Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ryan, Lies and Racial Overtones

From good friend and able writer, The Rev. Dr. Robert Dahl, a good preacher and a keen observer of American craziness:

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Paul Ryan said in his speech last evening "Everything is free but us."  Who is the "us"?  Yes, looking at the crowd, that became clear.  He finally got to the race baiting!  It wasn't exactly a great grammatical line, but it was effective at pitting "us" agin' "them." 

He's good, he's real good, he's the best deliverer of the convention so far perhaps with the exception of the Governor of New Mexico, but he is a race bater -- another white child of privilege (Yes, in spite of his father's early death, the family is the most prominent in his home town.) talking about "the way we were" in white, semi-rural, safe, Andy Griffith, Aunt Bee, Opie, Mayberry land and how what we were and are is about to be taken away from us by those who get everything for free, the freeloaders, which is what I think he was saying.  Draw your own conclusions as to what that code language means.     

As a speaker?  He was coached well and intensely over the last couple of weeks by, as I'm told, the best coaching that money can buy. He was really, really, really good at delivery -- the staccato lines, swift alliterative bullets, this and that faster than speed, zingers against the opposition, one liners, pregnant (no pun intended) pauses, gestures, facial expressions, cute smiles, winks, shrugs, co-opting fine quotes of great ethical leaders for his own purposes, appeal to God with a God crowd for justification of his positions, all form and no substance and many lies (as fact checkers have determined).   No one has thrown red meat like Ryan at this convention.  But when all the analysis of the speech is done it will be shown that the speech will not have lasting effect but will have been an aborted effort.  And why?  Because of the phony baloney content.  

He was preaching to the proverbial choir, but if the intent was to win over the five percent independent vote, assuming that five percent is intelligent enough to examine the facts, the speech will backfire.  Hopefully, independents are looking for truth and, if so, they will be turned off by deceit.  

It reminds me of my speech classes in college and the emphasis on the importance of delivery for the professor.   I pooh-pooh-ed it and then Shakespeare set me straight with the speeches following Caesar's death in the tragedy Julius Caesar.  One side (Brutus) swayed the masses not by content but by delivery. Delivery is very important. The other side (Antony) swayed the masses with both delivery and content.  My objection then and still is that content is more important than delivery but I have to acknowledge that delivery is important in giving a speech.  

I have concluded that delivery is incredibly important for both good and ill, but that only delivery and integrity of content is ultimately good and that which will ultimately persevere.  

Might I offer as an example a young Austrian with incredible oratorical skills who was able to tell falsehoods to a needy, needy, humiliated people to move them to the horror of mass murder?  However, the oratory of Churchill and Roosevelt, which combined delivery with the power of truthful content, won the day, the civilization and the future.   Do you see why I, a preacher and a former adjunct professor of preaching, still favor content?

I stand in fear of the great orator and what false appeal to fear can do.  I appreciate the great poet.  I stand in awe of the one who can combine the two -- great oratory and great poetry, and I don't mean the canned kind of poetry, but the poetry of truth as experienced in the mythic, metaphor,  simile and sometimes even the literal.

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