A trope is a figurative use of language—a metaphor which provides a compact way of representing a subset of cognitive and perceptual features salient to it. In other words, a metaphor mediates the import of reality by arousing our abstractive senses. That is, the reality of the words are transformed into images in our mind (passim, Allan Pavio and Mary Walsh, “Psychological Processes in Metaphor Comprehension and Me-mory” in Andrew Ortony (Ed.), Metaphor and Thought (2nd Ed.), Cambridge, 1993).
Linguistically a trope is a form of code, an elliptical short-cut in communication. That is, a trope carries an implicit part of a message not stated. The part of a message not stated is referred to as an ellipse. Trump’s comment about 2nd Amendment supporters assuring that Hillary Clinton does not eliminate the 2nd Amendment is essentially an ellyptical part of his message which can certainly be understood or construed as a veiled threat per Pavio and Walsh’s process since metaphor works on the affective domain.
Generally, ellipsis is almost always present in conversation. Much of the information in conversations is implied rather than stated. For example, someone asks “How are you?” The response is almost always “Fine” or some linguistic figuration that does not include “I’m” as in “I’m fine.” Exclusion of the “I’m” is an ellipsis—that part of the message which is understood, shortening the response, making the language more efficient. In other words, an ellipsis masks the non-essential understood part of the message without inhibiting meaning. Life is a code at which we work deciphering meaning every day.
In the case of Trump’s 2nd Amendment comment, he was speaking figuratively when he said:
“By the way, and if she gets to pick –if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people . . . [pause, question mark] maybe there is, I don’t know.”
In explaining the gaffe, Trump passed it off as a joke. But the tone of his remark—as the extra-sentential wrapping of discourse—is part of the utterance. It underscored his intent in the veiled threat implicit—not stated—in the remark. Other extra-sentential elements of speech are pitch, stress, cadence, and inflection, not counting the kinesic gestures of the face and movements of the body.
During the years of my Air Force service as an Intelligence Officer (Res-Major), I was a Threat Analyst in Soviet Studies which included the analysis of Soviet rhetoric and the study of nuances in oral speech. As Birther-in-Chief, Trump is treading on quicksand that borders not only on maniacal ground but treasonous terrain. Trump’s public words are laden with the characteristics of deception and guile, in fact hardly ever masked. In the temporal continuum the cognitive architecture and indeterminacy of figurative language can be problematic but not indecipherable.
Psycholinguistic research has shown that the apperceptive mind easily determines referents of figurative language despite literal incongruity. Though questionable, Trump had some of the figurative message in mind when he uttered the gaffe and though the audience has no access to Trump’s mind, the metonymic threat of the uttered words about the 2nd Amendment were contextually understood by those who heard the words. Understanding figurative language is always a process of encoding and decoding the generative metaphor carrying the message even in instances of pretense. Hearing the words is not a call for immediate action; it’s a subliminal seed planted for consideration. In other words, a veiled threat is not an action but a locus of action at some future point in time much like the Manchurian Candidate.
Since Trump’s trope refers to a specific social policy development—appointing future Supreme Court judges—the realization of its possibility becomes a reality devoutly to be wished. And stressed in its articulation much the way King Henry II of England voiced his desire for someone to rid him of Tomas Beckett Chancellor of England and Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. He himself was too meek to do the job by simply stripping Beckett of his power—but one of his subjects might fortuitously do it for him as T.S. Eliot dramatized the episode in Murder in the Cathedral.
This scenario reveals the innate cowardice of King Henry II transferred to Donald Trump—the narcissistic cybarite of Gotham City—who has touched the hydra-headed chord of nihilism in the American psyche. Given Germany’s tryst with the totalitarianism of its Third Reich—against which the United States battled during World War II—one can understand though not condone the sympathetic response to the wares of Trump in these dark and perilous times of America’s slow economic recovery in which, nevertheless, the nation’s wealth is concentrated in one-percent of its people.
