Let’s play a little game, shall we? OK, see if you recognize any of the following:
Dumbo. Alfred E. Neuman. Lyin’ Hillary.
Slimeball James Comey. Fat Jerry. Dummy Beto.
Liddle’ Adam Schiff. Shifty Schiff. Fake Pocahontas.
Low-IQ Maxine Waters.
If you recognize who created these witty monikers, you get a point. For each name you can associate with a real person, you get five points. Now repeat the process. Recognize any of the following?
Slimy Sam. Buggy Betty. Creepy Carol.
Potty Scotty. Tongue-tied Tina. Bad Breath Seth.
Dead Ted. Junky Jeff. Evil Eddie.
OK. Like before, see if you recognize where these names come from. If you know the source, you get ten points. The next part is a little different. For each name you can associate with a picture, you get fifteen points. Ready to tally your score? If you scored zero, we can guess you’re a foreign reader, hailing from Uruguay or Pakistan or some other place, or that you’ve lived in the U.S. less than a week.
If you scored 1 to 10 points, you probably threw away your TV set in 1970 and detest popular culture. You may wear an actual tinfoil hat. If you scored 10 to 51 points, you probably are under thirty and wouldn’t go near a “boomer” with a ten foot pole. If you scored 52 to 100 points, you’ve probably called yourself an Average Joe at least 100 times in your life. If you scored over 100 points, you can rightly describe yourself as a pop-culture junkie, an Avid Ava of Americana.
What was this all about? If you don’t yet know, it’s time you get clued in. The first set of names are pet names our current U.S. president, Donald J. Trump, coined for others, some of them quite apt. The second set are names from a trading card set called Garbage Pail Kids, a play on the then-popular Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls.
Created by Topps, more often known for their baseball cards, way back in the ’80s, Garbage Pail Kids was a definite hit with 80s children. If you’re not familiar, each card featured a silly name, an even sillier (and often gross) image, and were sold in packs much like baseball cards.
Notice any similarities between the two sets of names in our game? It’s almost impossible not to. And, that’s where I feel we have a problem.
I actually voted for President Trump, so this isn’t going to be a super-rant about how terrible he is, where I shake and sputter, salivate and spit, wave my fists in the air, or cry about the end of the world. But I do think that name calling, like the A Team and high-waisted Z. Cavaricci pants, should stay in the 1980s. I think our culture has evolved in some ways, devolved in others. But the fact that we are more tolerant toward others, don’t call mentally disabled people retarded or overweight people fat, and generally try to be more civil to all, is a great accomplishment.
Our President sets the tone. Fact. So now, we have newscasters, often on channels generally supportive of the right, using those same nicknames President Trump devised. No. Just no. This is not Presidential Language, and every time President Trump comes out with a new one of these names, I cringe. You have to admit, he’s quite prolific, having created nearly 200 such names in the past few years for everything from TV programs to people.
But this has to stop. While the names are sometimes funny, sometimes not, it’s just not appropriate. Topps even created a limited time offering in 2016 and ’17 called “disg-Race to the White House” featuring candidates parodied in the manner of the Garbage Pail Kids tradition. This was funny. And quite appropriate. It’s where we expect such weird and wacky names to come from, not our President!
It’s hard to miss that one of President Trump’s favorite pejorative for Mrs. Clinton, “Crooked Hillary” sounds a lot like one of the Garbage Pail Kids cards for Hillary Clinton, “Crooked Clinton.” Can this be a mere coincidence? Or, is Mr. Trump secretly seeking inspiration from legendary over-the-top pop culture Topps trading cards? The world may never know. Either way, it’s impossible to ignore the similarity.
When we name-call others, it’s a way of shutting off their voice. It’s a way of objectifying them, making them two-dimensional caricatures of the real human being behind the name. I don’t know what audiences enjoy hearing Mr. Trump use these Garbage Pail Kid-inspired nicknames, but it surely isn’t anyone who voted for him and has respect for intelligent discourse. Of course, everyone has nicknames. George W. Bush, better known now as simply “W”, had his share.
But W’s were mostly fond appellations, names he made for people he liked. There were a few exceptions. But for the most part, his nicknames were complimentary, rather than put-downs. A short list: “Vice” for Vice-president Donald Rumsfeld, “Guru” for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and “The Architect” for Senior Adviser to the President, Karl Rove. Of course, there was also “Turd Blossom” and “Altoid Boy”, so W isn’t perfect either. Even so, most of his nicknames were playful and affectionate, if a bit crude at times.
I want to hear everything everyone has to say. Even those voices that I disagree with. Even those people who spew nonsense. If Ben Shapiro gets shut down because campus officials or students feel he’s not “woke” enough, we miss the entire point of what America is all about. Likewise, if Black Lives Matter protesters aren’t allowed a public forum to share their ideas, something is wrong.
We need the opportunity to listen, analyze and use our rational minds, as well as emotions, to assess concepts, then consider whether such ideas are worthy of consideration or implementation. Simply turning off and refusing to listen is not how we learn. Claiming that giving someone a platform can help radicalize the audience is an argument without merit; we have to give people more credit for their discernment than this.
We don’t need ideas forced on us. Neither do we need to keep ideas from being shared. That is the way of an authoritarian nation, not the United States of America. If an idea is ludicrous, let the listener decide. There’s no better way of addressing a ridiculous idea than letting a thinker speak his mind in full. Explicating ludicrous notions is the best way to put them to rest. The more someone speaks, the more someone is likely to recognize a lack of clarity and sense in such ideas. Name-calling shuts down the thinking process and preemptively causes us to tune out and prejudge.
We might say that this is just President Trumps’ manner of speaking, and that this is just the way that he expresses himself. While that may be true, it’s also true that this sort of language actually turns off moderate voters, and in reality helps leftist commentators and pundits attack the president. In this crucial time leading up to the next election, it would do us all good if President Trump ceased using derogatory nicknames.
We don’t want this trickling down to the schoolyard, having kids return to the viciousness and callousness that kids of former generations were guilty of. It doesn’t make us weak to speak respectfully, even of those we know are fools. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It shows something laudatory in our character.
I feel Mr. Trump began using these nicknames as a way of creating a memorable and unique style of speaking while on the campaign trail. Maybe it worked in 2016. Maybe it had little effect. But in 2019, a time when image and innuendo rule, it’s time this tired manner of communicating is put to rest by all. Let President Trump set the tone. Otherwise, this lowbrow name-calling might spread like a cancer, and we may end up with a 2020 election cycle where everyone is doing it, left, right, and center. Let Topps artists have to work for their money; don’t spoon feed them any more ideas!