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Dicit stercore bucinum

"Many people listen with the intent to respond, not to understand." Stephen R. Covey.


My house has always been one that says Merry Christmas very loudly every Dec. 25th, as was my fathers house as was his fathers house, and this year was no exception. I love Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who emerged from his mothers womb in a humble stable or manger surrounded by gentle creatures and shell-shocked shepherds who had just wandered down from the hills after getting their ever-loving minds blown when a host of angels filled the night sky and revealed what had just transpired in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph were in town to comply with Herod the Great's mandatory census so that they might record the names of his subjects to be taxed up the wazoo to fund the Judea infrastructure plan. A few days later 3 Maji rolled into town and told King Harod that a new and improved "King of the Jews" had been born in Bethlehem and they wanted to pay homage to this baby. Sly Harod told these Easterners to send back word the minute they find the child, but upon finding the babe in swaddling cloths these wise men were visited in their dreams and warned to keep quiet about the child, not tell Harod a word and sneak out the back door of Judea and go home. Joseph got a similar message in his own dream telling him to pack up and get his family into Egypt (NOT easily done in those days) for the protection of the boy who's actual paternity was still uncertain. Harod, learning of the maji's double-cross, called in his sooth sayer and, based on the common interpretation of scripture, ordered the execution of all male babies in Bethlehem under the age of two. This city was packed to the rafters with visitors from all over the kingdom in compliance with a bureaucratic administrative order and the families left with dead sons strapped to their back. Some people say America has an unfair tax system and "broken" immigration system - in fact, I say that... often - but it's important to remember that it could always be worse.

For Christmas this year I received two books in my stocking that Santa probably considered incongruous but which, upon deep reading and contemplation,  I found to be complimentary and somewhat enlightening. The first, titled "How to Win an Argument" by Marcus Tullius Cicero and edited by James M. May, is a fascinating exploration of the art of rhetoric as defined my the Roman master in his own words with helpful annotation by Mr. May. The second, titled "SH*T TRUMP SAYS" by "a failing writer" (that is the actual attribution) is an attempt to cherry pick the quotes of Donald J Trump and paint him to be an inconsistent, boorish narcissist who has no business being POTUS and deserves to be stabbed in the back by all 100 Senators.  Hard to imagine two books more at odds, and though their respective authors probably can't believe it, they make a unifying point.

It is ironic that a man who's head and hands were severed and placed on rostra (the stage where famous orators of the day delivered their speeches to the people) by his enemies would be remembered as someone who knew how to win an argument, but that's how they see it in Western Civilization. Cicero was a lover of language and a philosophical thinker of the highest order, which was probably reason enough to kill him, and he wrote many volumes on the art of speaking. At a young age - what would be a junior high schooler today - the great man mused upon the birth of eloquent speech that emerged from "a time when people wandered in the fields far and wide, like beasts" and suffered deprivation "because of their own error and ignorance."
"At this point in time, a man - great and wise to be sure - came to recognize the innate potential and the boundless opportunity for great accomplishments residing in the human spirit, if only someone could draw it out and improve it through instruction. He systematically assembled the people in one place; scattered in the fields and living hidden in their woodland shelters, he brought them together, introducing them to every useful and honorable pursuit. At first, because of the novelty of the thing, they strongly objected; but then, as they began to listen more earnestly, he transformed them through reason and speech from wild, savage creatures into tame and gentle people."
Cicero, writing 30 years later, reiterates essentially the same hypothesis in De Oratore which shows his consistency but also shows that the statesman still thought as a teenager does well into middle-age and he completely denies the fact that whoever or whatever this great and wise man was, he was nothing like the Senators and lawyers arguing their case in the Roman councils and courts. This man, this organizer and builder, this change agent who "assembled the people" and "recognized the innate potential" they possessed was not the kind of guy who studied rhetoric. Most likely, he had natural gifts and spoke in an unorthodox style that grabbed the peoples attention and ignited their passions because he spoke honestly and without shame. Did some people "strongly object" to this message and its mode of delivery? You bet they did, but the people who listened were transformed and they created a society where rhetoricians are free to refine their craft. This "first man" was not a Cicero but rather a hybrid of the tyrant Harod who ruled with a brutal iron fist and the bad-ass Rabbi and miracle worker who knew the law and traditions better than his advisaries and threw it back in their face with love and honesty.

Which brings to mind shit Trump says and has been saying his entire life, as best I can remember, though the same people who seemed to love it then (before he got into politics) hate it now. They even write bathroom reading books about it thinking, I suppose, that the quotes and tweets of DJT prove something horrible about him - something contemptible and "disqualifying" not just for high office which he attained due to Russian interference in the US electoral process but for human existence itself. But for those who pick up the book and open to a random page the effect is far different than intended. Examples:
"The failing @nytimes is truly one of the worst newspapers. They knowingly write lies and never even call to fact check. Really bad people." Twitter post, March 13, 2016
This tweet is absolutely true in every respect. What is the "failing writer" who stuck it in his book trying to say? That Trump is honest? How about this one:
"Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a really bad job as governor of California and even worse on the Apprentice... but at least he tried hard!" Twitter post, February 3, 2017
Ummm... and that's a problematic tweet because of what, exactly? Let's try this again:
"Lightweight chocker Marco Rubio looks like a little boy on stage. Not presidential material!" Twitter post, February 26, 2016
Look, I don't care if it makes you mad to read this stuff - it's frigg'n true. Trump's secret - his real power - comes from his courage and willingness to tell the truth to a world built on lies. Faced with these truths his opponents start brushing up on their Cicero to argue against him and point out Trump's deficiencies in eloquence and form. But it's very hard to argue against the truth and the only way to "win" is through personal destruction of the truth-teller. So when Trump travels to Davos (of all places) and sits down to discuss trade with Rwandan leader Paul Kagame the journalists naturally focus on the pressing issues of the day.
"However, Trump did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether the pair had discussed the US President's reported description of African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries." Trump denies using that term."
The last sitting president to speak at the World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland (NOT a shithole country) was Bill Clinton and let's remember, if we dare, conditions in Rwanda under his leadership. But no, "shithole countries" is the here and now - the question of the day and it's a lot more uncomfortable to be asked about it if you're the leader of a shithole country than if you're the leader of the free world.
"We had good discussions, on those two levels, the bilateral relations between Rwanda and the United States, Rwanda has benefited tremendously from the support of the United States," he (Kagame) said. "You have supported our economy in trade, investment, we see a lot of promise from the United States."
The entire controversy and it's ensuing fallout was the result of Trump shooting down an immigration "compromise" hammered out by Ciceroian exemplars Dick Durban and Lindsey Graham who then turned around and leaked the "shithole countries" comment to the #FakeNews scumbags who blew it up into a major thing. Does anyone think that any of these US Senators don't use this kind of offhand slang to describe unbalanced regimes, political advisaries - even their own constituents behind closed doors? Petulant dishonest back-stabbing frauds who don't get their way resort to underhanded liable when their plans are thwarted. And thwarted they were. And this is where Cicero starts to make some sense because though he spent a lot of time defining the methodology of argument - the arrangement of argument, the style of delivery, etc - he had to admit, when all was said and done, that it was delivery that set the great messengers apart from all the also rans.
"All of these things, however, are as effective as their delivery makes them. Delivery, I am telling you, is the one dominant factor in oratory. Without it, even the best orator cannot be of any account at all, while an average speaker equipped with this skill can often outdo the best orators. It is to delivery that they say Demosthenes, when asked what was most important in oratory, gave first, second, and third place."
It's true - check it out:

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