Words are stunningly versatile things. They have the ability either to create or to destroy, to lift us or to level us, to give us wings 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 from the way other voices have shaped us in both redemptive and debilitating ways. The words of others can become for us the language for all 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 and pop stars and political leaders all tap into the hearts of people in order to move those people and their convictions from heart to hand—to move them.
Cesar Sayoc is the logical manifestation of the language of this President.
He is the sum total of his every reckless insult, irresponsible untruth, and calculated attack; the disfigured Frankensteined monster, made from every factless conspiracy theory and incendiary rally rant, each corrosive verbal attack on people of color and immigrants and women and the media.
Cesar Sayoc is the clear accumulation of a seemingly endless Presidential Twitter feed, filled with nonsensical 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. 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 words of a President, when wielded responsibly and with decency, help us to tap into our shared humanity; to remind us of our interdependence, of our commonalities, of the responsibility we have toward one another.
But when tossed around carelessly, the words of a President – like this President, ratify phobias, stoke the fires of their bitterness, sanction the violence they cultivate in their heads, legitimize their irrational bigotry toward their neighbors.
Cesar Sayoc is not a surprise.
He may be an terrifyingly extreme extension of this President’s words, but he finds himself 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 is in racial epithets screamed at strangers in traffic, xenophobic signs posted near voting booths, venomous racists social media diatribes from grandmothers, xenophobic outbursts at holiday meals, or vans plastered with anti-media propaganda—monsters are being made by this President’s words.
Yes, words make things and they kill things.
Cesar Sayoc is the kind of monster this President has helped create in unhinged campaign rants and social media tantrums and “lock her up” chants” 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.
He 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 heart—find license to be horrible.
This President is a monster-maker.
It is time we admitted it.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com