Two days ago, Donald Trump mocked 16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Yesterday, I offered this tweeted reply:
Randal: Is anybody surprised that the pig decided to mock a 16-year-old climate activist? What really disgusts me is the 154,000 + likes. Trump’s a psychopath, but what’s their excuse? (Source)
Predictably, my tweet received the criticism that I was “disrespecting” the office:
Brent: Our President certainly has major issues, but you should be respectful of the office and not use derogatory terms.
I’m not sure whether Brent was taking issue with my calling Trump a pig or a psychopath. But an objection to the latter is misguided at best, because I use the term not as an insult, but rather to express my belief that Trump qualifies as a clinically diagnosable psychopath according to Robert Hare’s psychopathy checklist.
What about calling Trump a pig? In common usage, a “pig” is a person of piggish character, i.e. one who evinces characteristics like greediness, selfishness, vulgarity, and/or uncouthness. By that definition, Trump is a pig if anybody is.
So now, what should we think of the claim that it is dishonoring of an office to call out a piggish officeholder as piggish?
In a subsequent tweet, I noted that “pope” is an office of highest honor in the Catholic Church. One of the most notorious officeholders of the seat of Rome in church history is Alexander VI, a debauched fornicator who engaged in baldly corrupt and nepotistic practices. To call Alexander VI a pig is merely to state a fact. To suggest that doing so is somehow dishonoring of the office of pope is nothing short of bizarre. If anything, it is the refusal to denounce a corrupt and piggish officeholder for failing to honor the office that is dishonoring of the office.
And so it is in the present case. Trump is a pig who regularly denigrates and shames his office, and to refuse to denounce him as such, let alone to call out those who do as dishonoring the office, is itself dishonoring of the office under the guise of false sanctimony.
One more thing: another commenter named “Martjin” challenged me by tweeting back Bible verse references. Given that I find this illustrative of a common problem of prooftexting among Christian conservatives, I want to close by relaying our exchange:
Martjin: Matthew 5:21-22
Randal: You’re proof-texting. Are you aware that Jesus denounced his critics as whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers? Have you ever considered the imprecations of the Psalmist, Paul, or Jude?
Martjin: Acts 23:4
Randal: Are you attempting to derive the principle “It is never appropriate to use disparaging language of an office holder if the office is prestigious because doing so will dishonor the office” from that verse? If so, you need to explain your reasoning or it’s just another prooftext.
To conclude, the child who dared call the emperor naked did not dishonor the emperorship. Rather, he merely called out an emperor who has himself nakedly dishonored his esteemed role.
Likewise, the person who calls Trump a pig does not dishonor the presidency. Rather, he merely calls out a president who has piggishly dishonored his esteemed role.