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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Spirited, adversarial, sometimes sentimental, language: What Trump doesn’t know about language is crucial

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“The work of a good teacher is never done. And it is always waiting for the listener.” — Jorge Luis Borges, 1974

Like Borges, I, like everyone else, am often tempted to callously dismiss language, space, and culture itself as “helpless.” As a journalist and a translator myself, I have also been tempted to forget and dismiss language, space, and culture altogether. But despite their seemingly sullied character — the same boogeymen who scare kids away from the tent, and make adults hold their breath at bus stops — language, space, and culture are not inert blobs to be feared, abandoned, or scrapped for cosmetic reasons. We can live within them, absorb them, embrace them, or even use them as inanimate objects. But they are alien, awful things to be exiled from.

As a country with a whopping 62 percent millennial population, we must learn how to embrace and analyze language, space, and culture — and also how to make them ours. We must learn to heal with and in and for others.

For me, the most formative and sublime educational experience of my life was being sent to Florida to finish a three-year degree in cultural studies. I couldn’t have survived without my home in Florida, and Florida, in me, because without it I wouldn’t have the richness of the culture I am so hungry to consume. I wouldn’t be here now, having written this essay, because I would likely have been told to go back home and finish my degree in English, and/or go work for a multinational corporation.

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