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At a Loss For Words

Congratulations to Trump and his administration for the decision to ban the use of certain words by employees at the Centers For Disease Control. A move like that is bold and creative, but let’s be honest. It does open up a can of worms.

The thinkers on the Trump team might be wise to “get proactive” on this. Otherwise, what began as a brilliant political maneuver, could go south on them before they can even say “vulnerable transgender fetus.”

As a result of the ban, a somewhat predictable group of non-banned words will almost certainly come into more heavy usage. These words will then be used to create sentences and express ideas that may be harmful to Trump or his administration.

This means, just for starters, that several additional words will also have to be banned. The next wave of banned terms will probably include these or similar: oligarchy, moronic, narcissist, corporatist, misogynist and fascist.

But once started down the road of eliminating a specific group of ‘elite” words, there can be no turning back. The list of banned terms will inevitably expand. Eventually even words that are in common usage will have to go.

The explanation for this inevitability is not complex. Humans have the ability change and adapt the language they use! They invent new words. They use alternate words to express similar ideas. They even assign new meaning to existing words.

Clearly, Trump and his minions have crossed a threshold of sorts. Any reasonable person can now see that the biggest problem that once faced the CDC was an excess of words. Now that the problem has been solved, the President must act quickly to prevent the development of an even bigger problem.

What has been created here, is a new type of permanent emergency. Trump will need to create a Special Commission, and imbue it with broad sweeping powers. It will have to be an organization with the ability to quickly identify all words that might be deployed against his administration. It must be a commission with the legal authority to ban such words, and compel everyone to stop using them.

The commission could meet, let’s say, once a week. It could use US security agencies and private corporations to (continue to) spy on everyone. The goal would be to identify emerging linguistic trends. As new words to express dissatisfaction with what we can still call “fascism” emerge, those words will have to be eliminated.

Losing the capacity to express oneself may be a small price to pay for the societal benefits obtained by preventing wholesale use of dangerous words. But it does mean that the vocabulary you have acquired over a lifetime will soon be obsolete. You will be denied the use of many of your most cherished descriptors. Whole phrases may eventually be banned. It might be wise, therefore, to consider using your most powerful, poignant, defiant, descriptive or critical words very soon, while you still can. Otherwise those words could end up like stranded assets, left in the mind to rot.

Some of you may still think these machinations will not affect you. You may feel that if you are not saying anything ‘bad’ you have nothing to worry about. But consider this:

First, they will come for pointy-headed liberal words like ‘multiculturalism.’ You won’t stand up because you are not a ‘multiculturalist.’ Next they will come for whole phrases like ‘non-binary gender orientation.’ You won’t stand up because you have no idea what the hell that even means.

But as the vocabulary of revolt expands, and the language allowed to express it shrinks, the word-massacre will come to bite us all on the posterior. When they finally come for those that use the phrase: “Fuck all yall!” there will be no one left to stand up for you.

Paul Dean is a musician and writer living in Northern California. He can be reached at

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