The next several days promise to be bad ones for a former American president who uncharacteristically may be left at a loss for words.
Chances are, though, he’ll ignore an upcoming observance that our country – still awash in insults – needs as never before.
Hold onto your hat (or actually, your tongue), Mr. ex-president, because Jan. 17-21 just happens to be: National No Name-Calling Week.
Yes, that’s really a thing, backed by a coalition of some 60 education-oriented organizations, including Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
In 2004, the company and a group that now calls itself GLSEN (pronounced “glisten” and formerly the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) came up with the idea as a way of fighting discrimination and bullying in schools.
Inspiration came from a Simon & Schuster novel, The Misfits, by James Howe, which chronicles how seventh graders try to put an end to name-calling at their middle school.
Today’s no-name-calling coalition provides research data, advice, and program suggestions to schools, but it takes little imagination to see the benefits if we grown-ups climb aboard.
We all know the toxic legacy of the former name-caller in chief:
– Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s “mind is shot.”
– Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline is “a loser.”
– Investigative reporter Carl Bernstein “thinks like a degenerate fool.”
– South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn “doesn’t have a clue.”
– New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is “a third-rate reporter.”
– Former Maryland Rep. the late Elijah Cummings “should investigate himself.”
– Actor Robert De Niro “may be punch-drunk.”
– Former Arizona Sen. the late John McCain is “a dummy.”
– The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen holds “nervous relievers who get shellacked.”
– Former Georgia Rep. the late John Lewis is “all talk, no action or results.”
– Actress Bette Midler is “a washed-up psycho.”
– CNN chief national correspondent (and University of Rhode Island graduate) John King is “underachieving.”
– Columnist Maureen Dowd is “wacky.”
– MSNBC anchor Willie Geist is “uncomfortable looking.”
– Dr. Anthony Fauci “threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of baseball.”
Well, enough of that, even if one grants that Fauci’s pitching (not exactly his area of professional expertise) was indeed a bummer.
But we don’t need Mr. Trump to remind us that name-calling is pervasive; history itself provides examples even in royal epithets. You can look up Juana the mad, Archibald the loser, Vasily the cross-eyed, Alphonso the slobberer, Conrad the fat, Childeric the idiot, Louis the good-for-nothing, and Frederick III, “arch-sleepyhead of the Holy Roman Empire.”
Then there was Goderich the blubberer, Louis the sluggard, Isabella the she-wolf, Louis the unavoidable, and, of course, Ivan the terrible.
So, with all this in mind, let’s hear it for the no-name callers and their attempt to stanch vitriol where it starts, in our kids – while remembering that they draw their attitudes from what we teach them.
I’m all-in on the coming observance. However, if you disagree with this essay and yearn to call me a blockhead, that’s up to you – but in the interest of cooperation, please wait until Jan. 22.
Gerry Goldstein is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.
More information on No Name-Calling Week can be found at glsen.org/nncw.