Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fantasy versus Ideology

Rhetorical criticism is an inherent part of punditry.  Because rhetoric is the use of symbols to influence thought and action, analyzing the rhetoric of political candidates helps us to make informed  choices between candidates.  Recently, respected members of the conservative right have described President Obama and other prominent Democrats as ideological, and call for Republicans to respond with ideology.  I believe this is a mistake of apples-and-oranges in comparing the two rhetorical purposes.  This is not an election about ideology.  This is an election about fantasy versus ideology.

When fantasy rhetoric is used, people in a particular group use communication to create reality.  Once the fantasy is shared, meanings that used to be understood by individuals converge and alter to create a shared reality.  The creation of a shared reality requires the use of both fact-based and fiction based media.  Fantasy rhetoric depends on stereotypes and stock scenarios that can be repeated, allowing new members to put new experiences into familiar forms.  In this way the fantasy vision unifies experiences, creating a master analogy that applies to all situations.  When the master analogy is shared, the experiences of individuals that would be exceptions to the analogy are perceived by the group as rare or personal.  This creates a large number of people who will see their experiences as unique and uncommon, while still believing and acting on the fantasy.

Here's an example:
  • Women should not be punished with a baby.
  • Children do not bring joy to a home, but interfere with a woman's ability to advance in her career and drain family funds, creating poverty.
  • News reports of children abused or abandoned by single parents increase.  MTV presents the sad world of teen moms as a reality show. 
  • The stock scenario of the single parent is retold with abusive partners, the need for government assistance, and the inability to juggle work and child care.
  • Since the life of a child born into this situation is so hard on both the child and the parent, abortion is the humane choice.
  • The master analogy becomes that poverty is the same as death.
  • A particular young woman who had a child as a teen, and later graduated from college, and married for life, will assume that her situation is unique.  No other young woman has the family support or the intelligence to be able to do the same thing. 
Let's compare this rhetorical fantasy with the ideological rhetoric of the conservatives.  Like fantasy, ideology strives to present a cohesive world view.  Ideology starts with a principle, and ends with how that principle manifests in lived experiences.  Ideology does not depend on fiction, but rather depends on a combination of faith and fact.  Ideology sees failures to reach desired outcomes as the result of abandoning the principle.  When faced with many failures, the ideologue returns to re-educate with the principle.  The principle is never abandoned.

Here's an example:

  • All people have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Life is the formost right, because with out it, no subsequent right is possible.
  • This right to life is a gift to all human beings through God and nature.  
  • When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, the ideologue of faith will believe that God has a reason for this new life having been created at this time.  The ideologue of nature will understand that the choice to create the life has already been made at the time of conception.  The life exists and it has value.  In order for the new life to receive liberty and pursue happiness, the life must be preserved and protected.
  • Failure to live  violates the original principle, negating all other rights.
  • When many people violate the principle of life, the conservative ideologue returns to nature and God to re-educate the populace.
  • There are no exceptions to the principle of a God-and-nature-given right to life.
When conservatives try to apply ideas to fantasies, we frequently run into brick walls.  The stereotypes and stock scenarios of the liberal fantasy have become deeply intrenched in our culture.  We might be seeing a final backlash from the media.  I find it humorous that professed liberal pundits are calling Debbie Wasserman Schultz out about false statements on the 'war on women' fantasy, and our President on his use of entertainment media rather than the White House reporters.  These reporters are abandoning the fantasy.

Ideologues are wise to remind us of our rights and our fundamental principles.  It is time for our country to wake up from this fantasy nightmare.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Charity versus Entitlements

When I first became acquainted with Tea Party ideas, it seemed obvious to me that what we were arguing about was taxes versus charitable giving.  I now believe this is the most fundamental choice we have before us.  Do we want a government, even of representatives with which we agree, to decide who is worthy of charity and who is not?  Do I want to have, say 10% of all of my dollars spent at Target, go to the charities their CEO chooses, or do I want to give 10% of my money to my parish where I personally know the people making the decisions?

We have become a country where fewer people make bigger decisions with our money everyday.  Our Omaha Pubic School's Board decided that it would be a great idea to do away with the grading system.  They call it outcomes based, but that just means no child will receive fewer than 50% on any assignment provided a DNA test proves that the drool on he test belongs to him.  

The US Department of Education has a projected budget of $69.1 BILLION for 2013.  If each school child age 0 to 17, and his or her family were to share equally in that money, each child would have $910 and change.  Add to that money spent by sate and local governments, and by parents who pay taxes, but use private schools or home-school, and spend their own money to do it.  Does education spending seem like a scam to anyone else?  And I'm not even talking about the indoctrination that passes for education.  I'm just talking dollars and bodies.

What about welfare?  What about the difference between food stamps and food banks?  When Jesus told us to 'Render unto Caesar...'  I don't think he was talking about Obama, and Planned Parenthood, and the Department of Education, and Food Stamps, and Welfare... 

So I'm asking everyone to look at how much you pay in taxes, and how much you can offset by giving to charities you trust.  Give more to those you trust to make good decisions, and less to government.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

His Lips are Moving.

It's an old lawyer joke;  How do you tell when a lawyer is lying?  His lips are moving.  In this post I'm not speaking of lawyers in general, but our president specifically. 

I've lost track of the number of lies Obama has told.  He lied about the economy.  He lied about jobs created.  He lied about the effectiveness of stimulus plans.  He lied about being at a soccer game for one of his girls, and nobody ever found out where he really was.  He lied about writing his own autobiographies.  He lied about the credentials of his top advisers.  He lied about his political opponents.  He lied and lied and lied some more.

And then when Obama wasn't lying he would obfuscate. He changes stories to suit his self-aggrandizing purposes more frequently than he lies.  He was a law professor?  No, he was, like me, a lowly adjunct.  He never introduced legislation or made statements about anything of consequence, if it didn't involve killing the unborn, before he became a candidate for president.

Obama has shown himself to be viciously opposed to anything that could be recognized as a traditional America.  He speaks about hating the rich, but then spends significant time with them.  He is king-like in his use of a velvet rope to separate himself from those who shake his hand at official functions.  His family travels the globe while exhorting the rest of us to tighten our belts. 

So a handful of people are still doggedly trying to vet Obama. These dedicated souls dig into obscure birth records in Hawaii, Kenya, London...  They search the country for anyone who remembers him at Oxidental or Columbia.  They stay hot on the trail of Connecticut social security numbers.  They try to penetrate the Illinois Bar Association to find out why Barrack and Michelle have been disbarred. 

All of this is done by hardworking warriors for truth, who are generally not paid for their work.

And for all of their work, their reward is ridicule.

I don't know if Obama is eligible for the presidency or not.  But I should know.  You should know.  His lies and obfuscations have proven him to be not just not credible, but untrustworthy. 

Could we please take these questions seriously?  It may be the best, most effective means of undoing the damage he has done to our country.