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President Trump and the Common Misuse of “Tyrant”

            The truth, as surprising as it may seem, is that “tyrant” is not an inherently negative word. In fact, it has no connotation at all. “Tyrant”, by Webster’s definition, is “an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution”. As a proud member of a western society, I feel uneasy about that definition, but it is simply because democratic societies train us to demand a constitution, checks and balances, and power vested in the people. In classical Greek times, tyrannies popped up all over the Mediterranean. Some were successful and some were not, but they were the most prominent way of governing. After democracy developed in Athens, the notion of a tyranny being unacceptable flourished. Time has since corrupted the meaning of the word completely and, today, journalists, citizens, and reporters sling the term around with little understanding the true, ancient meaning. Most recently and frequently, President Trump has fallen victim to the misuse of the word. In Foreign Policy’s article “The Tyrannical Mr. Trump,” Michael Hirsh has uniquely captured the true, ancient meaning of the word as he unpacks possible outcomes of President Trump’s potential impeachment and removal process. It is important to note that while Hirsh does a successful job of defining the term and relating it to Trump, he writes with a bias hand.

            The definition has two parts: 1. “An absolute ruler,” and 2. “Unrestrained by law or constitution”. Hirsh unraveled both aspects of the term.

            First, Hirsh determines that Trump has completely neglected all demands of a constitutional democracy. For example, he outlines Trump’s shady past in foreign policy and how he has used his positional inappropriately. He relates this back to the second portion of the definition. Hirsh claims, “This president has little use for the Constitution or the traditions of American democracy. He sides with the autocrats of the world because he himself is one—or, at the very least, aspires to be”. I agree with him in the way he mentioned the disregard for the Constitution, which corresponds directly to a Tyrant. However, I disagree with the use of “autocrat”. When discussing and analyzing a ruler, it blurs the argument when Hirsh mixes “autocrat” and “tyrant” as if they are interchangeable when they are not.

            The line between modern and ancient definitions blurs only when Hirsh cites Trump’s intimidation techniques and his arguably offensive personality. This reminds me of the current, publically accepted definition of tyranny, “a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally”. After elaborately comparing Trump’s unorthodox tendencies and comparing him to Hitler, Hirsh leaves his audience with a question, “If Trump is convicted in the end and refuses to leave office, who exactly will remove him?” Although it is interpolation and partially opinion, Hirsh begs the reader to turn their attention to the first portion of the ancient definition of “tyrant”: absolute.

            To summarize, Hirsh, through his bias, does properly use the ancient definition of “Tyrant” for the majority of his article. This is a rare occurrence, especially in a world of “fake news” and dirty media, as the public would immediately equate tyranny to dictatorship as the ancient Greeks roll over in their graves.    

Ava Harding                                                                                                          536 Words

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