Words Matter


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Tomorrow anyone who has not yet cast a vote for president will have one final chance to be heard. This has indeed been one of the strangest and most contentious presidential races in my memory. The only contest that comes even close was in 1968, the first election in which I was allowed to vote. Back then the Vietnam War had driven a wedge between Americans who remained loyal and supportive of the ongoing conflict in southeast Asia and those who questioned the wisdom of continuing to fight a war that felt increasingly disturbing. Ultimately Richard Nixon, the more conservative candidate, won and ironically he decide to end the Vietnam War without victory. Later he would resign his office after being accused of obstructing justice in the Watergate incident.

The country was weary from all of the furor of the nineteen sixties and it mostly settled down for many years. Sure there were startling incidents taking place now and then but for the most part we simply concentrated on the job of daily living. I think that on the whole we were exhausted and so we said little about the divisions of race and ideology that had brought us to the incendiary moments of that 1968 election. I suppose it never really occurred to us that many of our differences were still simmering below the surface. We had not so much solved our problems as just ignored them. 

So here we are in 2020 and it feels as though the scabs that appeared to have been a sign of healing have been ripped off to show that the wounds of the past have continued to fester. While some of us were leading comfortable lives others were struggling mightily. We learned that racism is still alive and well. We realized that Russia is still engaged in a cold war for world power. We saw that certain sectors of society became wealthy beyond all imagination while others were barely able to get by from day to day. We watched climate change creating the most devastating wildfires ever seen and a hurricane season so unrivaled that we finished our own alphabet and had to resort to naming storms with Greek letters. At center stage is a worldwide pandemic that continues to rage across the globe with dire predictions for its impact on the coming weeks and months. Instead of drawing together the way we did after the attacks of 9/11 we have once again become a divided nation feuding with an ever more dangerous rhetoric that is literally testing friendships and family relationships. 

Words matter. They can be used to lead, to comfort, to provide guidance or they can create confusion and anger. Words reveal the true intent of the speaker. They tell us how that person really feels about us. They either bring us together or purposely divide us. Tragically at the very moment when we most need to be joining in a unified effort President Trump has chosen to create a great divide, to reopen the chasm of 1968 that actually traces its roots all the way back to the Civil War. Each day he gathers in rallies with his followers to mock anyone who dares to disagree with him. He entertains eager and devoted fans with words, phrases and sentences that should never leave the lips of our top leader. He derides scientists, taunts his opponents with the kinds of names most often heard from bullies in a school yard, boasts about his own prowess, intellect and accomplishments while rarely offering any concrete suggestions as to how we might overcome the real challenges that we face. 

President Trump likes to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln but he is nothing like that truly great man. Trump’s words and actions tell of his lack of compassion, his unwillingness to responsibly serve all states and all citizens. Instead of attempting to keep our union together he divides it into red and blue states, suggesting that those who do not vote for him will go to hell. He is only interested in what each of us can do to keep him in power. When anyone disagrees with him he tosses them aside no matter how loyal and hardworking they have been. He calls women nasty monsters if they have the temerity to challenge him and even seems to excuse an attempt to kidnap a governor by noting that she is not doing a very good job. He denigrates opponents by calling them sleepy, crazy, losers, suckers. He demeans our entire nation when he speaks in such horrid ways. He demonstrates that he is not a leader at all and certainly not one with the empathy and eloquence of Abraham Lincoln.

Words matter and his words are like poison darts. There is nothing amusing about the way he manipulates the citizenry. He lies and poses and even goes as far as thinking that he knows better than the entire medical community when it comes to Covid-19. He holds super spreader events even in communities filled with older citizens who are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of the virus. Because he pokes fun at masks so often that the majority of those who attend such events tempt fate by standing in tight groups with nothing on their faces. He does not seem to care if anybody gets sick as long as they adore him and vote for him. He and his words are dangerous.

Donald J. Trump’s words tell me that he is a foul and uncaring human. They tell me that he does not have the first idea how to be a true leader. They tell me that his spirit is mean and selfish. His words warn me of the destruction that he will inflict on my beloved country if we give him four more years in office. My words for him and for anyone who still has not been to the polls is quite simple, “Vote him out!”