In this same vein, it’s Trump’s hate speeches that add fuel to the fire. Hate Speech is defined as “speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.” [It’s] a term for “speech intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against someone based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. The term covers written as well as oral communication.” Hate speech is “a communication that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, especially in circumstances in which the communication is likely to provoke animosity or violence. It is an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like. Hate speech can be any form of expression regarded as offensive to racial, ethnic and religious groups and other discrete minorities or to women” (Wikipedia).
”In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected group by certain characteristics. In some countries, a victim of hate speech may seek redress under civil law, criminal law, or both. A website that uses hate speech is called a hate site. Most of these sites contain Internet forums and news briefs that emphasize a particular viewpoint. There has been debate over how freedom of speech applies to the Internet as well as hate speech in general. Critics have argued that the term “hate speech” is a contemporary example of Newspeak, used to silence critics of Social policies that have been poorly implemented in a rush to appear politically correct.” (Wikipedia)
Important to bear in mind is that the First Amendment is not absolute. Particular words forbidden by the First Amendment is the word “fire: as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater” and causing panic when there is no “fire.” This injunction was popularized by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes emanating out of Schenck v. United States (1919). A more recent prohibition is use of the word “bomb” maliciously or to promote panic on an airplane.
In a number of cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that the odious speech of the Ku Klux Klan is protected under the First Amendment. This may be the caveat that protects the hate speech of Donald Trump. Protected or not, Donald Trump’s “hate speech” is inciting a rash of public hate speech, most of it directed toward American Hispanics (U.S. Hispanics) and Hispanic Americans (from Hispanic/Latin America like Mexico). This hate speech is specifically directed at Mexican Americans.
Trump’s verbal assault on Hispanics has engendered responses from prominent Hispanics world-wide. A piece in Forbes (November 4, 2015) by Dolia Estevez lists responses by 67 notable international Hispanic personalities and intellectuals to Trump’s “hate speech” against Hispanics as “dangerous.”
The Forbes piece continues:
In a signed statement published throughout the Spanish-speaking world in papers such as Mexico’s Reforma, Spain’s El País, Argentina’s Clarín and Peru’s El Comercio-the group said that Trump’s “verbal assault” against Mexican immigrants “appeals to the lowest passions” of “xenophobia, machismo, political intolerance and religious dogmatism.” The group includes Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, Academy Award film director Alejandro González Iñárritu, actors Demián Bichir and Diego Luna, and historians Enrique Krauze and Francisco Goldman. They criticize Trump for calling his adversaries “stupid and weak” Trump’s behavior, they warn, “is not worthy of a candidate to the Presidency of the most powerful country in the world. We condemn his behavior and hope that the American people stop tolerating his absurd positions” (Ibid).
In response to Trump’s vitriol against Mexicans, a surge of Trump piñatas are selling like hot-cakes. Mexicans and Mexican Americans are beating the stuffing out of them. In toto, Trump has labeled Hispanic immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists” as well as “killers,” emphasizing that the Mexican government is intentionally sending these flawed citizens of theirs to the United States to disrupt American society. In a recent U-tube video the former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, excoriated Trump for that defamation. In a side-bar, Trump opined that Jeb Bush liked Mexicans because of his Mexican-born wife, adding that blacks and Hispanics were responsible for crime across the country (Carolina Moreno, “9 Outrageous Things Trump has said about Latinos,” Latino Voices, The Huffington Post, 08/31/ 2015).
For some time now, Donald Trump’s rant has been about building a wall between the United States and Mexico. The most outrageous of Trump’s diatribe against Mexicans is his assertion that his Mexican wall will be paid for by Mexico (Felipe de Ortego y Gasca, “Donald Trump’s Mexican Wall,” National Institute for Latino Policy, January 12, 2015). In Mexico, Trump has become a payaso—a clown. Among Mexican Americans, Trump is regarded as a “Pendejo”—a Dummy who shoots from the mouth for affect. Surprisingly, this rant has been received enthusiastically not only by the Republican evangelical base but by a wider swath of the national Republican electorate. This does not bode well for American Hispanics and Latinos as Spanish progeny especially undocumented Mexicans in the United States and Mexican Americans who are simply regarded as “Mexicans” (by many Anglo-Americans especially Donald Trump)—who caterwauls that all of them should be deported regardless of how many generations they’ve been Americans.
