We are all familiar with the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
While it makes for a cute rhyme, nothing could be further from the truth. Words can be a powerful weapon.
Today’s political climate is a hotbed for name calling, insults, accusations and downright lies. It does not say much about us as a society when we are no longer shocked by words spoken by our political leaders.
In times of crisis, nations need leaders who can calm its citizens and give them a reason to hope for better times. We are seriously lacking in that department.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln inspired determination and loyalty with his soft- spoken words of unity and future prosperity.
Ronald Reagan was commonly referred to as “the great communicator.” A former aide to John F Kennedy recently commented that with eloquent words, a genius for simplification and contagious optimism, Reagan set forth the broad direction in which he wanted to move the country and the world.”
When he challenged Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down that wall,” most historians believe it was the highest point of his presidency.
This is what Reagan knew and understood. A president’s words matter.
We will never forget where we were the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The fear, shock and anger that we felt was overwhelming.
Yet when President George Bush told us that war had been waged against us and it was going to end at an hour of our choosing, we believed and trusted his guidance. We all understood he would fight for us.
When President George H W Bush gave his thousand points of light speech, he signaled the need for unity by calling for a “kinder, gentler nation.”
Those great Republican leaders would not recognize the leadership of today.
President Trump was duly elected and took office with the ability to communicate with us as he saw fit. There was no playbook given to him on how to do that. We now know he would have rejected any advice given anyway.
So far, he has chosen to govern by tweet. His daily barrage of pettiness, vulgarity and often false statements have left us wanting real leadership.
One avid Trump supporter put it this way, “I approve of almost everything he has done, and I disapprove of almost everything he says.”
For some of us, separating his words from his actions is a difficult task.
During the presidential debate, he told a group of militants to “stand back and stand by”. The violent group hailed that as a sign the president wanted them to help enforce his messages.
When health experts told him a health crisis was coming, he called it “their new hoax”, referring to the Democrats and spent the next months downplaying the virus.
After being diagnosed with COVID-19 and spending three days in the hospital, he told America to “not be afraid” of the virus and to “not let it dominate you.”
Over 7 million people in the United States have been infected and over 200,000 have died. Instead of acting like it was no big deal, he should have been telling us to follow the CDC guidelines. People will use his words as an excuse to not wear masks or social distance and the virus will continue to spread and kill.
Last week Michigan authorities revealed a plot to abduct and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The FBI has charged 13 men who they said were part of an anti-government group motivated by a belief that the governor was a “tyrant” whose protective orders violated their constitutional rights.
Governor Whitmer and the Michigan attorney general believe President Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremist groups and violent right-wing groups contributed to the group’s actions.
Hours later, Trump responded by going after the governor for not thanking him and once again said she should lift the restrictions and said she was doing a “terrible job” as governor.
A nationwide review conducted by ABC news last May identified 54 criminal cases where Trump’s name was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assaults.
This information is documented in court filings and police statements filed under the penalty of perjury or contempt.
This president uses his words recklessly, dangerously and cruelly. Making flippant comments on social media is unbecoming to the office of president.
As Americans we give great responsibility, honor and power to our president. We have a right to expect that person live up to common decency standards and portray kindness in his words and actions.
Former presidents strived to deliver words of inspiration and unity.
Now, more than ever, we need a leader who understands that.
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.