Tuesday night we had an opportunity to listen to not only a well-crafted speech, but one that was a good example of the use of rhetoric. What is rhetoric? The dictionary defines it as the “art of persuasive speech or writing; exaggerated oratory”. Mrs. Romney, at the Republican convention, pulled out all the stops in her use of words and phrases to be persuasive, to hit at the heart of her target audience.
Her speech was riveting and painted quite a convincing picture of the man her husband is. I have no doubt that it’s a true picture and that he is a loving and kind human being. What irked me about her speech was that all her phrases, repeated over and over again, addressed women who are or were mothers. Yes, family is a valuable component of our society. Yes, motherhood is a great calling in life. Yes, mothers and grandmothers keep the wheels of society turning…but what about the women who are or never were mothers, either through choice or circumstance? All politic stances aside, didn’t she feel that those millions of women made any difference in the life of this nation? Doesn’t she realize that they too vote and excluding them from her speech was alienating? Not one sentence included the childless in her rhetoric of praise for the “fair” sex! Rhetoric of attack is obvious but rhetoric of omission is dangerous. The listener must get beyond the flowery words and do a bit of analysis as to what was left out. So what was she so afraid of about all of us who are not mothers? Maybe she would have had to admit that there is an alternate path to a good and productive life that doesn’t include children. And, gasp, that would also include lesbians, anathema to her and her husband’s religious beliefs!
So when you are inundated with rhetoric, be careful of what it is saying or NOT saying and don’t get sucked in to its emotionalism.