[personal profile] marieldraconis
In our current times, the Information Age, literacy is more widespread than it has ever been. People who can read and write and have Internet access have all of human history and science at their fingertips. People who don't have those things...that's a tragedy, and one that I hope there are organizations out there trying to fix.

What is not tragic, but terrifying, is that one of the most powerful individuals on the planet is functionally illiterate and President of the United States. I know, I know, all those tweets indicate he does know the alphabet and words, usually, but I said "functionally" illiterate. His tweets are sound and fury, signifying nothing. And according to the news, he rejects briefings longer than a couple of pages, and according to him, he doesn't read books.
More on those tweets...the man uses capital letters exclusively for emphasis, and shows no complexity of thought or subtlety in his word choice, either in his tweets or in his verbal expressions (considering, for example, the one-word insults he tagged to every one of his opponents in the campaign last year, most of which were superficial). 
Yes, I know, Twitter has a character limit, and it's not easy to convey complexity or subtlety in that space. But does "Donald Trump's tweets are sound and fury, signifying nothing." fit under the character limit? Then complexity and subtlety are possible.
[To give credit where credit's due, the phrase isn't mine, it's Shakespeare's, and then either Faulker or Hemingway, I can't remember which, borrowed from it for a novel's title. But I'm not looking up which one to make a point--it would take me five seconds to confirm which one, and I doubt Trump would even recognize that the original quote is from Shakespeare. Words are tools, and sometimes you borrow someone else's tools as best suited for a given purpose, and that's OK as long as you acknowledge where you got them from.]
All told, Trump uses words like a child would. I'm not an expert in childhood linguistic development, so the only thing I can say for certain is that he has more grasp of words than my three-year-old niece, but I'm not sure how a person would graduate elementary school with such flawed use of language. And while he may be more literate than my niece, he's just as prone to tantrums, and I'm not saying my niece is any sort of emotional control prodigy.



I'm taking this personally, I admit. Words are so important to me that my brain spent twenty years suppressing one eye, so I could be literate. I was unknowingly physically disabled, because words matter more. (Now that I know about this, I've been working on exercises, have both eyes functional, and the eye that's been functional all along has actually an improved lens prescription, but none of this is the point.)
I don't know why Trump is functionally illiterate. He might be lazy or stupid, he might have some physical or learning disability, I don't know and before January, it was none of my business. But now this is the man representing my country on the global stage, and he so little understands the uses and misuses of words that he keeps giving his team mixed signals, that he embarrasses himself in front of the world when he shows his weak grasp of history, he's told a certain phrase ('travel ban') is hurting his court case for the ban and he tweets that exact phrase like a child newly introduced to a swear word, and he can't comprehend the concept of classified information (other than 'no one gets to talk badly about me, but of course anything anyone says to me I can repeat to anyone else'). [That latter I tie into the 'subtlety and complexity'--words have a very specific use, and so does information. If you can understand the first, you can grasp the second.]

What I'd really like to do is sentence Trump to a time-out, no more executive orders, no more communication with world leaders, no more Twitter, until he demonstrates his literacy and reading comprehension. Force him to read Curse of Chalion and write a book report, comparing and contrasting himself and Dondo dy Jironal, or a report on the importance of good governance. But that's just one idea--the basic principle is the time-out until he can prove himself both literate and to have the patience for all the information he needs, and also the understanding that Fox News has less, not more, information than all the intelligence services that report to him, so maybe he should cut down on his news-watching in favor of letting his employees give him briefings.

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marieldraconis

June 2017

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