Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
  2
Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend
  2
4 Shares     
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats
6 comments

Exclusive to OpEdNews:
OpEdNews Op Eds

Speaking to America's Broken Heart

Become a Fan
  (11 fans)
By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; (more...) ; ; ; , Add Tags  (less...) Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 1   Well Said 1   Supported 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

Headlined to H4 9/26/11

opednews.com

Speaking to America's Broken Heart

Right now the national argument about progressive framing seems entirely focused on what story President Obama or the Democrats should be telling. But we could all do a lot better when we tell our stories. One way to start is by paying more attention to the fact that the American heart really is broken right now.

Professor Reich has described the situation as "mass cynicism" about any help coming from our government, a "weapon of mass destruction" launched years ago by Republicans. [1]   Another way of describing it is as an "epidemic," a "sickness" of the heart that requires radical healing. Today, a large part of the American public feels betrayed, disgusted, frightened, despairing, stymied and stopped at every turn. They are puzzled     about what to do with our situation now.   All the branches of our government seem to be controlled by a completely irresponsible corporate elite. That elite also backs unprecedented levels of savage Republican sabotage against any decent legislative measures to help our country get back on its feet. Our pundits tell us we're in decline, we're on the way down, we're broken, and that China is eating our lunch and dinner too.

Faced with all of this, we progressives need a lot more than our usual communication M.O. [2] Our new story needs to be one that can reach and heal the sickened heart of America. We must start out by showing that we know and sympathize with the patient's real condition. That means using empathic, feeling-toned language.   Only after that will it be possible to guide the frustrated anger that is still largely under the surface.   George Packer captured the tone of that reality in his September 12 New Yorker piece, when he interviewed a worker in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. The roiling, angry discontent still under the radar was well expressed by the man who said:

"All hell's gonna break loose by the end of the year. We can't take it anymore. This is the Corporate States of America. . .Everybody across this country's lost their homes, took pay cuts. Who's lobbying for us? Nobody. Who's making laws for us? Nobody. . . .Something's gotta break sometime." [3]

The story we need should tap and channel this tide. It could evoke earlier eras in our history when it looked like selfish elites had sewn the country up into a bag they were draining into their own pockets. Those were the eras when progressives pulled themselves together and fought back in successful ways, regaining control of the levers of government and the norms of society. Our story should point the way to what will actually work today, under current conditions. It must be credible, not just more of the same old election year promises. It should re-empower the American people to take our country back.

Our story must also emphasize the need to "rebuild it better" or "to make it new," the imperative to "reinvent America."   Just rebuilding what we had before isn't quite enough these days, and moreover, what we had before wasn't that fair to everyone anyway. Most Americans respond better to the idea of adding something new than to just rebuilding the same old thing. Modern global economic realities also suggest that "making it new" is the only way we are going to really "save the American Dream." Finally, as Van Jones has made clear, Rebuild America is a meta-brand. That means all of us working on our own issues can connect to it; it doesn't replace what we already do.   So ask yourself, how will what you are working on "save the American dream?" And then think about how to tell that story in a way that can tap and transform public anger, using the short phrases, familiar political metaphors and key words that quickly evoke tried and true American themes! [4]

Susan C. Strong is the founder and executive director of The Metaphor Project (http://www.metaphorproject.org), and author of our forthcoming new resource, Move Our Message: How To Get America's Ear (Fall, 2011). The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997.


[1]   The Republican Weapon of Mass Destruction, Sept. 15, 2011, http://robertreich.org/post/10251623526

[2] Progressives are always well supplied with information in the form of facts, statistics, arguments, and talking points. But today's cognitive science has shown that all of those habitual progressive communication tools miss the heart.   Laying out big contracts with a multitude of proposals for government action, however necessary, has some risks in today's context. Right now successful government action is being perceived as more and more impossible. People know that getting "solid" Democratic majorities in Congress in 2012 might just mean having a lot of DINOs (Democrats in Name Only) who won't really play ball. We progressives must have an action story that counters these concerns. I trust that presenters at the October 3 - 5 Take Back the American Dream conference will provide it.
 

[3] P.71.

[4] To learn how to use these American Framing tools and the free resources that go with them, visit The Metaphor Project's website at: http://www.metaphorproject.org.


 

http://www.metaphorproject.org

Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of the Metaphor Project. She is also the author of our new book, MOVE OUR MESSAGE: HOW TO GET AMERICA'S EAR, available on our website. The mission of the Metaphor Project is helping (more...)
 
Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Reframing Climate Change Now

Counter-frame It! How to Stop Using Their Words

Tell the Media Again: Say "Safety," not "Control!"

Protect the 99% Right Now!

Framing Climate Change Action Now

Let's "Reinvent America!"

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
4 people are discussing this page, with 6 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

It's great that President Obama is starting to com... by Susan Strong on Monday, Sep 26, 2011 at 10:43:15 AM
Criminals have turned the country into a kleptocra... by Mike Preston on Monday, Sep 26, 2011 at 11:10:42 AM
But poking around the referenced site takes much t... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011 at 8:15:50 AM
Thank you for your comments, Daniel. Right now I'm... by Susan Strong on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011 at 11:57:08 AM
But also, in the end, I imagine a lot of people wi... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011 at 12:44:50 PM
Jesus said things that would get him Bradley Manni... by . . on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011 at 8:45:39 AM