Actions speak louder than words. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Ironically, there are many ways we use words to express the notion that words aren’t important. There are definitely times I’d agree with the idea that actions speak louder than words – like when a significant other apologizes for not doing the dishes but fails to do the dishes the next time around, or when an absentee parent promises to go to their kid’s soccer game but doesn’t show up – but it was last night during the presidential debate, when Donald Trump kept referring to a video in which he talked with Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women as just “locker room talk,” that I realized how dangerous it can be to undermine words.
Words have always been everything. In this day and age, whether it’s a long piece of content, content chopped up into millions of pieces, snapchats with word graphics or 140-character phrases: Words are still the most viral, powerful and easily transferable content out there. They are most often how we gage our first impressions of people we don’t know. They are status updates, meant to sum up peoples’ lives and moods. They are how public figures battle with one another, express themselves and make their beliefs public. They are how political figures sum up a policy into one citizen-friendly statement or sentence. They are how tween bullies get to the people they’re going after. And it’s no secret they’re what make up a he-said, she-said presidential campaign.
Sure, you are what you do and what you act on, but aren’t you what you say as well? Perception is everything, so if someone only knows you from what they can read and hear from you, aren’t your words as damaging as your actions? Why does it matter when a presidential candidate’s family says “those comments don’t reflect the man,” when all I, or people around the world, will most likely ever encounter of this man are the words they see and hear from him? And isn’t it hypocritical to undermine the power of words, when it’s the exact tool you’re using to try and win the presidency?
As someone who went to a college completely ensconced in Greek life, I can say that the ‘type of guy’ a fraternity brother was could absolutely be measured by the way he talked with his friends about women, or the way that he talked to women for that matter. It’s an insult to any sane, good guy that’s ever joked with his friends in a locker room, a frat house or “on the golf course” to coin sexual assault comments “locker room talk.”
Our Dad always told us not to say things we wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper. It wasn’t that he was worried someone would overhear us saying something offensive and we’d get in trouble, but rather that being a good person is about who you are and what you say both publicly and privately. You can’t just make words important when it’s convenient – when they are rehearsed and reflect what you think is best in you. Your words, instead, should always hold some semblance of importance and accountability, whether it’s a public or private conversation.
Not to mention, how often do words evolve into something more? I’d say throughout history, rhetoric frequently turns into actions, events, even movements. Because whether we like it or not, words give life to things. So if you think of it that way it becomes important to ask, what is Donald Trump giving life to? To me, it looks slightly like Ed Harris in HBO’s new show Westworld…but that’s just me.
So, what do you think? How important are words?
On another note, do you think we actually have shorter attention spans? Also read Laura’s thoughts on The Real Housewives here.