Speaking of Trump: Meditation on a Name
As I sat down to write an article about Donald Trump’s regime and the awakening of a new order of resistance, I had to give pause at the title.
Do I use Trump’s name or not?
Considering that we are dealing with a veritable narcissist, we need to be careful how we feed and validate him, how we leech our power to his despicable cause. Whether negative or positive, we need to acknowledge that each utterance of his name affirms his dangerous self-importance in some perverted way or another.
I’ve seen some thoughtful commentators refer to him simply as “45,” his numerical value in the chronology of American presidents. This designation may deprive him of any special status — the kind, say, that you might emblazon in larger-than-life lettering across skyscrapers — but it has a callous normalizing effect, as well, as if Trump were just a successive agent in a rational continuity, of a value congruous to his numerical predecessor, or all 44 of them. And that’s not the case. We’re dealing with an unknown variable here, and we need to treat it as such.
So as I considered my options…Trump…Trump…Trump. With each repetition, the name drops a hefty thud in my consciousness. Trump. Trump. It has weight to it. It’s solid and dense. It forces other words out of the way to assert its place — the seizing of audible real estate. Trump. Impenetrable. There’s no space between the lettering, no softness within its monosyllable.
Some words breathe in their enunciation, like symphony or cellar or radiance or perfume or hopeful or magnificence or socialism or joy. They weave in and out of the air of their expression, like a nimble dance of gestures with movement and allowance. Movement. Allowance.
Tr — closes itself off from all that has preceded. A death stop to fluidity, a claiming of space all its own. –Ump clasps the other end shut. The breath quickly snipped. Together the sound is a single unit, dark and suffocating. Trump.
Trump encapsulates a symbolic order that is all opposition and obstinacy. Its communication with other words can only be one of blunt contact. Trump.
Thus, resistance to Trump must be in the perforation, the opening of space.
During the 2016 election campaign, John Oliver presented a segment, “Make Donald Drumpf Again,” recommending that viewers demystify the power of the Trump by replacing it with the ancestral surname of his grandfather, Friedrich Drumpf.
Apart from sounding plain silly to Anglicized ears, Drumpf frays the ends of the Trump phonetic unit. The Dr- softens the beginning with a rolling start, and the –pf fizzles out the end, aspirating towards whichever word may follow. The singularity deflates.
Drumpf is an immigrant name, and it conjures images of Ellis Island and multitudes. One among many. As Drumpf, the monolith is spread thin in ragged community.
But Drumpf didn’t stick. Neither has Cheeto-Head nor President Bannon. Trump is too enticing and too indicative of the what-is to be so casually obscured. It is Trump that we face, and all that his name stands for.
It is integral to keep the symbolic value of Trump before us — to name the thing of our opposition. The necessary action is thus not to allow our words to harden around it. Trump is a name built for collision. We can only smash up against it by becoming a thing like it.
We need to be conscientious how we surround Trump with the mass of our voices. Solidarity is a name with impact and force, but its ability to effectively wield itself lies in its motivation.
Solidarity Against Trump is a harsh configuration, each word a grinding halt — in total, a phrase packed with antagonism. All sorts of ugliness can take root within such a coalition. In blanket Solidarity Against Trump, the ends blanket the means, and all out opposition leaves us negatively bound to the thing we oppose.
The dense formation of Solidarity requires a positive project, something creative rather than destructive, an object to move towards not just against.
The substitution of Against for For — a bridging of form and movement, rather than simply a clashing. Solidarity for the Environment. Solidarity for Workers’ Rights. Solidarity for Indigenous Rights. Solidarity for LGBTQ Rights. Solidarity for Black Lives. Solidarity for Peace. Solidarity for Art. Solidarity for Love. Solidarity for Humanity.
Trump is an obstacle, a damming of movement. Our words must be a river with the force to flow through and around Trump to a purpose beyond.
As pure antagonism, Trump seeks to divert our words at whichever junction possible, sending them spindly trickles this way and that, spent of energy, tributaries to small puddles of despair. Everyday a new aggression, a new outrage, a new Against beckoning us to follow its course.
For our own health, and for the strength of our movement, we must hold to the positive project within, the project that aims beyond Trump, that even sees the darkness of his presence as a catalyst and as an opportunity to maneuver towards that goal.
Keep your words a river, strong but fluid and purposeful, directional, seeking destination in the great ocean of humanity. Trump lures us into the murk of his swamp. Resist. Resist by not being negatively bound to the antagonist.
Be bound to the movement that surrounds and submerges the deadweight of his name. The movement of the Earth, of rights, love, humanity. Open and embracing.