by Constance Daley
The American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
October 18, 2005
WHAT DID HE SAY? WHAT DID HE MEAN?
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- In 1984, I took a class at the University of Pittsburgh along with students half my age and learned to read into Presidential speeches what was meant by the words in the context of the times.
In the late 1960s, Professor Theodore O. Windt, called Ted by all, was instrumental in creating political communications as a discipline. He wrote the text, used his books in class and "Political Rhetoric" was born.
According to my notes, one of the first things we learned is that there are just two types of appeal: idealistic arguments and pragmatic arguments. He used as example Kennedy's idealism elevating Vietnam from a civil conflict to a moral battle.
It's not easy listening to a speech and at the same time wondering what he or she meant by that. Factoring in my own beliefs, makes it easier to arrive at mutually compatible values or just dismiss what I hear as opposed to what I believe.
How do I know what I believe? Well, I'll admit I'm still working on that. There are so many arguments for and against a position and they come at me so fast, that sometimes I feel backed into a corner. If I say wait a minute, wait a minute, let me think - the aggressive speaker will say "What's to think about, it's as clear as black and white?"
Well, I will think about it. And, while I don't have a check list, or a litmus test, to quote President Bush, I do rely on my own sense of what constitutes character. And, character counts!
We're all products of our own philosophies and mine hover around considering the building blocks of character as honest, reliable, fair, and truthful. Or, I could rattle off what I learned as a child:
The Seven Heavenly Virtues: "Faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, prudence."
Combine these "building blocks of character" with the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy: "They are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give shelter to strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick, minister to prisoners, and bury the dead."
If I were to speak my philosophies or anything like that out loud, I'd be accused of proselytizing by people who are themselves honest, prudent, reliable - people who feed the poor, visit the sick, clothe the naked and bury the dead. They learned that as children themselves and it's part of their own philosophy.
But, they want to be politically correct. Can any of us really be? We have opinions flying at us from all directions. Is it any wonder we're slow to think for ourselves? The world is spinning so fast I want to shout STOP!
Somebody else's religion is none of my business. It's totally against the law to ask an applicant's religion to work at Wal-Mart; we can't ask marital status, either. These are personal and do not enter into that person's ability to function in a job he's qualified for. I would not be rude or refuse to answer a person asking what church I go to - or, if I go to one - but I would resent being asked.
Some religions proselytize on street corners or at your doorstep. Whether we go to a place of worship or it comes to us through televised broadcasts, it seems to me, if I may use an old, trite, expression: It's a matter of semantics. The media reports on somebody's "faith." It they reported on someone's "beliefs" they would be closer to addressing the issues they raise.
For example, if a reporter in print or on the air says: "During a recent interview, Mr. or Ms. Blank is quoted as saying, 'I believe life begins at conception,'" then it can legitimately be reported in that way. But to go on and editorialize "that means she would not vote for keeping abortion legal," is not in fact what was said. It says no such thing and it's irresponsible to suggest through innuendo that it did. It says only that this person believes life starts at conception. To say more, is no longer reporting but conjecturing.
If we sit and think about what we believe, getting to our idealistic nature, our thoughts reveal our beliefs which are found in the core of our beings. They are our views. They form our characters. They are arrived at after deep thought, one would hope. Our philosophies are in our personal kit and kaboodle of ethical and moral behavior. Ethics and morality came to us through nature and nurturing. We carry them with us wherever we go.
By using the word faith as in saying "that person's Faith is based upon certain precepts, etc, therefore he could not vote against or in favor of certain laws," I say, who sez?
The Sunday morning pundits make assumptions about a person based upon what they think he would believe because he shows up at services among the faithful to certain philosophies of which the pundits have no personal knowledge. Nor is any of this newsworthy when a candidate is under scrutiny for moral and ethical behavior before being sworn in to a high ranking office. Let's just scrutinize their morals and ethics and no more.
I remember when Senator Joseph Lieberman was running mate to Senator Al Gore in his run for the Presidency in the 2000 election. One Saturday, Lieberman was at temple in his usual Saturday attendance. What a brouhaha ensued. "What if there's a national emergency and the Vice President has to be in Temple?" Now, wouldn't that be for him to decide?
It boils down to this: It's not so much what the politicians mean by what they are saying, or if get a little tongue tied and fail to say what they're meaning, it is simply what are we thinking? Do we know what we're talking about when we think our First Amendment rights are being assaulted?
Come on. Think!