(Writer’s Note: We write about political issues and events on occasion in this blog, most of the time in the form of commentary on the dysfunction of our national political conversation, and always with a distinct effort to remain as apolitical as possible. This company enters the world as experts in persuasive communication, not in public policy, social issues or politics. We will always stay in our lane, and leave the social and political commentary to others. But not today. I am going to break my own rule today… and with good reason. I have been left no choice but to comment on a political situation not of my own making.)
My colleagues and I spend our entire professional lives teaching people how to use their words and message to advocate for their ideas, project, product and themselves. We spend every day teaching people how to build strong messages that persuade and motivate others to act. When The Latimer Group looks itself in the mirror, we like to believe that we are teaching people how to use their communication skills for good things.
But we also are aware that words and persuasive communication can, when in the wrong hands, be used for bad things. Just like any other skill, effective communication skills can be used to achieve great things and terrible things, depending on the user.
What occurred on January 6, 2021 at the United States Capitol was, unfortunately, the not-so-hard-to-predict outcome of what can happen when words are used for terrible things.
We should always celebrate healthy debate, legitimate protest, and differences of opinion. Those things are non-negotiable elements of America and our system of government. It is woven directly into the fabric of whom we are. But every system of government, especially one based on debate and compromise, is built on sand. Nothing is ever permanent.
This means that our elected leaders not only have a responsibility to lead the business of the country on a day-to-day basis. They also are the literal caretakers of our system, with a responsibility to nurture our system for every American, present and future. They are the First Responders of the American System, with a primary responsibility to protect our system of government. We expect them, in fact need them, to look beyond the political battle of the moment, and think always about how their actions will reinforce or tear down our system for future generations.
This also means that when we elect our officials, we need to look beyond their policy positions, and start once again doing our best to promote character. We need to choose leaders who stand for more than a certain policy position that we might prefer.
I have made it clear many times in this blog that I am famously independent in my political ideology, incredibly uncomfortable with the rhetoric from both edges of the political spectrum. But being an independent does not mean always staying neutral, and always making the “both sides” argument. Some things are so obviously wrong that they must be called out for what they are.
What we saw on January 6th was the terrible, but entirely predictable, outcome of what can happen when our leaders use their powers of persuasion for terrible things. But this problem did not start on January 6, 2021. Nor did it did not start on January 20th, 2017. It didn’t even start on June 16th, 2015, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency. He didn’t start this. The ultimate problem of our deep division has been brewing for a long time, with an increasingly polarized electorate.
But he certainly used a crowbar to divide us even further, through a multi-year effort to intentionally tear at the fabric of our system. He used the power of words for terrible things, as he spent years railing against the norms of every element of our system — the press, the presidency, our international partnerships, and eventually our entire electoral system. And his multi-year assault on the American System ultimately led to something most of us never thought we would see — a mob of Americans storming the United States Capitol.
January 6 was a powerful teaching moment, for all of us. We learned once again that (among other things) words and intentions matter, and that our system is fragile. All of us have a responsibility to care for a system that allows for difference of opinion and debate. But our leaders have a disproportionate responsibility to do so. And on that point, Donald Trump has failed miserably. I don’t care if you like his policies. That is your choice and your right. I will always have respect for you, your opinion and your right to cast your vote in any way you choose. But I don’t have respect for a leader who uses words and persuasion to do terrible things, and who uses his words and the power of his office to tear down what so many have built over the last 245 years.
I hope that our Congress, the Cabinet and, most of all, history will hold Donald Trump to account. At a minimum, he deserves to be discharged dishonorably from his duties, and never given the privilege of elected office ever again. That is the bare minimum of what he deserves.
I chose to wade into this conversation very cautiously, and unwillingly. But circumstances dictated my ultimate choice to not remain silent.
I write all of this, just as I do with everything I share with you, in the greatest of hope. Stay safe and sane, my friends.
At The Latimer Group, we believe that great communication skills can change the world. We transform people and organizations with simple, repeatable techniques and mindsets. We teach persuasive communication skills through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and eLearning. To learn more about how we can transform your organization, e-mail us at info@TheLatimerGroup.com
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