Words Matter

Trump creates such a maelstrom wherever he goes, it’s hard to focus on any one thing. But I can’t shake the fact that he referred to Yad Vashem in Israel — the country’s Holocaust memorial — as “amazing.”

I visited Yad Vashem with Jerry in the 1970’s, when we accompanied his father Max on a two week trip there, my first to a Middle Eastern country. I only made it halfway through the memorial before I had to leave, overcome with emotion. I remember the exact display that undid me. There was a description — oral histories from the few survivors who had hidden or run into the woods — about Nazi storm troopers eradicating an entire village. This was early in the genocide, before the extermination camps were operational. Nazi soldiers marched families in a long line to the edge of a huge pit, where they were machine-gunned. Parents were talking with their small children, smiling, singing to them, so that they would be unaware of what was happening and their terror held at bay until the final moments. I wasn’t yet a parent, but no matter. I simply couldn’t contain my sense of horror and grief — and I couldn’t bear to see any more.

Words I would use about Yad Vashem are “heartbreaking, chilling, dark, horrifying, reverent, overwhelming.” I would use the word “amazing” about the new roller coaster at the shore in New Jersey, or about a gourmet meal, or about an encounter with a . .natural wonder.

Trump is not simply verbally illiterate. He’s an emotionally vacuous man. Everyone around him, everyone who defends his defenseless statements, is tarnished by his emptiness.

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