Rhetoric, not policy

The past week has shown just how disunified our nation and our campus is after everyone heard the results of this presidential election.

I’ve had several interactions with fellow students, professors and community members where we talked about what the world will look like with Donald J. Trump as our president in January 2017. Since Nov. 9, I’ve heard and seen several people tell others to “suck it up” or to “stop being an emotional, entitled millennial” or to “say he’s your president.”

I think it’s more complicated than a matter of complaining or acceptance. Thursday night I had a conversation with two friends of mine, and we discussed ways that this election was different than previous ones. We ultimately concluded that rhetoric was more influential in this election than in the past, and that concept is seemingly causing most of the divide.

Rhetoric is a persuasion device used both intentionally and unintentionally to make an impression on an audience. Posture, words, tone and dress are just a few factors that contribute to a person’s rhetoric.

In this most recent election, many people believed that Trump’s rhetoric was scary and hateful, and several of the students I’ve spoken with are less afraid of his policies than the hateful culture that he will perpetuate with his rhetoric. The U.S. House and Senate, although controlled by Republicans who will likely support Trump, are designed to protect citizens from harmful policies. At the same time, there is no body or law that protects the nation from a harmful culture.

From what I’ve been able to hear and experience personally, rhetoric is what most people are afraid of. The past eight years have shown so much social progression and acceptance: the acceptance of Hate Crime Protection Act in 2009, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.

Realistically speaking, whether in private or in public, Trump has acted or spoken in a way that would make several demographics feel threatened.

He attacked mothers in 2011 when he said that breastfeeding is “disgusting.” It’s no unknown fact that on multiple occasions he’s attacked women at large, objectifying contestants in the Miss America pageants, and let’s not forget when he called journalist Megyn Kelly a bimbo and essentially called her moody because she must have been on her period.

In December 2015, Trump proposed on his official campaign website that Muslims should be banned from entering the country until “representatives can figure out what’s going on.” He cited a poll from the Center of Security Policy, when out of 600 interviewed Muslims, 25 percent believe it’s okay to be violent against Americans as a part of global jihad. So, because 150 Muslims said that it’s okay to be violent against Americans, Trump said he wanted to ban all Muslims from entering the country.

Although Trump has been oddly quiet on his stance on LGBTQ+ rights, hotlines such as Trans Lifeline, The Trevor Project and Crisis Text Line have all reported almost doubling in the number of calls or texts they receive. And let us not forget about when he mocked a disabled person at his rally, he encouraged the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at his rally and how he still hasn’t denounced white supremacist and anti-semitic organizations.

All of these things form Trump’s rhetoric. He will influence our culture being in a position of power, and people are so afraid of how his rhetoric will change our culture.

So next time that you or somebody you know gets frustrated because somebody is saying they’re angry, afraid or heartbroken, show them love and compassion rather than brutality and a cold shoulder. There’s more to a president than policy.