Let’s Strip Away the President’s Only Asset — His Name Brand

It’s time to declare the T-word a profanity

MMore than 110 confederate monuments and tributes have been removed from nearly half of the states in the U.S. in recent years, marking a new era of how we as a nation reconcile the darker aspects of our history. While detractors of the effort see these objects as important cultural artifacts, supporters say they glorify a shameful past. The more sinister figures of our history should be documented, they argue — but not given undue honor.

Such a movement is largely symbolic, of course, and no substitute for the long and difficult work of recovering from the past’s societal harms. But these successful acts of protest have helped some Americans replace powerlessness with an immediate hint of agency. History remains, but glory is diminished.

A similar sense of helplessness affects many citizens today — not regarding our past, but our present. As the behavior of our president continues its steady descent, we’re running out of ways to fight back. The Mueller report was deemed unactionable, impeachment proceedings are uncertain, and approval ratings barely budge. Even our normal remedy, a free and fair election, feels in jeopardy.

Without our conventional methods, perhaps a new form of protest could provide a more immediate source of power. After all, any malignant narcissist derives strength from his identity, and our chief executive incessantly glorifies himself with that five-letter word. History will render its judgment in time — but what if our most effective weapon against him today were to strike his name from our tongues?

While it may sound outlandish at first, consider this humble proposal. Days like these call for a new profanity, and canceling the T-word may be our best hope.

InIn its most literal sense, profanity signals a lack of respect for the sacred. We may not have such totems in a secular country, but certain aspects of our enterprise have earned an almost spiritual sense of reverence — the Constitution, the rule of law, the balance of power. Yet this president has defiled such ideas as though he’s Sharpie-ing his way through a checklist.

He doesn’t merely circumvent the pillars of democracy. He mocks them, in plain view, threatening violence and imprisonment upon those who might object. He feeds on notoriety, casting himself as equal parts messiah and victim. And he frames every issue around his own fragile ego, wielding the grotesque habit of referring to himself in the third person — as though simultaneously inhabiting both man and brand.

The president built his business empire around this persona, creating a dynasty and personal brand meant to be synonymous with wealth, power, and excess. Even despite an ever-growing litany of disgraced ventures in his past — whether they ended in bankruptcy or fraud — licensing that name somehow remains lucrative, particularly in the world’s shadier corners. But here at home, Americans are better off decoupling the president from his personal brand, collectively acknowledging that the actual value of his name is worthless.

The word’s current namesakes have rendered these meanings obsolete.

Of course, responsible media outlets must continue covering the man’s actions — as he and his henchmen blithely ignore truth and accountability, transparency remains essential. And we as citizens must maintain a vigilant watch, painful as that task may be. But in our day-to-day discourse, we’ll agree that the T-word no longer has a place in polite society.

We have precedents for such an arrangement. When a grisly act of terror is captured on film, it’s often reported on but not televised. Once a streaker storms the field at a sporting event, the announcers acknowledge the interruption as the cameras turn away. In either instance, whether grim or lighthearted, the truth is conveyed — but the perpetrator’s notoriety is withheld.

Some creative citizens have already devised workarounds to the word itself. Using “45” as a shorthand has caught on, even though the connection feels insulting to a perfectly respectable number. One member of congress routinely substitutes “the occupant of the White House,” avoiding the moniker while evoking a temporary intruder.

This protest goes beyond the proper name alone — striking the president’s surname from our lexicon is also a necessary matter of linguistic correction. Its current definition connotes outranking and outclassing, describing a valuable resource to be used in victory. The word’s current namesakes have rendered these meanings obsolete.

Critically, a designation of profanity must arise organically as a movement, not born from any official dictum. This wave of sentiment would not prohibit the term’s use, rather condemning it as bad taste. Freedom of speech isn’t just about what can be uttered — it also gives us the right not to say something.

And let’s face it, the president’s family name already reeks of cultural toxicity. It’s accumulated the baggage of everything done in its name. The red hats atop angry red faces. The “very fine people” on both sides of Charlottesville. The repeated chants, routine threats, and unwanted grabbings. That one syllable now contains everything from porn star hush money to international extortion.

It no longer signifies a man, but rather an organism of belief. By daring not speak its name, we cease giving it power. And become empowered ourselves in the process.

InIn all likelihood, whether sooner or later, our country will one day awaken to the first day of our next era. We’ll have tremendous work before us — regaining trust, rebuilding institutions, and rehabilitating our reputation. But before long, the T-word might soon be stripped from the buildings that bear it, echoing the removal of those Confederate monuments.

Or instead, we might reclaim its colloquial meaning and make it a new source of our strength. It could become synonymous not with wealth and success, as it once was, but rather intolerance, rage, and failure. In a consequence of staggering irony, the president’s name may become the ultimate insult — and like any good profanity, feel satisfying to unleash upon a deserving target.

Either way, history will not forget this period in our country, and nor should we as citizens. But it will also remember the courage of those who stood up in defense of our values by wielding a small but powerful weapon against a tyrant. It will memorialize the days when the loudest voice was drowned out by those who rejected it.

“We chose the sacred over the profane,” it will say. “And that is what saved us.”

Brand philosopher. Executive Director, Strategy, The Office of Experience. Author, speaker, and instructor.

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