Rhetoric. This, dear reader, is a powerful word. It can be used for good or for bad. It can sleep with the angels or have an affair with the devil. It is neither a right or left winged word, nor does it cares who embraces it, but that it is embraced. And, with a society that tends to have short memories (I include myself in this category dear reader) and whose brains switch modes as easily as we switch between TV stations, rhetoric is even a more powerful tool.
How cunning the use of rhetoric to reframe a point or issue. How quickly it takes hold . . . telling us to forget what we saw with our own two eyes, or heard with our own ears, or even know in our hearts.
I was just reading Rich Lowry’s article “The Coming Battle Over New Orleans” published September 2, over at the National Review—yes, I am a late on some of my reading—school and such. Regardless, Lowry reframes the issue of poverty while examining the aftermath of Katrina. In it he states:
In many senses, however, poverty is indeed dangerous. The root of it, more than anything else, is the breakdown of the family. Roughly 60 percent of births in New Orleans are out of wedlock. If people are stripped of the most basic social support — the two-parent family — they will be more vulnerable in countless ways, especially, one assumes, in moments of crisis like that that has befallen New Orleans. If the tableaux of suffering in the city prompts meaningful soul-searching, perhaps there can be a grand right-left bargain that includes greater attention to out-of-wedlock births from the Left in exchange for the Right’s support for more urban spending (anything is worth addressing the problem of fatherlessness).
Here, dear reader, is a cunning rhetorical reframing of the problem. The problem of poverty is no longer a problem of a society who cares not if poverty exists or even if there should be real social/economic programs designed to deal with all problems surrounding the poverty issues (availability of living wage paying jobs, education, integration, housing and the like) but, rather, a problem of women having children out of wed-lock! Lovely! Beautiful! Did you see the twist dear reader? The tangled web of logic? How simple everything would be if women would just keep their legs together, live the patriarchal dream, while keeping the kitchen nice and clean! The problem, dear friends, is not how we deal with poverty on a wide level, but it lies with women!
This “grand right-left bargain” that Lowry proposed hinges on the patriarchal myth/structure of society which states that if women are not married and playing the role of “mother” for the state, then all underlying social structures crumble and fall into a chaos of Katrina like disasters(Although by placing the word “fatherlessness” into the mix, an afterthought, he smoothly avoids directing his finger only at women. And yet, dear reader, there is the insistence on the patriarchal myth which cannot help but point to woman’s failure.)
Dear reader, I am not suggesting that we don’t have a problem in this country, a problem of unwanted and often disposable children. I have seen it, and I have mourned. Yet this problem is not the root of poverty! This problem is a problem of many factors: social, political, educational and economical. We cannot simply put it down to misplaced morals and sexual promiscuity. President Bush during one of his debates with Kerry, once said (and I am paraphrasing) that the issue is black or white—it is or it isn’t. This is bad rhetoric folks. Issues are rarely a simple matter of “if you hurts when you do that, then don’t do that.”
Finally, dear female readers out there, we must keep a sharp eye on this rhetoric. Whether we like it or not, the equal rights amendment never past and the patriarchal myth still holds. With the changes being experienced on the Supreme Court, we must be acutely attuned to the possible consequences. Whether you agree with abortion or not, our rights as equal members in society are still contingent. We must fight against the possibility of back sliding into the realm of “equal by separate” syndrome that is often proposed. We must not “go quietly into that goodnight” but rather resist the pull. We must not allow Descartes’ “Evil Genius” to take us down into the rhetoric of the good ol’ yesterday.