Words Matter And This Is The Message We Hear From Trump
Originally written for the Huffington Post
I mostly steer clear of writing political pieces, partly in fear of not completely understanding the complexity of the issues at hand, but mostly in fear of the impassioned and opinionated voices that will no doubt emerge from the woodwork.
But this time, things are different.
I am not afraid of misunderstanding the implication of the message, and I am not afraid of the opposing voices — however loud they may be.
Public figures often have a large captive audience, and in the current presidential campaign, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to have all ears. Between the ostentatious show that is Donald Trump, and the notion of having our first female president, the stakes are high and the issues at hand are compelling us all to listen. The politics within this campaign are littered with matters of racism, misogyny, discrimination, judgment, and body shaming. Yes, you heard me right: body shaming. It seems that every possible way that a human being can be judged, shamed, and generalized has been exercised in this campaign — from race and religion, gender and weight, to something as superficial as physical attributes and appearance.
As a nation we are left to sort out truth from fabrications, facts from fiction, discriminatory ideas from authentic ones, and a worthy presidential candidate from a damaging one.
And as a nation, we have suddenly had ideas of blatant racism, religious discrimination, gender-specific inequity and intolerance, and outright body shaming shoved down our throats. Trump has attempted to down play the power of words, claiming that they “don’t matter,” and that actions speak louder than words. I am here to tell you that words do matter, and in fact, the imposition and implication of Trump’s words are painful. The message being sent out is crystal clear.
We are all listening.
Celebrities and authority figures can have a profound impact and persuasion on the public. The public often hangs onto every word said, tweeted, and written — and every idea has the potential to be dissected and explored. So when someone of power declares minority and religious groups as criminal, fat as bad, and women as unimportant objects, we hear it. All of us hear his message.
And the words matter.
Among the many young ears who hear Trump’s words, 15-year-old Brennan Leach spoke out at a town hall meeting with Clinton recently, calling attention to his extensive influence and far reaching repercussions. Leaning into the microphone, pausing for a beat, she bravely spoke the first (and most potent) issue of the day — on a topic of importance to herself, her classmates, and women in general. “At my school, body image is a really big issue for girls my age. I see with my own eyes the damage Donald Trump does when he talks about women and how they look.” What can we do, she asked, to help girls realize that they are so much more than what they look like?
This question from a young impressionable woman — who represents just one of the many groups being targeted by Trump — is a gleaming example of just how much words matter. This simple question is a solemn look into how deeply “just words” can become entrenched into our way of life, into our very being.
My daughters are among next generation of women to be raised during this political climate, and I refuse to let these de-humanizing words to be the ones that they hear. These words, which Trump asserts do not matter, are seeping into the very fabric of our lives. These words, which Trump claims are just words, are telling our children that women do not matter, and that appearances unequivocally do. These words, which Trump casually and thoughtlessly spews from his mouth, are telling our children that religious and racial minorities should be avoided and feared. These words, which Trump meticulously plants into the thoughts of our nation, are breeding hate and encouraging fear. These words, which Trump casts without merit or legitimacy, are telling our children that name-calling is an acceptable behavior, that tolerance and equality are irrelevant. These words are dangerous.
Up until now, I have been burying my head in the sand when it comes to the continuous and offensive stream of belligerent comments made by Trump (see “You can do anything ... Grab them by the xxxxx. You can do anything.”). I have been assuming this all to be part of the Trump show, simply here for sensationalism and shock value, and quietly waiting for it to dissipate with time.
But now, things are different.
I’m using my voice in the only way I know how: through the power of words.
I’m using my voice to speak my truth, challenge Trump-isms, and defy such dangerous and outrageous ideas about what it means to be important. About what it means to be taken seriously. About what it means to be treated justly. About what it means to be human.
I’m using my voice to say this: words matter. And on behalf of myself, my daughters, and all people who you have misjudged, wronged, and insulted — yours is a message that I will not accept.
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. Not only do words infect, egotize, narcotize, and paralyze, but they enter into and color the minutest cells of the brain . . .
- Rudyard Kipling