“It’s just words, folks.“
I’m a writer. Words are my trade. Everyday I wake up and ask myself, what words will I write today? My head is constantly filled with words. Words I’ve heard in movies or songs, spoken by great thinkers or just witty comedians. I think, as I assume most you do, in words. The words that flow through my head determine my worldview, my actions, my behavior. I write for a simple reason: words matter. Words have meaning. Words convey thoughts, and thoughts direct action. Much like the first step to a movie is a script, the first step to any movement, idea, legislation, war, or religion, are words. Words spoken by world leaders hold enormous weight in our minds. If words didn’t matter, we wouldn’t all know the words “I have a dream” or “The only thing to fear is fear itself” or “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Donald Trump’s words matter. They matter because words inspire actions. Since Trump announced his candidacy, there have been countless acts of violence, discrimination, and harassment where perpetrators specifically mentioned his name. A former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan is running for Senate in Louisiana, specifically citing Donald Trump as the man who inspired him to run. Multiple outlets have reported a marked rise in white supremacist hate speech and hate groups on the internet since the start of his candidacy. Even an innocent internet meme has been commandeered by white supremacists and used by Trump himself in tandem.
No, Trump doesn’t have a political history that we can look at for proof that he will actually instill bigoted, hateful, and intolerant policies during his possible presidency. We do have a long political history for the man he picked as his running mate, but not for Trump himself. All we have are his words. Words like “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the country.” Words like, “..they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” And words like “When you’re a star, they let you do it. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” These words matter. They matter because they inspire others who share those views. Views that we as a society have rightly ostracized. And his words are bringing those people back into society. His words are making those views acceptable again.
Words matter because every woman I know has a story of being verbally harassed. Words matter because 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted. Words matter because no matter where you say them – whether it’s in a locker room, on a bus, or on national television – they spread ideas outside of those venues. Words matter because Brock Turner blamed his rape of an unconscious woman on “party culture.” Words matter because the judge in that case said, “it’s more morally culpable for someone with no alcohol in their system to commit an offense like that than with someone who was legally intoxicated.” Words matter because a judge in Canada asked a rape victim, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” and said that young women “want to have sex, particularly if they’re drunk.”
Words matter because they inspire action. Words determine legislation, verdicts, and sentencing. Words affect the behavior of those who hear them. The words a person speaks offer a glimpse into that person’s mind. And when words are said by world leaders, the entire world listens.