The final speech of the Republican National Convention painted a bleak, Blade Runner-version of America. The only solution, according to Trump, is himself.
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he said.
That desperation, that dangerous pride, is alarming. But the most alarming and angering thing I heard all night came when he talked about average Americans and said these words: “I am your voice.”
If Donald J. Trump is my voice and your voice and our voice, we as a nation have become only more blatantly vulgar and violent, sexist and racist, hateful and offensive. If he is our voice, our voice must be muted.
There is a power in one’s voice—a power that cannot be surrendered to some wannabe politician simply because he’s claimed it for himself. Your voice cannot be captured because some speechwriter said it could be. Our speech cannot be co-opted by a wave of the hand, even by a candidate for president of the United States.
Of course it is common language to declare oneself the voice of the voiceless, to talk about speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves. I have used that language myself, probably in what I though were my best moments. But hearing Trump use that rhetoric to claim America’s middle and lower classes for himself, to draw out the voice of ordinary Americans like nectar from a flower, I realized that we must think more carefully over our use of the phrase, lest we simply give in and say, “Well, I guess he’s my muse and wordsmith now.”
When Trump claims to be my voice, he has stolen it like Ursula stealing Ariel’s every word, sucking out a soul and repossessing it. It makes me reconsider every time I thought so nobly that I was speaking on behalf of another. Perhaps they did not want me to speak for them. Perhaps I misrepresented. Perhaps my words were not adequate for the infinite depth of another human’s heart and mind. And now that I think about it, they almost certainly weren’t.
Our voice is our spirit for public consumption. Our voice is, in a way, who we are to the world. The idea that a man of such vile character could become my voice, as though by some dark magic, as though by the sheer and brutal will of political wordcraft, is itself a sort of terror.
Trump, like anyone—though he has more power and a grander pulpit—could say anything at all, as he has proven over the last year, and claim, “I speak for the people. I speak for Jack and Jill and all the others.” And that is a paralyzing thought. Because what if I’m not there to refute him? What if the ordinary American is not in the Oval Office to say he doesn’t speak for us there? What if the blue collar worker isn’t in the consulate in Beijing or Dubai to say Trump’s words are not my own? These things will inevitably happen. They have happened already.
It’s a serious, perilous thing to say you are the people’s voice. I never realized that so gravely until today. And so we must speak loudly and clearly, holding on to our voice with all our being, in order to talk down the microphones and macroaggressions of the shouting master.
For when we lose our voice, we lose our power.
No one can be my voice unless I relinquish it. No one can take our voice as long as we speak out. So speak out.
Trump has tried to commit a most banal and baleful theft—to confiscate the voice of regular Americans and rename it The Mouth of Trump. He must not succeed, because his tune and his words are nothing like the words we sing.
He was not my voice when he endorsed violence by saying he’d “defend in court” his supporters who brutalized opponents, encouraged violence at his events, and refused to condemn violence at his rallies.
Was he yours?
The RNC finale speech was chock full of irony. The prime example came when Trump said, “Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression, is not welcome in our country, and never will be.”
My only question: If that’s the case, when is Trump leaving?
Trump is not my voice. He does not speak for me. He must not speak for us.