Translating Trump’s metaphor

In response to a FB post in which I expressed genuine sadness upon hearing the President’s “alleged’ comments about some nations being dung receptacles, some of my colleagues, acquaintances, and friends have asked me to take the President’s comments seriously, not in terms of the offensive language, but as powerful referential communication. Let’s translate Trump’s language. Perhaps the President was simply saying that there are countries that are less desirable to live in than others. We could sharpen that further by identifying particular locations inside the borders of many countries including the USA that are less desirable to live in.

In translation practice, we often consider how to translate a harsh or difficult metaphor. Do we translate Paul’s claim that he considers his human accomplishments to be σκύβαλον “dung” in Philippians 3:8 literally? Or do we describe the metaphor less viscerally? What if we take the actual metaphor Trump used seriously and explore its deeper ramifications? Even if he did not say it, perhaps the metaphor itself is evocative of something much larger than partisan politics. What if there is something in the metaphor about locations in particular countries and defecation that is connected to the conceptual metaphor of consumption in our bipartisan world economic system? Perhaps that is why I (and other friends many of whom have also done Bible translation work or missionary work in remote locations) responded so viscerally to it? Some in horror. Some in defense.

I am taking up the challenge to take the US president’s metaphor seriously as part of a larger metaphor of the world market as human consumption. The specific metaphor Trump used is the “back-end” of consumption processes. 😉 The largest consumer in the world economy has historically been the USA with China more recently revving up its own consumption engines. What does a consumer economy need but cheap raw materials from any point on the globe so it can produce high quality cheap products and ship them to the consumption centers who consume the products in high quantities at the lowest costs possible? However, that is not all. A necessary part of consumption includes defecation. Which places on earth receive the “waste” of the world consumer economy? Continue reading Translating Trump’s metaphor