The late Neil Postman, the author of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” once pointed out that “How we talk is how we think.” Of course, that idea wasn’t original with Postman. Jesus himself pointed this out when he said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.”
In essence, words matter because they reveal things about us as human beings.
According to the Bristol Herald Courier and other news outlets, people all over the country are outraged. It is unconscionable, they declare, that a president of the United States should ever publically refer to some African countries – or any country – as “sh*thole” countries.
In fact, a number of people are bristling that he would use such inappropriate language because it is not only unbecoming and unpresidential, it is offensive and it is sure to alienate the people of those countries.
Then there are those who defend Trump, even hail him as a genius. They see nothing wrong what with Trump said and even go so far as to applaud his transparency. They like Trump’s tough language and stance when it comes to immigration and his responses to other world leaders; it is, according to some, the sort of John Wayne-ish rhetoric that America has been missing for a long time; it will put us on the road to becoming great again.
Trump’s comments reveal something about him not just as a president but as a person as well.
For one thing, his comments show a lack of understanding regarding the office of president; while he holds the office, it isn’t just his office. Trump is there to represent all Americans, and not simply the ones he likes or agrees with.
I suppose that has been one of the toughest transitions for him. After all, for decades his entire world has revolved around his interests; but as president of the United States, he can no longer simply think of his aims, his goals, his ideas. He needs to weigh what he says against that call and obligation to represent the United States and not simply himself.
Like it or not, he represents all of us and what he says carries a lot of weight. I suppose that’s why a lot of people are upset because the things he has said of late does not represent them. Imagine if someone who is supposed to represent your interests was saying things that you completely disagreed with but they kept saying it with no regard to you at all.
But that’s not the only issue here, or even perhaps the most important one. Words matter because they reveal something about us as human beings; the things we say often tell more about what is truly in our hearts than the actions that we take.
A lot of what President Trump has said over the past year was in step with the things he did as a reality TV star. Many of us simply took it in stride, considering it as some bluster. But this latest comment reveals more about what is going on inside his heart and mind than anything else he’s said so far.
What the president of the United States has to say about poor and impoverished nations matters. For decades, this country has been known for its humanitarian efforts – which frankly goes in stride with something from the book of Proverbs: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
But that isn’t what Trump seemed to be saying the other day when he cast entire countries and people into the sewer.
What does that sort of comment reveal about what he truly believes about these people? Does he really think that those nations are “sh*thole countries” or was he just blustering? What are we to think when someone with such power says something so horrible about people who have been the victims of tyranny and injustice for decades? Does it represent us well? What could he have been thinking? Who was he representing in that moment?
There are a lot of people in this region who support President Trump. There are others who are resigned to the fact that he is our president and others who loathe him. No matter your position, his comment reveals something about him as a person that is disturbing. It is something we need to bear in mind because his words tell us something about the man himself.
This article was published on Sunday, January 21, 2018, by the Bristol Herald Courier
Mark Hutton is an award-winning writer, ordained minister and adjunct faculty member for the Philosophy and Religion Department at King University. He is a member of the Bristol Herald Courier’s Board of Contributors. Board members are regular Opinion page contributors, and opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper staff and management.