Monday, April 29, 2013

What's In A Name (or phrase)?

Just meditating on the art of words today in the wake of the GOP House resurgence.

"A Pledge To America" is the new Republican governing document, akin to an art school's manifesto. It's interesting to contrast it with 1994's "The Contract With America" as an exercise in rhetorical style and function.


In 1994, business was rushing into the dot-com boom/bubble, "The Superhighway Summit" was held at UCLA (where Al Gore spoke about the convergence of technologies exploding on the net), the Fed Funds target rate was raised hugely, Apple released the PowerPC chips, Wired was just getting hot and everything was business, business, business, so "contract" sounded all buzzwordy-happening-meme-ish, the style du jour.

The second sentence of TCWA uses the words "official evasion and posturing" and "no fine print" and then goes on to talk about "government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family"... "To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves. "

The TWCA then goes on to actually propose specific legislation on 10 major concerns; talking business, setting out the job outlines.


I guess that was 1994 attack-dog, Art Of War- style business, getting that all up front right away, cards-on-the-table, Masters O' The Universe school. In contrast, APTA [a PTA? ACTA/APTA? at least their acronyms have gotten more refined] begins by bombastically recalling us to our 6th grade History lessons; you can hear "Stars And Stripes Forever" humming underneath; the soundtrack to a speech by His Honor The Mayor as the highlight of a Fourth of July ice-cream social.

There's no admittance of any responsibility or culpability for What Has Gone Before.

After that affirmation of principles you couldn't possibly reject without being some kind of anarchistic god-hating sociopathic terrorist child pornographer [did you involuntarily cringe or flinch just a bit when you read those trigger words?] the return of the pointy stick from 1994 (itself a kindler, gentler pointy stick than in 1992) reveals the righteous indignation of men of good character and moral grace for the government haughtily doing all these bad things to people.

This is a great phrase here:

"An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down longstanding laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people."

It says that the entire government - all three Branches - is hopelessly compromised and corrupted, and goes on to ring "thwart" "overturn" "strike(ing)" and "scorn." Dang! Those dastardly villains! I love the echoes of genteel effrontry. Pistols at dawn, Edmund?

Next we get:

"An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many."

Here's a nice swipe at science, education and knowing stuff - setting up the spectre of a cold, bloodless Atomic Brain clique and pinging the continued war on science, yet manages to insinuate ("self-elected") that these government officials were not legitimately voted into office in the first place.

"Like free peoples of the past" - I hope you kept that You Tube link active above (or I can provide one for "Lilies Of The Field" if you need one).

It then goes on for another several paragraphs strangely reminiscent of the Girl Scout Promise and Law or a conversion/coming-of-age ceremony. In contrast, TCWA perhaps implied much of this rhetoric but actually set forth what it proposed as a series of specific actions to remedy specific problems.

I also love the title-shift. It hold invocatory echoes of the Pledge of Allegiance, the current "virginity pledge movements" and Promise Keepers associated with evangelical Christians and pure old Scout humility and earnestness while managing to avoid the taint of being "big-business friendly," another one of the current disenpowerment memes ("they iz doing it to us all wrong!")

In both cases the documents imply that there has never been fairness in elections; that there has somehow been a hostile takeover of government by men of nefarious and unAmerican® persuasion; that "the people" are oppressed and calling for champions and that all current troubles can be laid at the feet of "The Government"("reclaim our government for the people").

In APTA the rhetorical style of blowsy bombast alternates with stirring echoes and references to the American Revolution, Star Wars and Spartacus. I guess the Congresscritters' cozy partnership with MediAmeriCo® pays off in being able to recycle cheezy schmaltz and outtakes from "Leave It To Beaver."

Bits and pieces:

"reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values "

"We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations "

"to whom much is given, much is expected" [Luke 12:48] and that the blessings of our liberty"

"make this pledge bearing true faith

"we invite fellow citizens and patriots"