Immigration

Ivanka Trump — the would-be conscience of the Trump family — is appalled at the treatment of immigrant families. In an Axios forum she said the following:

“That was a low point for me as well. I feel very strongly about that, and I am very vehemently against family separation and the separation of parents and children.”

Let’s pull that apart. We’ll start with the “me”. The subject of the conversation had been immigrant families and their treatment. But as soon as a Trump latches on to something the consideration shifts to how the thing effects them. She could have said it was a low point for the country, or for every decent American, or anyone who believed in the parent/child bond. But no, it was Ivanka’s low point.

You might think I’m being harsh or even unfair. And I grant you, if that was all she said, you would have a point. But it wasn’t. In the very next sentence, she gets in two ‘I’s.

And if you need more, Ivanka also offered this:

“I think immigration is incredibly complex as a topic, illegal immigration is incredibly complicated. I am a daughter of an immigrant, my mother [Ivana Trump] grew up in Communist Czech Republic, but we are a country of laws. She came to this country legally.” 

Once again she makes it about her. And she conveniently omits her mother’s marriage at 22 to Austrian Alfred Winklmayr. This so-called ‘Cold War Marriage’ — it was never consummated — netted Ivana an Austrian passport. When you want to get out of a shithole, you do what you have to — no?

But enough about that, let’s return to the original quote and look at her use of intensifiers. There are two ‘very’s. Very is almost useless and it plays no role when paired with words like ‘strongly’ and ‘vehemently’. What is the difference between ‘vehemently’ and ‘very vehemently’?

The use of intensifiers often points to insincerity. The speaker wants to say the ‘right thing’ so she throws in extra adverbs to act as clubs to convince the audience of her commitment to the cause. But the extra adverb makes the case weaker.

Consider the difference between “Damn, she’s fast” and “Damn, she’s very fast”. The difference may not be large, but the first version says everything, while the second is clunky. It’s like a t-shirt. Plain ‘t’s are just that — unpretentious. But a bedazzled ‘t’ almost invariably looks cheap and overdone.

Language, like clothes, is usually better unadorned. So keep it simple unless you are Charles Dickens or Robert Cavalli.

Further evidencing Ivanka’a need to convince the listener of her sincerity is that she says things twice. She both feels “very strongly” and is “vehemently opposed” to both “ family separation” and “the separation of parents and children”. 

In the second example, immigration and the law get a good work out. Immigration is both “incredibly complex” and “incredibly complicated” — and neither “incredibly” adds anything.

Bearing all of this in mind, what happens if we remove ego, intensifiers, and repetition from her first offering? We would be left with something like this:

”That was a low point for the country. The separation of children from their parents is cruel and unAmerican.”

I think that’s says it all.

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