Back to Posts

Words and Their Consequences

Written By Jon Budington

January 8, 2021

On Wednesday morning, I was finishing my latest blog post. It was a predictable message, noting the odd human habit of taking stock of oneself on New Year’s Day and developing a plan for personal improvement. My resolutions email seemed appropriate and clever—right up until Wednesday afternoon.

The events that occurred on the grounds of the Capitol and White House were shameful and horrific. They were also predictable. Back in October, I wrote a post called Why Words Matter. It was a long, philosophical piece about the power words have to create beliefs. In short, beliefs are created by narratives that help us make sense of our experiences. And our actions—like the ones broadcast around the world Wednesday—are largely driven by our beliefs.

Yesterday, I decided to spend some time watching the video of the ‘Save America Rally’ held on the Ellipse. Here are some of the words President Trump used to describe November’s election results:

“ … we’re going to have somebody in there that should not be in there, and our country will be destroyed, and we’re not going to stand for that.”

“You will see some really bad things happen.”

“They have used the pandemic as a way of defrauding the people in a proper election …”

“And by the way, does anybody believe that Joe had 80 million votes? … He had 80 million computer votes … We will not let them silence your voices.”

“… and we fight, we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

“So we are going to—we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue … and we are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give … our Republicans … the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

The consequences of choosing these words is, quite literally, history.

Words do matter. The words that compelled a mob of Americans to break down the doors of our nation’s Capitol Building cannot be explained away as simply talk. The entire planet now has proof of the inherent power of virulent political rhetoric.

“Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire. Image via Pacific Press / Contributor via Getty Images.

So today, I created a new set of resolutions for the coming year. I resolve to choose my words carefully. I resolve to have the courage to call out those who don’t. And finally, I resolve to pressure those who represent my interests in Washington to do the same.

I’m hopeful we are better than this.