According to Charles Evans “Trump is using the unabridged dog whistle to stir up the least intelligent voters. He’s using Hitler’s play book” (Quora, https://wwwquora. com/Why-does-Donald-Trump-hate-Mexicans-so-much). Trump threatened Mexico with war to collect the cost of building his Mexican wall, “and if Mexico doesn’t want to pay for the wall, there will be war” (Fusion, March 10, 2016). According to Armstrong Williams, Donald Trump has turned hate speech “into a virtue masquerading as a sword of truth against the evil of political correctness” (RightSide Wire, 3/14/16). In many quarters, Trump is regarded as “the great White Hope,” defender of White Supremacy.
At a Washington, DC rally, Trump said he’d “send all Mexicans back to Mexico.” Did he really mean “all Mexicans” including Mexican Americans? This comment harkens images of the Mexican “repatriation” roundups of the 1930 when U.S. efforts to curb Mexican immigration included rounding up Mexican Americans who were U.S. citizens. Over the years I’ve interviewed a number of Mexican Americans who were “repatriated” to Mexico during the 1930s roundups.
What prompted those Mexican roundups in the 1930s was the mass migration of more than one-and-a-half million Mexicans trekking north from Mexico during the years from 1910 to 1930. Ernesto Galarza described that migration as one of the most significant migrations in human history prompted principally by the destabilizing effects of the Mexican Civil War (1913-1921, oftentimes called The Mexican Revolution) wrought by the assassination of the Mexican president Francisco Madero in 1913 by the usurper General Victoriano Huerta. Madero had been elected president after a 35 year reign of dictatorship by Porfirio Diaz.
In a Hate Index the term “wetback” may not ring the bell but nevertheless it still rankles as hate speech. Recently, Alaska representative Don Young (R), referred to Mexicans as “wetbacks” on a public radio interview in California. The term has had derogatory connotations since 1944 when the Border Patrol began using the term to identify Mexicans crossing “illegally” into the United States. The term conjures images of Mexicans swimming or wading across the Rio Grande to gain access to the United States.
In a meeting with NBC executives over the propriety of Donald Trump hosting a Saturday Night Live episode, “NBC News President Deborah Turness’s comments about a young Latina girl were intended to show compassion. Instead, they were racially insensitive and a California legislator reacted negatively and made his views known:
Near the start of the meeting, Turness was describing a story her network had covered about Pope Francis’ interaction with a young girl who said she feared her parents would be deported. Turness referred to the girl’s parents as “illegals.” This statement did not sit well with the attendees. California Democrat Rep. Juan Vargas protested: “I’m going to stop you right there. We use the term undocumented immigrants.” (Jose Cobos, Latinos, Media, November 28, 2015).
In a recent article, Devon Peña explains that
Given the recent controversy over the Harvard dissertation by Jason Richwine, in which he argues that Latina/o immigrants are a permanent underclass because of their low IQ, there is growing interest in the history of scientific racism (e.g., see our posts of May 16 and May 17). The social construction of the Black/Mexican/Native American/Asian/Arab male as a threatening ‘Other’ is as old as the rise of European colonialism. But scientific racism is not just an aberrant historical curiosity. It actually resides within the heart of white culture in the United States to this date.
Not surprisingly, the tropes and myths of scientific racism continue to thrive in the legal and popular culture of the U.S. Want to defend a white man for killing a black man? Invoke the old stereotype of the menacing black male as a defense. The endurance of this construct is illustrated by the mainstream media coverage of the defense strategy being used by legal counsel for George Zimmerman, the white man charged with the February 2012 murder of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin.
“The persistence of an idea: the savage menacing ‘other’: Scientific Racism is alive and Thrives in U.S. Ciultural and Media Milieu,” Devon G. Peña | Seattle, WA | May 29, 2013.
