It’s hard to speak about an event when we know so little about how and why it happened. In fact, at this time scary things are still happening in Boston. Nevertheless, presidents are expected to make remarks before the smoke has cleared and the full facts are known. He or she must sidestep questions such as these: Do we call it an act of terror? Isn’t it possible that the suspect suffered from severe mental illness and had no political motivation (i.e. wasn’t a terrorist per se)? I empathize with President Obama. The rhetorical situation here is a tough one, the leading constraint being that he is expected to speak and yet may know very little about what actually happened.
Obama spoke at an interfaith memorial service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He delivered his address last Thursday. You can read the full transcript here and I’ll paste it below. One thing that stuck out to me, perhaps for no good reason, was this remark:
If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us, to shake us from those values that Deval described, the values that make us who we are, as Americans — well, it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it. Not here in Boston. Not here in Boston.
This comment, while admirable in its epideictic praise of a city under siege, begs a very troubling question: which city would have been the right city? But this is pure snark. What do you make of his speech? Share your reactions below. Read more…
“Bad” Things You Should Go Ahead and Say to Your Children Anyway: A Rhetorician’s Guide to Language-Consciousness Training for Parents of Young Children
Several years ago, I listened as my mom told a new mother to whom we are very close that she should stop using the phrase “bad baby” (disclosure: the young mother in question is an excellent parent). This struck me as eminently sensible. The young mother took my mom’s advice to heart, and stopped right away. But this child was precocious and, sensing that the phrase had become forbidden, developed a puckish habit of saying “bad baby!” and running from the room giggling. It charmed me to no end.
I share this anecdote to raise a larger question: how should parents talk to young children? We as a society have only just begun to fully appreciate that children can hear and be affected by the words we choose. The Internet, the world’s leading clearinghouse for wisdom, product reviews, and pure human awfulness, has taken on this challenge with gusto. A colleague recently passed along an article titled “10 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (and What to Say Instead)” You can read it in full here. We’ll take a close look at it below, but you can find similar articles here, here and here. Some of these pieces offer good advice. The most heartbreaking are those that advise on how to talk to children about events like the Boston Marathon Bombing. But sometimes we go too far in managing language, and nasty patterns creep in—see below. Read more…
Rand Paul Demands Answers to Obvious Questions for 13 Hours Straight, Draws Further Attention to Self and Away from Substantive Discussion
If you’ve ever wondered about whether or not the Constitution lets the government just go ahead and murder you without a trial, but you didn’t want to actually go and check in the Constitution, now you have your answer. See, a few weeks back, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director to force the Obama administration to issue a firmer answer on whether or not it feels it has the right to use drone strikes on American citizens. The filibuster has made Paul somewhat of a hero of the moment; as this article from ABC News points out, the filibuster has earned Paul praise from fellow conservatives and some more left-leaning individuals and organizations like John Stewart, Code Pink, and the ACLU. But despite the near across-the-board support, I’m not jumping on the (I am so sorry) Randwagon.
Gun violence erupts again as a shooter accused of killing innocent people fled and was killed days later in a police shootout. The shooter, Christopher Dorner, who was fired from the LAPD in 2008, has been called a common murderer, an extreme sociopath, or (in certain circles) a cult hero for declaring a guerilla war against the LAPD. But there’s something missing from these representations of a local police officer gone killer.
Greetings, gentle readers. It’s been awhile since we rapped at you on this here weblog, and we hope you all enjoyed your holiday breaks in spite of the seemingly interminable purgatory of our absence. In the time since our last post, not everything was candy canes and sleigh bells, though. As y’all no doubt already know, in one of the most tragic events in recent memory a young man shot and killed 26 people (including 20 children) in a Connecticut elementary school. Tragic and controversial—the shooting has (re)opened a heated discussion about our gun control policy here in the States. And this conversation shows us how our rhetorical characterizations can belie underlying ideologies.
I recently had a most fascinating stint working as an on-the-street fundraiser for a major international charity. Suffering children in developing countries was the name of the game. Those posters with beautiful, wide-eyed kids can be hard to ignore. As a fundraiser, the experience has been an eye-opener to a specific type of social argument.
I will be the first to recognize what a nuisance street-level salesmen and campaigners can be, battling for your attention and wallet content. I am as guilty as anyone of ignoring and declining for-profit and non-profit offers thrown in my face without warning. Nevertheless, we fundraisers occupy your public spaces and sometimes (ouch) your daily commutes. And for yours truly, amateur anthropologist, this was a golden opportunity to study the ways people reject these pleas. Read more…