January 25, 2017

Don’t get me wrong—I love our kitties. But, being a primate, it’s hard not to look down on the intellectual and moral capacities of cats. We joke that each of our cats has a three-word vocabulary. Sophie’s is ME-FOOD-NOW. Simon’s is HUH?-WATER-WHA?. Zora’s is ME-YIKES-EEEEK! We don’t have any dogs, but I expect dog owners can relate, though maybe their vastly superior brains boost their vocabulary up to four or five words.

It occurred to me today seeing yet another photo of Donald Trump smugly signing some executive order specifically designed to kill people, animals, or hope, that he is like one of our cats. Basically, he has a three-word vocabulary.


These three words show why he is as ludicrous and dangerous a leader as he is.

MINE: Often one of the first words a human child learns to say, this is an important word in a baby’s developing sense of self. We each have to learn that we are a separate thing from everything else in the world around us, and that we possess many things—fingers, toes, cribs, toys—that belong to us. We also learn that every different person can say “mine” and mean something different because each “I” is different.

Most infants grow up to also understand that the word “mine” has limited application and must be balanced by words like “yours,” “theirs,” “all of ours,” etc. Most of us learn that, you know, not everything in the world is first person singular. Some do not. Donald Trump is one of these. He is stuck in the first person singular. What’s worse, he’s stuck in the first person singular possessive. When you’re a grown-up and MINE is the most important word in your vocabulary, you know you’re one greedy narcissist. Actually, I guess you don’t, since you would need to step outside yourself for a second to see that.

THIS: Another key concept in the developing human consciousness is the specificity and distinctness of things in the world outside of oneself. This floor that I’m crawling on is a thing, and I know it’s a thing because I can see it, touch it, bang my face into it when I fall. It is here, now, right in front of me, and it’s real.

Again, however, most functional human beings graduate to other concepts like “that,” “this and that,” and “everything.” Some people, like our President, sadly get stuck in a perpetual now limited and dictated by one thing at a time, in which they defiantly claim that nothing existed before this and nothing will exist after this. They believe that because their attention is so restricted, all of ours should be, too. And like the people in Plato’s famous cave, they think that the thing in front of them must be real because, after all, it is the only thing.

NO!: This one might be the favorite toddler word of all-time. This is the first true power word we learn. When the world—usually in the form of parents or older siblings—tells you to do something, you can say NO and establish that you have a will, you have an opinion, you have a way to be a separate thing, not just in terms of personal identity (“mine”) or by the nature of thingness itself (“this”), but also by the magic act of using language to make it so. No!

Once more, we can see that the vast majority of us in the human species graduate to broader, more nuanced expressions such as “yes,” “maybe,” and “I’ll think about it.” Is Mr. Trump among these? Let’s consider… To immigrants: NO! To refugees: NO! To women: NO! No scientists: NO! To reporters: NO! To intelligence officials: NO! To veterans: NO! To the disabled: NO! To the LGBTQ community: NO! And on and on. In short, if you contradict the man in any way or are in any way different from him, including if you’re respectful of the truth, he says NO!

So, I guess my only real question at this point is whether President Trump is actually more like one of my cats or a human baby. My cats are generally pretty sweet little creatures, and that doesn’t fit, so I’m leaning toward baby. Then again, babies have the potential to grow up into fully-fledged rational and more actors, and that doesn’t fit either. Maybe he’s most like some horrible hybrid of the worst side of cats with the worst side of babies: an irrational, narcissistic, shedding whiner with a voracious appetite and an insatiable need to be stroked and burped, who poops and pukes everywhere he goes.

Yup, that about sums it up.