The middle of the United States is facing record low temperatures this week as a blast of Arctic air sweeps over that part of the country. On January 28, Donald Trump, the alleged president of the United States, issued one of his now classic tweets.
The tweet has brought gales of laughter from pundits around the world who are sure it proves that Trump is the dumbest president of all time. The headline in Esquire today is, “Look at This Embarrassing F*cking Moron.” Actually, it proves no such thing but it does raise a disturbing possibility that one of the most powerful people on Earth — and a avowed climate change denier — may be functionally illiterate. Project Literacy estimates that 32 million Americans are illiterate.
This idea is buttressed by several other now famous gaffes committed by The Donald, mostly on Twitter. Who can forget the immortal “covfefe” tweet from a year ago, or the more recent “smocking gun” miscue.
We hear anecdotally that not only can Trump not write, he can’t read either. Alone of all recent presidents, he has never written a book, much less read one. Can you imagine him creating anything as memorable as the Gettysburg Address? He gets bored reading his daily national security briefing. Just yesterday, three security chiefs testified before Congress that Trump is flat out wrong about threats to America from Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and North Korea. That’s a lot of stuff to be misinformed about.
How to explain such a lack of understanding or cognitive ability? One possible way is to say words on a page are simply indecipherable hieroglyphs to him because no one ever taught young Donnie how to read. Trump may compensate for his own perceived failings by placing an outsize emphasis on visual symbols. He needs to see his name on buildings, aircraft, and golf courses. He covers his fears of sexual inadequacy by boasting in public — even during presidential debates — about his sexual prowess. In an interview with Howard Stern in 1997, he bragged about how avoiding sexual transmitted diseases was his own personal Vietnam and compared vaginas to land mines.
Is all this braggadocio a cover for deep seated feelings of inadequacy connected to the fact that he cannot read and write? The larger question is should a person with such superficial intellectual powers and communication deficiencies be responsible for making decisions that may significantly impact the fate of the Earth? Tweeting about “global waming” hardly makes one a strong candidate for being a world leader.
My wife, who is much smarter than I am, has urged me not to write on this topic. A certified US master teacher, she has devoted her entire career to education. She says using the word “illiterate” will alienate some of my readers. Not only that, she thinks it’s just mean. She is probably right on both counts. I have learned to ignore her advice at my peril.
Part of the problem is that people associate illiteracy with stupidity. Let me hasten to assure you I do not. We all have things we are good at and things we are not. I cannot draw, play the guitar, or solve quadratic equations. That does not make me a stupid person (although there are other factors that may militate in favor of that conclusion.) None of us can do carpentry, repair a roof, argue a case in court, or write computer code unless someone teaches us how. Ignorance is simply a lack of information. There are lots of smart people who are ignorant on many topics.
As for being mean to Trump, I admit that may be true but consider it a small price to pay for pointing out the man in the Oval Office is an impostor, a shape shifting chameleon who cares more about self gratification than the health and safety of the American people and the rest of humanity. If calling him out for his inadequacies is mean, so be it. In the larger scheme of things, aren’t Americans entitled to a president who can read and write?