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Donald Trump's antics are not amusing

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 29, 2015: Not so long ago, Republicans excelled at accusing one another of being RINOs -- Republicans In Name Only.

By that evidently outdated standard, Donald Trump would surely be open to being characterized as a RINO.

Nevertheless, Trump is doing well in the polls, as conservative columnist Peggy Noonan notes in her column "America Is So in Play" (dated Aug. 27, 2015) in the WALL STREET JOURNAL:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/america-is-so-in-play-14407115262

Because the other Republican presidential candidates have not yet started accusing Trump of being a RINO, does their silence on this score indicate that Republicans in general have decided to stop playing the game of accusing one another of being RINOs? We'll see.

In the meantime, I want to call attention to the late Neil Postman's perceptive book AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH: PUBLIC DISCOURSE IN THE AGE OF SHOW BUSINESS, 2nd ed. (2005; 1st ed., 1985). Certain examples he discusses now seem dated. But the central points he makes are still compelling and cogent.

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In the foreword (pages xix-xx), Postman compares George Orwell's dystopian novel NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR (1948) with Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932). Postman argues that Huxley predicted the spirit of our contemporary Western culture today -- the spirit of distracting ourselves and amusing ourselves.

In his recent eco-encyclical, Pope Francis (born in 1936) also takes the spirit of our contemporary Western culture today to task in ways that resemble Postman's critique and Huxley's critique. However, he does not happen to mention either Postman's critique or Huxley's.

In the book NOTES ON THE DEATH OF CULTURE: ESSAYS ON SPECTACLE AND SOCIETY, translated by John King (2015; orig. Spanish ed., 2012), the Peruvian novelist and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa (born in 1936), winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, also does not mention Postman's critique or Huxley's.

In Vargas Llosa's terminology, nobody can seriously doubt that Trump is a spectacle.

In Postman's terminology, nobody can seriously doubt that Trump can be amusing to watch, provided that you don't take him seriously.

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But shouldn't we take presidential candidates seriously?

After all, the president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world.

In theory, our American experiment in democratic government requires voters who are themselves serious enough to take their responsibility as voters seriously.

So are all the American voters who find Trump appealing just cynical about our other elected officials?

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www.d.umn.edu/~tfarrell
Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)
 

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