Tuesday, November 09, 2004
( 8:17 AM )
How We Talk
George Lakoff has been getting a lot of attention lately. He is with the Rockridge Institute and he is all about FRAMING THE MESSAGE. He feels that the thing that liberals have done wrong is allow the Radical Right to not only frame all the political debates, but also command the lingo of the news machine. I haven't yet read his highly recommended Don't Think of an Elephant!, but every review says it's worth the time.
So I've been thinking about the oncoming four years of soft fascism that we're all about to face - and I mostly think about it in the context of raising a son whom I would like to see grow up with a hope in humanity, a desire to change things for the most vulnerable and a driving energy to resist the message that he must conform to certain belief systems or he is left out. So I'm thinking about the things Lakoff says about how we frame our message - how we talk about things. This is really relevant for parents like me - I would like to think I'm raising the Leader of the Resistance. But in order for him to grow into someone who can resist effectively, he needs the tools. And this is the same for the students I teach - the kids who get left behind, who are written off because they aren't in the dominant race, the dominant class or know how to navigate a culture that seeks to silence them and keep them from thinking critically. So the tools that I as a Mama and a teacher need to pass on are largely language tools.
And not just the skill of code switching, which allows kids to enter into the power structure with the language tools they need, while still maintaining their own identities - but also an entirely new way of framing the concepts and ideas we must talk about as participants in dissent against this government.
So all this is to say that I'm thinking about new ways of talking about things. The first one I have heard that I really like and am going to start using frequently is "family rights." This is how I believe people need to see the civil rights of gay Americans to enjoy the same legal protections that heterosexual married couples don't even have to think about. Because this isn't about whether homosexuality is wrong or not (that is your personal issue if you feel that way), it's about families. It's about children getting health care, it's about parents getting parental rights, it's about spouses getting hospital visits and estate rights. It's about families.
So that's how I will frame this message in conversation, as my son grows up and with my students. I now talk about Family Rights. If we all start echoing the truth but in better framed messages, then soon we might see those small percentage losses for progressive ideas become majority wins. Just a thought.
Can you think of any other new ways to frame the truth?