Monday, January 25, 2016

Reflections on Rhetorics and the American Political Regime, “Who has Heard My Cry?” The Call for a Rhetorics of Compassion

Listening to the words of the politician and the pundit I am evermore mindful that the political regime and supporting rhetorics, i.e., the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques, are antithetical to truth, ethics, morality and believe systems.  Politics is about power and money as means to support narrowly defined ideological positions affirmed or repudiated, and particular indulgence of intolerance, this the purview of the ego.  Power is the preeminent discourse of the ego and this the foundation of politics and rhetorical theatrics as displayed by Donald J. Trump. Sadly, this is a brand of American politics which has gained footing as sectarian, parochial and naiveté sensibilities have risen to the surface of the body politic.  American politics, as it has seemingly become, has very little to do with the care and concern of we the people, the broad and diverse people which define the United States, more so it is about those few people, in comparison, who are able to contribute their voice, i.e., their money, as a matter of cooptation. In this sense they are the constituents, the voices that are heard in the halls of the White House, Congress and Wall street.

The call goes out from city, town and village, urban and rural, “who has heard our voice,
who has heard our cry”

The current political environment emerges as the voice of the people has been muffled by and for particular privileged interests.  We should not wonder why the movements of Black Lives Matter, the Tea Party, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Donald J. Trump just to name a few of the prominent movements have gained social and political traction.  These movements should be considered a poignant statement regarding the care and concern of the body politic and the desires denied in favor of the privileged corporate class.  There is a longing of the people to be heard, to be seen to be respected and received as viable agents of political and economic import.  This seems, more than at any other time in political American life to be the point, “Have you heard my cry, do you reflect my perspective or at least my point of view, do you hear my voice?” I write as a liberal and a progressive on this matter.   As I write this post I am mindful of the words of the U.S. Constitution, one of the most liberal pieces of political rhetorics of the 18th century.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Rhetorics is a central part of political acumen which becomes the tool by which to speak to the issues of the body politic.  Rhetorics must be sustaining, empowering and sensitive to the profound needs and concerns of all people.  American rhetorics as embodied in the U.S. Constitution must embody a hopeful pragmatic attitude of divine import for a diverse and teaming population of people. 
We the People must once again believe that our voice is heard and that it has intrinsic value within the life of the American political scheme.
I believe it important to grasp the gravity of the intrinsic value of the voice of the people.  This intrinsic value must be seen as one of divine import.  Note:  While I do believe in separation of Church and State due to the many complications and complexities that would ensue if there were no separation I do acknowledge that each person is the incarnation of the divine, in this there is no waiver.  In this sense the voice that is heard is a voice of the divine.  That said, the voice of the person is the voice of the divine and a such the voice of the people must be considered an amalgamation of divine import.
Historically and I would say presently the rhetorics of American politics is tied to the narrative of white supremacy, privilege and empire, and I might add somewhat of a care taker attitude.  This is still the ground of the Euro-American political rhetorical project.  If we can move this rhetorics beyond the means and attitude of white supremacy, empire, their cousin capitalism then the systemic, systematic and programmatic issues that plague places like Flint Michigan, Ferguson, Mo., the Appalachia region and the U.S. at large might be adequately addressed.  Of course this is a difficult and challenging proposition.  Yet this is what is necessary to address the problems endemic to America in the 21st century.  American political rhetoric must mature so as to enable the U.S. to attain an even greater imagination grounded in justice and equality for all people.  American politics must make as its ground and purpose the empowerment of the powerless, to attain a broader more justice oriented imagination of what could be.
What I am seeking here is a new consciousness, one based on equality and empowerment for all framed in profound compassion.   This should, no, it must be the foundational ethic which undergirds the American rhetorical project.  The implications of this statement are nothing less than the emergence of a new discourse that enables and empowers those of critical difference formally a voice denied towards a voice heard and received by all.  This is the clarion call for a democracy empowered of divine intent for the transforming hope of humanity, this is the call for the Citizen Activist.
The Citizen Activist, A Sacred Calling
Through the rhetorics of compassion the Citizen Activist presents a poignant message of hope as they address “Who Has Heard My Cry” through the building of communities of solidarity, coalitions, and alliances.
The Citizen Activist is a person who, after significant reflection, meditation and conversation is able to look up from their personal suffering so that they might receive and embrace the suffering experienced by themselves and those around them, this as a matter of seeking justice.  This must be the mission of those in poverty, the disenfranchised and those who suffer because of race, sexism and bigotries.  Their suffering, as a matter of faith, must be received as a denial of self-deception and a poignant call for solidarity, this solidarity a means to alleviate the suffering for all.  To deny the reality of our suffering is to deny certain hope in favor of profound ignorance.  That said, there is a need for the Citizen Activist to gain some understanding of suffering, firsts as a term of definition and then as a reality of nonviolent protest.
Suffering, the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship, compels a response, this response received as hope is a mystical release of passion in the life and purpose of the Citizen Activist.  We see this in the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he writes of his “Suffering and Faith” on 27 April 1960 in Chicago, Ill.
Some of my personal sufferings over the last few years have also served to shape my thinking. I always hesitate to mention these experiences for fear of conveying the wrong impression. A person who constantly calls attention to his trials and sufferings is in danger of developing a martyr complex and of making others feel that he is consciously seeking sympathy. It is possible for one to be self-centered in his self-denial and self-righteous in his self-sacrifice. So I am always reluctant to refer to my personal sacrifices. But I feel somewhat justified in mentioning them in this article because of the influence they have had in shaping my thinking.
Due to my involvement in the struggle for the freedom of my people, I have known very few quiet days in the last few years. I have been arrested five times and 1960 put in Alabama jails. My home has been bombed twice. A day seldom passes that my family and I are not the recipients of threats of death. I have been the victim of a near fatal stabbing. So in a real sense I have been battered by the storms of persecution. I must admit that at times I have felt that I could no longer bear such a heavy burden, and have been tempted to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. But every time such a temptation appeared, something came to strengthen and sustain my determination. I have learned now that the Master’s burden is light precisely when we take his yoke upon us.   
My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it a virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.
There are some who still find the cross a stumbling block, and others consider it foolishness, but I am more convinced than ever before that it is the power of God unto social and individual salvation. So like the Apostle Paul I can now humbly yet proudly say, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”4 The suffering and agonizing moments through which I have passed over the last few years have also drawn me closer to God. More than ever before I am convinced of the reality of a personal God.[1]
It is also an authentic conversation, and I believe Dr. King understood this, that the earth and her humanity are composed of suffering and hope, this an evolving discourse on compassion.   Indeed, the Citizen Activist longs to balance these realities of human existence.   In this light the Citizen Activist seeks to build alliances, coalitions and partnerships, as a means of community rooted in a divine call for care and concern with compassion as their core understanding of life.  Understanding this, the rhetorics of the Citizen Activist must be based on compassion, mercy and grace simply as a shared narrative of the human condition.  This is important since in the new emerging world, particularly with the rise of social media, a shared narrative must be more explicit within the body politic. 
The Citizen Activist, encountering the narrow sectarian, parochial sensibilities aligned with structures of power, domination and avarice must be steadfast and nonviolent in the face of these forces that seek to maintain certain disparity between peoples, and classes of the body politic.
In the manner of Jesus Christ, the Buddha and Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi the Citizen Activist receives and embraces what is at stake.  In light of what is at stake they go the distance.  Yes, beloved they do go the distance in these affairs of Calling yet they do so among and with many others of divine calling.  And, in the manner of the Buddha they seek to balance, to do the least harm knowing that power, while a causality of passion, is not the goal of the Citizen Activist but love for all.

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