Words are stunningly versatile things. They have the ability to either create or to destroy, to lift us or level us, to give us wings or to crush us beneath their weight, to inspire us to reach the loftiness parts of our nature or to drive us to the depths of our blackest darkness.
We know this to be true from the way other’s voices have shaped us in both redemptive and debilitating ways. The words of others can become for us the language for all that we harbor unspoken in our hearts: every unfulfilled longing, each unhealed wound, every beautiful aspiration, all the cataloged defeats, each perceived wrongdoing.
And the words of powerful people become catalysts for revolutions: hubs around which multitudes gather in tribes of affinity to create the world they dream of, whether hopeful or horrific. Religious prophets, pop stars, and political leaders all tap into the hearts of people in order to move those people’s convictions from heart to hand.
The former president’s words are still getting people killed.
Violent White Nationalists are the logical manifestation of the language of the previous occupier of the White House — and he is currently producing them. They are the sum total of his every reckless insult, irresponsible untruth, and calculated attack: the disfigured Frankenstein monster made from every factless conspiracy theory and incendiary rally rant, each corrosive verbal assault on people of color and immigrants and women and the media, every Asian virus slur.
White men who walk into mosques and shopping malls and massage parlors and who murder strangers are the clear accumulation of a seemingly endless flood of racist ramblings, spewed from the head of a man who feels no accountability for the collateral damage of his words — either on those who are his targets — or those weaponized by him against them.
The words of a President weigh more than perhaps anyone else’s. There is a gravity to the voices of our leaders that corporately shape us in ways few things do. They have always determined the trajectory of our nation, carried us through unthinkable tragedy, clarified who we are as a people, driven us to reach for dreams that we believed were beyond us.
The elevating, compassionate words of a President like Joe Biden, when wielded responsibly and with decency, help us to tap into our shared humanity and remind us of our interdependence, of our commonalities, of the responsibility we have toward one another.
But when tossed around carelessly and maliciously, the words of a President (like the former president), ratify people’s phobias, stoke the fires of their bitterness, sanction the violence they cultivate in their heads, legitimize their irrational bigotry toward their neighbors.
Mass shootings in the name of Whiteness aren’t a surprise. They are the expected outcome of MAGA hatred.
These people may be an extreme extension of this the previous presidents words, but they find themselves on a long and growing continuum of millions of angry, scared, unloved, people who believe the world has wronged them — and now have someone (the most powerful someone), to tell them that they are right.
Whether it’s in racial epithets screamed at strangers in traffic, xenophobic signs posted near voting booths, venomous racist social media diatribes from grandmothers, xenophobic outbursts at holiday meals, or vans plastered with anti-media propaganda—monsters are currently being made by the last president.
Yes, words give life and they kill things.
White terrorists are monsters the President who recently departed, has helped create in unhinged campaign rants and social media tantrums and “lock her up” chants” and “Kung Flu” ignorance and dehumanizing rhetoric — and the worst of it all, is that he seems oblivious to his culpability, defiant in his outrage, and determined to double down no matter how many people he places in harm’s way.
After all the loss of life he has caused, the previous Commander-in-Chief refuses to use his words for anything but division and injury and enmity, and so those so desiring war, those seeking consent, those who share his cancerous heart and his bigoted aspirations — find in him license to be horrible. They have a virtual Executive Order for violence.
This previous president is a monster-maker. We can never let him be a current president again.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com