An English Major's Analysis of Trump's Rhetoric

February 21, 2020

If you are a fan of my articles, as Ryman’s mom and Professor Lisa Jordan apparently are, you are probably aware that I don’t write about politics. But it is election season, and as an English Major, I feel that it is important to bring awareness to how the results of the upcoming presidential election impact the rhetoric and language we use across the entire United States. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years, you are probably aware that our current POTUS has a vocabulary that isn’t the most robust or sophisticated. Alright, Trump Supporters are saying, so the old dude who runs the country tweets like a kid whose mom shouldn’t have let him have Twitter, what’s the point? My point is that I think a crucial argument against supporting Trump for reelection is that his rhetoric is dismantling the United States, and by letting him believe that his language is acceptable as political leader, we are worsening the notion he has created that words have no impact outside of his twittersphere. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Washington Post.

 

A recent article titled, “Trump’s Words, Bullied Kids, Scarred Schools,” by Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein evaluates the impact of Trump’s rhetoric and the power it has given school children and teenagers to bully and harass each other, citing,
“Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found.” Does the Trump Administration realize that the language they use impacts our students? Sure, it’s what they’ve hoped for. Are they going to realize that they have created a language of hate and apathy? No. Trump doesn’t care about who his words hurt; he’s a big business man. That’s the only way he knows how to use language. But his words are impacting our students and how they treat each other, and there is no way to justify his rhetoric as someone in a political position of power.

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF QZ.COM           

 

 I don’t believe that this just a matter of progressives versus conservatives, or Republicans versus Democrats; party versus party is no longer our biggest issue in this upcoming election. Whoever wins the 2020 election, their rhetoric will shape and change how our students, our parents, our teachers, our neighbors and our friends speak to each other. We so often think of xenophobia and racial and sexual discrimination as big buzz words spelling out Trump’s fallacy of language that I believe we have become disensitized to what those things look like in our everyday speech. Imagine a second grader sounding out the vowels in the N-word. A group of seventh grade boys chanting the f-slur to their LGBTQ peers. High schoolers wrapped up in Twitter wars, slinging racial slurs at each other. A mixed race girl is now an “oreo.” Images of swastikas are messaged to a Jewish girl. If this sounds like a crippling apocalypse of language and loss of empathy, it’s not. It’s 2020 in America. 

 

If you are planning on supporting Trump in the 2020 election, as someone who cares about the importance of rhetoric and its worth, I would highly advise you not to. Trump has already deconstructed and rebuilt his hateful language for our students to use, and if he is reelected, he will continue to do so. Read the real news. Take his tweets from immigrants, minorities, people of color and LGBTQ identities' points of view and think of how you would feel if the political leader of a country spoke like that to you. But what do I know? I’m just an English Major. 

 

Sydney is a junior English major.

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