It is time to recognize the power and consequences of words

The+January+6+Capitol+riots+should+serve+as+a+reminder+to+the+American+people+about+the+power+of+former+President+Donald+J.+Trump%27s+words+and+rhetoric.+

Leah Allen '22

The January 6 Capitol riots should serve as a reminder to the American people about the power of former President Donald J. Trump’s words and rhetoric.

Wednesday, January 6 marks a day not soon forgotten in American history.  It represents not only a political shift in our nation’s legislative branch and the culmination of four years of political tension and extremism, but also, and perhaps most importantly, it provides a stark reminder to the American people about the weight and consequences of words and rhetoric.

There has already been much sociopolitical unrest in the country recently, with two impeachments of former President Donald J. Trump in the past year and a half, the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement after the police killing of Mr. George Floyd in May 2020, and the 2020 presidential election coming to a drawn-out and historic conclusion in November 2020.   

Mr. Trump’s supporters storm the Capitol hours after attending a rally at which the former President spoke.  Courtesy of Mr. Lev Radin

The tension reached another boiling point January 6 when during a “Save America” rally, groups of Mr. Trump’s supporters gathered to object the certification of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner of the election. The event soon escalated as attendants began violently storming the United States Capitol.  A riot ensued, resulting in damage to federal property, multiple deaths and injuries, and threats to the lives of members of Congress, many of whom were forced to evacuate or shelter in place.  Rioters scaled the walls of the Capitol, stole and vandalized government property, and allegedly armed themselves with several weapons and explosive devices, according to nbcnews.com.

While the events at the Capitol represent an act of domestic terrorism and a complete attack against the rule of law and sanctity of our government, they also highlight the sheer magnitude and influence of the former President’s words.

Mr. Trump’s actions and rhetoric, both leading up to the riots and throughout the past four years, incited this violence.  Throughout his entire presidency, Mr. Trump suffered very few consequences for spreading disinformation on social media, according to apnews.com.  He also garnered a large following as a result of his controversial and inflammatory remarks.  Prior to the “Save America” rally, he tweeted support and encouragement for his supporters to “fight” the election results and “take back the country.”  In addition, during his speech at the event he continued to fan the flames of what later became a riot, and repeated debunked claims that the election was fraudulent, according to The New York Times.

“We will never give up.  We will never concede.  You don’t concede when there is theft involved,” Mr. Trump said, according to nbcnews.com.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions of Americans to join him in his fight for racial justice by spreading a message of peace and tolerance.  Courtesy of abcnews.com

The significance of the former President’s statements cannot be taken lightly.  If the events of January 6 have done anything, they have reminded us all that words hold the power to both unify and divide.  Historically speaking, this idea holds true.  Americans remember Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a man whose speeches inspired necessary social and political change during the Civil Rights Movement and whose message still resonates with groups fighting for racial justice today.  Conversely, the ideas spread by German dictator Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust resulted in the genocide and dehumanization of approximately six million people.  

As we are currently living during a time when false and biased information runs rampant, we have witnessed the fact that words have immense influence.  Indeed, media outlets hold some of the most power over our political sphere, according to The New York Times.  Sacred Heart Greenwich alumna Ms. Margaret Brennan ’98 works as a moderator of Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS) News’s Sunday morning show, “Face the Nation,” and an ambassador for Poynter Institute’s media literacy initiative, MediaWise.  Ms. Brennan visited the Upper School last October and spoke on both the importance of reliable news and the need to decipher between biased news stories and trustworthy information.

“Information is power,” Ms. Brennan said.  “All of you are being inundated with information all of the time from disparate sources, particularly across social media. Everyone is seeking to influence you.  Pay attention to the sourcing of the information that you are being presented with. I think many of those targeting you wrongly assume that you have short attention spans and do not care about context or perspective.”

As Sacred Heart students and as members of this publication, it is crucial that we look closely at the events of that Wednesday.  As the next generation, we are called to reflect on the impact of our words, actions, and the media we consume, and the ways in which they may inspire violence or promote change. 

Featured Image by Leah Allen ’22