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Rhetoric in the Wake of Tragedy

by Stephen Rumbolo

In the wake of the attempted bombings that gripped the nation last week, we as a country have to have a serious conversation about the responsibility and importance of rhetoric.

Over 12 bombs were sent to high-ranking Democratic Party members and leaders, including the Obamas, the Clintons, the former Attorney General Eric Holder, famous actor Robert De Niro and separate packages were sent to CNN’s offices.

While this may seem like a coordinated attack on liberal Democrats, there is a finer thread that connects these individuals: they have all been personally attacked by President Donald J. Trump. It is no secret that Trump is known for divisive and controversial rhetoric but following these attacks, it is time we stop and consider just how impactful the words of the president are.

Trump’s language is often times nothing short of hyperbolic statements riddled with white lies, and for months we have let this slide without serious repercussion, but now it has reached a boiling point. An avid Trump supporter targeted individuals, who Trump has personally and viciously attacked with rhetoric, with over a dozen bombs sent through the mail.

The suspect’s van was riddled with right-wing propaganda-type stickers and posters, many of which displayed both support for Trump and disdain toward his opponents and critics. It is not unreasonable to draw the conclusion that this sick, deranged criminal chose his targets specifically and directly as a result of people the president paints as threats to his agenda.

Trump has been outspoken about all of the people targeted in these attacks. For example, when he famously called CNN “The enemy of the people” or when he referred to Robert De Niro as a “very low IQ individual.” Not to mention his false and misleading statements about the Democratic Party as a whole when he said, “A vote for the Democrats in November is a vote to let MS-13 run wild in our communities.”

We all know that our words and actions have repercussions and for some reason, it seems we do not apply that same principle to our politicians, especially Trump.

As a symbol of the nation, the words of the president carry tremendous weight in the minds of supporters and members of the opposition alike. It is dangerous to allow rhetoric, highly interpretive and hyperbolic statements like those made by Trump, to go without punishment. There is no denying that Trump’s personal attacks of Democrats in some way inspired the bombing suspect to choose his targets and that is a major problem.

All politicians, and Trump especially right now, must acknowledge that their words have consequences and more. Their words and beliefs influence the actions of their supporters whether it be for good or for bad. Although no politicians ever make serious calls to violence, the people who are likely to commit political violence will do so in a manner consistent with the views of their aligned party or party leaders.

Understanding the nature of radicalized individuals and their tendencies to distort language is key when trying to determine if rhetoric is too malicious and divisive. I for one believe the general political rhetoric of today has gone beyond the point of division. It is currently dangerous, and those who float this speech must be blamed for the lack of civility we are experiencing.

Civility in politics can not be restored until everyone calms down with rhetoric because as we have seen, the results of divisive and hyperbolic words can be dire and dramatic, even life-threatening.

\We all need to actively think about what we say before we say it and if that sounds like something you would expect to hear in a kindergarten class, that is because it is something we teach our young children and apparently something we must also teach this president.

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