I have a confession. I am a big fan of the noble art of the insult. It makes our democracy that much healthier. The insult, more than impertinence, has a great defining power. There are guys that you cannot describe in a reliable way, if not with a good insult. An idiot is not the same as an imbecile, nor a donkey is a rat, nor a fool as a son-of-a-hyena. There are many degrees of stupidity and evil. Bin Laden is not comparable to the inventor of the start-stop system in my car, but only by a bit.
My go-to theologians do not agree with me on this, but I maintain that the insult is a commendable work of charity. To the extent that you define a dangerous fellow accurately, you forewarn those who will interact with him of what awaits them. Saying that a thief is “not an entirely honorable person” leaves the thief unpunished and his victims helpless. Gee, I suspect I won’t get the Best Catholic Journalist award this year either.
Insulting is good for your health. It improves your complexion, aids digestion, and improves your eyesight; there comes a time when you can see an asshole coming from a hundred miles away. But insulting also improves circulation. When you’re in front of an idiot in action and you don’t externalize it in some way, the “idiot” stays inside you, nests, and could give rise to a bloodstream full of stupid cells. It’s my own theory, but I am convinced that if I attribute it to some Himalayan shaman it will seem more plausible to you.
And more than about being rude it is all about being precise. Spanish from Spain — forgive me — is perhaps the richest language in terms of the nuances of its insults. At last we are world champions in something! On my desk sits a thick volume entitled El gran libro de los insultos (“The Great Book of Insults”), with thousands of offensive slurs for all kinds of people and situations. It’s 1,152 pages full of centuries’ worth of abuse and outbursts. Heaven, for any columnist. Most of them are of local usage, only comprehensible in certain regions, but if you study their history you discover an exciting world chockablock full of rich nuances. Some of the insults in this dictionary are breathtakingly beautiful; unfortunately, most are impossible to translate into English, because most of them are barely understandable in Spanish.
One of my favorites is “five minutes to idiot,” referring to one who is perhaps not yet a full-on idiot, but is not far from it. Also popular among scholars is the so-called “fool in a window,” which is a fool who likes to air his stupidity publicly. We are quite comfortable swinging the odd “24-hour fool,” which is a contumacious idiot, who manages to keep his stupidity constant at any time. And so we have, in Spanish, up to two dozen “fools” with their nuances. Don’t tell me it’s not wonderful.
But not everyone can throw a good insult. An insult issued hatefully is just hate, not insult. Sweetening the insult only sows doubts as to the insulters’ sexual orientation. He who does it under his breath, however, shows nothing other than faintness of heart. After Monday’s press conference, we know that Joe Biden is flaccid even when it comes to insults. His outbursts, as we say in Spain, are nothing more than “a nun’s pinch.” Peter Doocy should feel good because another aspect of the insult is that it often defines the sender more than the receiver. This is especially true of those who insult hatefully, unconcerned with the element of definition. Such is the case of the president. His outburst against Doocy did not come from his head, but from his crotch.
The president is increasingly aware of his incapacity. That is why he repeatedly loses his temper in front of journalists. A few days ago he inadvertently authorized Russia to invade Ukraine a little bit, and last week he dubbed “stupid” a question that was not at all stupid. This time his answer to a question about inflation was “son of a b*tch.” If he keeps going like this, God knows what will be the next insult to spring from the bad conscience of the most incompetent president in recent times. (READ MORE from Itxu Díaz: Please Take Your Seats! The War Is About to Start)
I guess it’s all part of the same pattern. Biden was supposedly the moderate one and has turned out to be the most radical of all. He was the expert in government and is more disoriented than an octopus in a garage. He was the one for dialogue and yet he is incapable of coming to an agreement with anyone. And he was the one against war, but so far he has already set fire to Taiwan, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. So it should come as no surprise that the guy who was presented as the great gentleman of American politics is now the same guy who keeps insulting everybody. And I don’t blame him for that. What really bothers me is that he doesn’t know how to throw a decent insult. This is blatantly obvious from how, after insulting someone, he goes and apologizes. Only an idiot apologizes after insulting, once he has already said what he really thinks.
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