02 February 2006

State of the?

So the State of the Union address was Tuesday, and I'm slow posting a response. Given the fact that I haven't posted anything since November 2005, I reckon that will only seem reasonable. Look for more posts soon on less political topics. . . .

This semester, I'm teaching Advanced Rhetoric, Grammar, and Composition to a bunch of students who have so far tolerated beautifully my rants and raves and random observations about the rhetoric we encounter daily. This week there has been a lot more ranting and raving than usual, though. This week alone, we had the verbal and visual rhetoric of both the State of the Union address and, today on campus, regalia day (woot).

Tuesday afternoon in class, I asked my students to watch the speech and plan to consider the rhetorical implication of Bush's annual repetition that the "state of the union is strong" as well as all that standing and sitting business that happens sometimes on both sides of the aisle and sometimes on only one, sometimes happens by special guests surrounding the First Lady and sometimes happens by demonstrators invited to attend and then invited to leave. Then that evening I sat down to watch and hear some more interesting rhetoric.

Bush likes the rhetorical power of connecting the current war in Iraq to WWII, and such a connection is conveniently (for him) romantic. If only to shove out the other connection the American public might make (to the Vietnam War), Bush made the claim as often as possible. Such a claim also strengthens the "us vs. them" mentality that allows Bush to make transitional threats to Iran and Palestine, as though they are children who have done their daddy wrong (and who can forget that that daddy has a military he likes to wave around) rather than governments who have done the human race wrong. Similarly, and on an interesting grammatical note, he kept referring to "the terrorists" as though all such folks belong in a specific identifiable group.

Bush likes to harp on the idea that the reality of global terrorism justifies America's democratic imperialism. Though I gladly welcome the annihilation of terrorism across the globe, I do wonder why the administration thinks it has become America's job to convert others to democracy, and so insistently. But clearly, an administration with that kind of global authority also has enough local authority to keep up its lately named "Terrorist Surveillance Program." Bush claimed previous presidents did the same and had court support, and a not-so-careful listener would have presumed he also had court support too, but he skipped that "sorry for breaking the law" part.

But on to the fashion report. Louisiana governor Blanco looked so old and nanny-like, maybe because Bush spent so little time commenting on hurricane relief and she worried herself into old age right there in the chamber. And then Virginia governor Tim Kaine almost delievered the Democrats' response. . . . Oh wild eyebrow! Oh liftable left! What a caterpillar.


Myles said...

I have noticed a very slight improvement in Bush's speech-making. Am I kidding myself? I do understand that an improvement in that area for Bush still leaves him far below standard, but still.

Jen Strange said...

I'd say so. He pronounced most words correctly Tuesday night, and had a good sense of rhythm. He actually improvised some stuff too and looked like himself doing so. His best is still arguably mediocrity (so far as performance skills and information-giving, though that latter is our usual political fare, go), but Tuesday was one of his best.

Micah said...

I'd say that recently he's almost looked like a graduate of Yale and Harvard. He did attend and graduate from these distinguished institutions, or is that misinformation from government sources? Or maybe grade inflation has been disrupting education for longer than we neophytes presume. Is it still true that the hardest part of graduating from college is being admitted?

[I'm done. The first and last sentences are nigh related, so I've nothing more to say.]

obvious obviation said...

Are you in fact now an isolationist? Do you really believe that if we just let the islamo-fascists alone that they will only play in their backyard with no impact on the global neighborhood?

Jen Strange said...

All right, Obvious. I'll bite, now that you've rebuked me over dinner for not biting :)

I'm just concerned with the ramifications of potentially unjust justifications for potentially illegal activities (like wiretapping presumed terrorists without warrants). If that means I'm an isolationist, then call me isolationist, but I don't think that's reasonable. Rather, it means I'm concerned with due process and with checking the power of the executive branch.

Yes, leaving such militants alone will affect my backyard and yours, but that doesn't mean we can forsake justice to get them, especially if doing so merely protects my own measly backyard. (We cannot say, after all, that this "War on Terrorism" has merely altruistic global-neighborhood purposes--and perhaps it has more selfish motives than any of us Americans would like to admit.) Otherwise we're just playing their game their way. You can't squash terrorism with terrorism.