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“During these last months the King walked with death as if death were a companion, an acquaintance whom he recognized and did not fear. In the end death came as a friend, and after a happy day of sunshine and sport, and after “good night” to those who loved him best, he fell asleep as every man or woman who strives to fear God and nothing else in the world may hope to do.” — Winston Churchill, February 7, 1952, on the death of King George VI
I think many people hope that this sort of death awaits them, but I doubt it’s an entirely true account of the King’s experience. It’s lovely rhetoric that honors and elevates a respected man and emphasizes his fearlessness.
In contrast, Trump made a point of denigrating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by saying: “The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.” Although the New York Times can’t seem to understand the rhetorical purpose of Trump’s comments, it seems clear that Trump is appealing to a human ideal of what constitutes a good death and describing Baghdadi’s as the opposite. I’m certainly not saying that Trump is Churchillian in his rhetorical ability, but I do think he understands the power of language to shape our perceptions and “the debate.”