“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Do you remember chanting these words when you were a child? I do. Is this saying really true? I have thought about this childish chant often in these post-election days.
It appears that Democrats are citing the campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump and deriding some of his cabinet choices to scare their supporters into a panic about the future. The Democrats are frightening people into organizing against the Trump administration before he even takes office. They are also using fear words like anti-Islam and deportation of illegals to raise money for the Democratic cause. They are stirring up emotions by using hot-button phrases. That is how parties create unity and agitate their supporters.
Part of the function of a political party is to act as a watchdog. A party’s job is to sniff out scandal and improper behavior, especially when their party is out of power.
Republicans excelled at criticism of much that happened in the Obama administration, effectively using words to create negative spin. Some of those criticisms were valid and some were downright lies and misrepresentations.
The downside of this system is that while it unifies party faithful, it tends to divide the nation. Human nature tends toward extremes. That is already the tendency in this interim between presidents.
The founders of the Constitution feared that factions – political parties – were tantamount to terrorist organizations. George Washington warned against “political spirit” in his farewell address in 1796.
Washington warned that “cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Washington went on to say that this party spirit was like “a fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”
Now that the Republicans will soon be in power, it appears that the Democrats may follow the Republican example, acting not for the good of the nation as a whole, but for the advancement of their political agenda – unnecessarily stirring up their supporters to rage and protest.
President Washington also warned of sections of the country opposing each other. During the 2016 election, it was the rural areas and small towns in the Midwest and South who united against the large urban areas in the West and Northeast to win.
Washington’s words of 1796 are just as valid today as they were then.
This presidential election has divided us, probably more than any since before the Civil War. Hopefully, Donald Trump is a patriot who cares about the all the citizens as he has now publicly stated. He has already walked back some of what he said about imprisoning Hillary Clinton, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants and building a wall across our southern border.
Some have suggested that Trump intentionally created fear and uncertainty in this nation and overseas through his contentious words, thereby strengthening his negotiating position once president. Uncertainty is a valuable tool in the spirit of “The Art of the Deal” to get one’s opponents to make concessions.
Sticks and stones can indeed break our bones, but words can cut deep to destroy individuals and divide a nation. Words have power. Over the next four years, we will find out whether President Trump’s words and actions unite the country and solve many of our seemingly unsolvable problems, or whether Washington’s words could be prophetic: Trump could be a “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled man (who) will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for (himself) the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted[him] to unjust dominion.”