As English students, we know how powerful words can be. They can transport us to different eras and locations. They can make fantasy seem to be reality. They can inspire us, teach us, and create worlds, emotions, and futures. They can even get us an A+ on our exam papers, if we use them well… or possibly land us a position of power. To quote the United States of America’s President-elect Trump, “I’m very highly educated. I know words. I have the best words!” Yet what are these words, these ‘best’ words, that Donald Trump has? Where do they transport us and what do they create?
As many of us have seen on social media, in global newspapers, and on every news network, the election of Trump as the USA’s next president has cultivated an open culture of hate, violence, and crime. Most notably, however, the events of November 8th have inspired some very powerful and very venomous words. From graffiti that is scrawled on walls and windows, to vile words that are hurled at liberals and conservatives alike, and malicious rhetoric being strewn across the internet at remarkable speed, hate speech is rampant in Trump’s America. Slurs are being used to target minorities in a way that the world hasn’t seen since the 1960’s, when Martin Luther King had to use his words to inspire peace and justice in the face of white America’s blatant racism. And as much as many would like to flaunt the old idiom “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,” there is no denying that words do sting and fuel a detrimental hatred that is spreading not only in the United States, but also in a global capacity.
However, just as words can cause pain, hatred, and despair, they can also create change. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s old words still ring true: “the pen is mightier than the sword”, and this election has been an eye opening call-to-arms. It is up to us, people who understand the gravity of words, to put pen to paper to teach acceptance and inspire hope. The only way to defeat the malicious words that are poisoning the equity and liberty that our society aims to represent, is to use better words – words that are uplifting, enduring, and strong. By not being sucked in by the anger and ferocity that we see around us, we can inspire patience, hope, and integrity. So get out there, English students, and use your best words.
Leah Girvitz is a Torontonian poet and topical writer, in her third undergraduate year at UBC. She is an English literature major and creative writing minor, and is currently studying abroad at King’s College London. Leah’s interests and aspirations include working in the field of entertainment law, and abolishing the patriarchy.
Image: public domain