Words matter

If you've been living in a cave the last two weeks and aren't up on the latest political news, read a few articles from your outlet of choice and come on back.  For the rest of us, I'll choose my words carefully...

Pres. Trump's supporters maintain that these were private statements made behind closed doors, and as such a President should be able to vent his frustrations at times using the most no-nonsense language he chooses.  Further, given the infrastructure and economic shortcomings in these places, it's clear that he's talking about the geographic places and not their inhabitants.

Pres. Trump's critics counter that this is just further evidence that when someone shows you who they are, believe them--and Pres. Trump has shown us who he is: a racist and misogynist.  Pres. Trump is a xenophobic nationalist who is creating long-term damage to our international reputation that will bite us economically, and make us less safe in the process.

Regardless of where you fall on this issue, the larger issue remains lost: Words matter.  What we say, how we say it, and why we say it, are all important factors in wielding influence.  Careless choice of words can ruin relationships, destroy age-old alliances, and render ineffective the speaker seeking to win hearts and minds.

(If you wish to become truly persuasive, mind the Buddhist mantra, "If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind."  Only speak if the answer to all three questions are yes.  If you condition yourself to live this idea, you will be in the extreme minority, but you will also reap the benefits from adopting this way of interacting.  The power of this idea will be explored in a subsequent article.)

The problem in this situation is that it requires people once again to provide unwavering support for, or criticize in the strongest terms, our President.  The net effect of digging in even harder to a position is that we inch further apart from one another.  In however small an increment, with each new incident we see each other as more foreign, less knowable, less likable.  It's time for the President, and the rest of Congress, to start using language that brings us together, instead of apart.

I'm heartened by the fact that this isn't the first time in our nation's history where we have been so divided.  Once it was much worse.  I'll leave you with the unifying words of one the greatest orators, and certainly the greatest Republican, in our nation's history:

"We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." -Abraham Lincoln


Comments are closed.