to make sure the next Selma march went off without a hitch.

Today, with a president who pals around with white supremacists, defends neo-Nazis and who has exhibited time and time again he has no respect for people of color, it’s important to remember that even in the face of state-sponsored violence and terroristic threats, Americans who believe in equality will keep coming back, fighting and marching, raising fists and holding placards, until the injustice is undone.

Remember that, Donald Trump: no matter how much fear and loathing you try to churn, Americans who support truth and justice will always win. It may take some time, but the end result will be the same: hateful people such as you and your allies will end up on the wrong side of history. How “Sad!” for you.

“Impeachment,” a Brief History

Today’s the 150th anniversary of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial getting underway in the Senate. What better time, then, to take an Etymological Adventure into “impeachment,” a word we’ve been hearing a lot of lately and will no doubt continue hearing until Donald Trump is out of office?

The term “impeach” as we know it is traced to the late 1300s, meaning “to impede” or “to hinder,” but evolved from the Old French empeechier, which came from the Latin “impedicare,” which sounds like a luxurious pedicure but which actually means “to fetter, catch, or entangle” from “in,” in, and “pedica,” “shackle/fetter.”

Impeach was first applied to public officials in the 1560s, perhaps because of its similarity to “impetere,” which means to attack, according to Etymology Dictionary, and “impeachment” became officially ingrained in political lexicons in the 1640s, when Charles I impeached Canterbury Archbishop William Laud for “running a state within a state.” That was a trumped-up charge, of course — unlike claims that Trump’s in Russia’s pocket. And considering Trump fired Rex Tillerson the day after Tillerson blamed Russia for the UK spy poisoning, that’s looking more and more like fact.

Oh, and spoiler alert: the Senate failed to impeach Johnson.