These are the tropes and myths Donald Trump has tapped into in his ravaging onslaught against Mexicans. Most non-Hispanic/Latino Americans know little or nothing about the Hispanic heritage of the United States. What’s that?” they ask, never having learned that the territory comprising the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and parts of Wyoming Kansas, and Oklahoma were once more than half of what is now Mexico—a territory bigger than the countries of Spain, France, and Italy combined with a population estimate of some 3 million people in cities like San Antonio, El Paso, Santa Fe, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterrey, San Francisco mid smaller communities spread throughout Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
Frederick Jackson Turner had it all wrong—or he lied—that the 529,000 square miles of that territory was an unpopulated and desolate wasteland waiting for the American spirit to ignite its potential. The Tejanos who encouraged American settlements in Texas in the 1820s should have insisted that those Americans come to Texas with Green Cards.
This vast region of borderland was first formally conceptualized by the American historian Herbert Eugene Bolton who perceived the borderlands as an area with a lively interactive system of commerce, macroeconomics, and isotopic relationships covering the length and breadth of the Americas and stretching back to the times of indigenous peoples long before the arrival of Europeans in the region. According to Velez-Ibanez, “the area was an arena of constant turmoil and dynamic change” (56). This attests to the historical permeability of the region since ancient times (Ruiz, 2). A.C. Haddon tells us that “the movement of peoples which are sufficiently dramatic for the ordinary historian to record are often of less importance than the quiet steady drift of a population from one area into another” (The Wanderings of Peoples, Cambridge, 1911, pp. 4,5).
For many Americans “the U.S.-Mexico border is a land that time forgot” (Truett) peopled by renegades and bandits such as Geronimo and Pancho Villa. In “Border Studies,” Paul Jay explains that a “border zone” is a liminal place of intercultural contact and hybridization where people from very different cultures and historical backgrounds imprise everything from identities to art forms, foods, and political alliances” It is, in other words, “a contestatory space for emerging cultures,” as Santiago Vaquera-Basquez explains.
And it is in this “contestatory space” that external (global) forces impact local circumstances producing formative changes. Adding to this concept of “contestatory space,” Samuel Truett posits that “before the United States annexed northern Mexico in 1848 (and in 1854 the Gadsden area) this was a contested terrain of empires, nations, and native communities. The indigenous people and their “ blended progeny have made it what it is.
In 1731, sixteen families from the Canary Islands of Spain made their way arduously across the Atlantic Ocean to a pin-point spot in New Spain—now Texas—with a mandate to establish a Spanish Settlement on the banks of the San Antonio River. Today San Antonio sits at the geographic center of North America as the 7th largest city in the United States. In that spot the 16 Canary Island families built “La Villita”—which eventually became the city of San Antonio, Texas. One of those sixteen families from the Canary Islands of Spain was the Perez family which eventually amalgamated members of the Gasca family. Fertility and motility have increased the size of the Gasca clan. My mother was a Campos-Gasca. My father was an Ortego-Mendes—His mother Catarina Mendes was a Sephardic Jew.
Important to note is that on my maternal grandfather’s side, Atilano Campos, a Huastecan Apache Indio, my ancestral roots stretch back 20,000 years on the American continent. We are, thus, not recent immigrants to the Americas. The Americas were “brown” before they were “white.”
The question of this essay looms large: is Trump campaigning as “Patriot” or as “Patriarch”?
The projection is that he’s campaigning as “Patriot”—Savior of all that is American. But his words project him as “Patriarch”—pater familias—who will take care of all that needs taking care of. So far, in response to all of the issues paramount in the United States, his response has been: “We’ll take care of that.” No plan! Trust me!
At this point in American history, we don’t need a Patriot Savior. Julius Caesar was a Patriot Savior who laid the foundation for the ultimate fall of Rome. And we don’t need a Benevolent Patriarch either. Porfirio Diaz was a Benevolent Patriarch of Mexico for 35 apodictic years from 1877 to 1911, ruling Mexico as if Mexicans were his children who could not take care of themselves.
In conclusion, for many Americans Donald Trump is seen as a patriot defending the nation; others see him as a patriarch of old—father of the fatherland—caring for his flock; in reality Donald Trump has shown his hand as a “petrarch”—a rock-fisted ruler with autocratic tendencies leaning toward despotism—the first of his kind to emerge in the governance of the United States and, perhaps—not the last. OMG!
Copyright 2017 by Felipe De Ortego y Gasca.