On Lazy Welfare Queens and Bankruptcy Cheaters
On my blog plate this week (I promise), is an answer to Marcus's objection to my Christology. But my topic this morning is political rhetoric. I am inspired, for once, by my readings for class. One of the assigned books for my legal writing course is C. Edward Good's Mightier Than the Sword. In a section that advocates "favoring concrete words over abstract words," Good writes:
Good writers won't decry hunger in America. They'll speak instead of those eating dog food from a can. Good speech writers won't extol opportunity in America. They'll speak instead of the successful chocolate-chip cookie tycoon starting an empire from scratch.
Effective writers and speakers, says Good (exemplifying his own rule), use "concrete words" to "staple [their] thoughts to [their] reader's minds."
I think that the Right has done a much better job of using concrete images to this end than has the Left. The inner-city African-American woman with four children dominated the Right's rhetoric surrounding welfare reform and was "stapled to the public's mind" despite statistics showing that welfare recipients were predominantly white and lived in rural areas. The "bankruptcy cheater" who buys a big house and then defaults to exploit "loopholes" in the bankruptcy laws dominates the debate over bankruptcy despite statistics showing that job loss and catastrophic medical expenses are by far the most common causes of bankruptcy.
The Left too often speaks in abstractions and statistics. This lack of concrete images may be seen as a symptom of the Left's failure to forcefully articulate VALUES. I say that it MAY be seen in this way because I think my posts here (Infission's as opposed to jj's more generally) suffer from the abstraction malady but not the lack of values. We (the Left) must not only articulate values but also create concrete images to staple our ideas to the public's mind.
Surely I am not the first to point this out. But perhaps it is unique to posit that such a move would be to follow Jesus' rhetorical pattern. Jesus did speak in abstractions - in broad principles. But he also (much more frequently) spoke in parables, in concrete stories and images that would stick in his hearers' minds. Think the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, etc. The Left, then, should follow Jesus both ethically and rhetorically.