I try not to, but I say stupid things more frequently than I intend to. This is frustrating because, as a wordsmith, I try to hold myself to a high verbal standard due to knowing just how powerful words can be. Though I am very sarcastic and sometimes fumble with my words, I take my presentation of words to the public seriously. Because I am a responsible adult, I do my best to consider the right and wrong place for sarcasm. I also take the safety of my fellow human beings seriously and I would never intentionally jeopardize someone’s well-being for the sake of making a joke. The person who came up with the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me,” apparently didn’t understand the potential power of words – or foresee the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign season.
The exchange of harmful words between political candidates has unfortunately become common practice in American politics. We citizens have come to accept that it is difficult to find a politician who is able to rise above the fray and speak only about the good they will do for their constituents, instead of ranting about their opponent’s failures. I have the deepest respect for the rare politician who sees the value in promoting peace and focusing on creating a better future instead of miring in his or her opponent’s past. As a society, many of us Americans don’t like it, but we have grown accustomed to politicians behaving like undisciplined children on a playground throwing sticks, stones, and hurtful words at each other.
Words that have been uttered this past week in the run for the U.S. presidency are beyond harmful – they are potentially deadly. I am able to appreciate sarcasm and verbal fumbles, but I am deeply disturbed by the new low level that American politics has sunken to. I find myself feeling thankful that I no longer have young children to raise in this society that seems to condone public displays of extreme verbal abuse. I would be unable to successfully explain to my kids why such behavior is allowed to occur in their country, and that the undisciplined behavior of certain so-called adults will undoubtedly continue unchecked.
I firmly believe that people should be held accountable for actions and words that affect the well-being of another person. Even when people misspeak, if it is done in a way that hurts others, I think it’s important that it be addressed in a way that prevents it from occurring again. I am a very forgiving person, but I believe when a line that is put in place for the safety of others is crossed again and again and again, it’s time for drastic consequences. I would be in support of removing someone with a pattern of verbal abuse from the political campaign process, imposing fines, or even incarceration as a result of implying that bodily harm should come to one’s opponent. Even if that suggestion is made as a joke, sarcasm, or was supposedly not intended to sound the way it sounded, someone asking to be placed in a position to lead our country should be responsible enough to know that words delivered to the public must always be chosen carefully. Sure, most of us would not act on the words delivered by a candidate making a potential threat, or sarcasm, or a continuous stream of verbal vomit; but our country is filled with mentally unstable people just waiting to act on the perceived “encouragement” they need to harm someone they view as an opponent.
As an independent thinker, I believe that everyone definitely has a right to their own opinions; everyone has a right to express themselves. But every person in this country also has other unalienable rights, including safety. I’ve never subscribed to herd mentality, but I don’t fault people for choosing to align with a certain group. What concerns me is when my fellow countrymen leave their independent reasoning ability at the door as they cross the threshold into party loyalty. In their support of a party or a particular issue, some people seem to put on blinders, stick their fingers in their ears, and shrug off anything potentially harmful to someone else caused by a fellow party member. Even though a political party appears to have conformity, the people within it are all still different from one another in some way. The one thing that unites every single one of us Americans is our humanity. So I believe that, above all else, we should be loyal to securing the unalienable rights of our fellow human beings, regardless of their party affiliation.
Call me an idealist if you want, but I believe that any candidate who campaigns to become the leader of the most powerful nation in the free world should, at the very least, put as much thought into the words he or she says publicly as I put into each post for this trivial blog of mine. I also believe that before casting a vote, every citizen in this country should set aside their party affiliation long enough to actually consider the words coming from their preferred candidate.
I have traditionally held candidates for President of the United States to a higher standard than other people. I have always wanted them to follow through with what they promise. I have always wanted them to mean what they say. I have always wanted them to avoid using words that conceal reality or cause harm to anyone. During this bizarre presidential campaign season I’ve developed new guidelines for choosing who I’ll give my vote to in November: the person I believe will bring the least harm to my country with his or her words – and the one I’d be least afraid to have my children hang out with on the playground.
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© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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