But I cling, nevertheless, to my childish fantasy that words do matter, in spite of what Trumpism is unleashing in our world. Donald Trump demonstrated repeatedly that he could say anything, including with his behavior, and people would dutifully overlook it. The best example was when he declared brazenly, “I could shoot someone in the street in Manhattan and not suffer at the polls.” He was right. He once told a crowd in Iowa after falling behind in the polls, “How stupid can you get?” He carried Iowa easily in the election.
But I must admit that I play loose and easy with words. I do not believe they are the “thing in itself” so that when you passionately affirm your faith in “God”, for example, that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with God. But, we live in a less esoteric world where the meaning of words in popular usage carries weight. Therefore, if I cry “fire” in a crowded theater, I have crossed a line. If I tell a hot young woman, “You have a fine rack,” then I have crossed a line. Usage of language requires a sensitivity to decorum and sensitivity so that when I run for President of the United States in four years, I promise I will not be insulting or denigrating of my opponents on the debate stage. I will not defend the size of my “male member”, though let me assure you, “there is no problem there!” I will not refer to women’s private parts at all and if I had to do so I would not use the “c” word. Use of words has a contextual dimension and involves a sensitivity to that context. Someone with the neurological disorder Tourette’s Syndrome illustrates what kind of problems happen if someone lacks that filter. He creates awkwardness in the social body and this “awkwardness” now being legitimized by Trump if not stymied can lead to chaos.
Yes, words have a hidden meaning, they “burgeon forth into a region beyond themselves” (Gabriel Marcel) but they also have value on the superficial, contextual level. What we are witnessing now in my country is the breakdown of verbal propriety, of decorum, and people with a reptilian brain in over-drive are feeling empowered by Donald Trump. They can say, and do, whatever they wish because “words do not matter.” Words do not carry consequences. Donald Trump has demonstrated that my country lives in a meaningless universe of its own making in which words, and deeds, do not matter. This is “meaninglessness” and, per William Butler Yeats, “mere anarchy is unleashed upon the world.