The Woes of Narrative Politics

January 31, 2014 — Leave a comment

From my recent article in the Old Gold and Black newspaper at Wake Forest (http://oldgoldandblack.com/?p=38052):

“Political Narrative Angles”

An emotive and authentic story is the most effective yet disheartening political weapon in post-modern America.

On Jan. 28 citizens of this country witnessed two well-crafted narrative performances from the political left and from the political right. President Obama’s State of the Union Address consisted of a series of meditations on the lives of specific individuals from the American public.

The President focused on the stories of these people because he felt that they demonstrate what it means to be an American, particularly a Democratic American. Obama presented these stories as representative of the essence of America herself.

Equally, the Republican response by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers was essentially the narrative of her life as expressed in the rhetorical language of an American conservative.

She is America because she rose from rags to riches against all odds. As a citizen of this nation, I take issue with both President Obama and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers not because of their particular political ideologies but rather because of the method by which they articulate these very ideologies.

Let me offer a possible alternative: the narrative acknowledgment of failure. Let the Republican Party tell the story of someone upon whom it has objectively inflicted deep pain and hardship. Give that person the opportunity to tell his or her tale of suffering.

Afterwards, the Republican Party ought to express empathy for that person, and may that expression be public.

Similarly, how radical would it be for President Obama to give an account of those people who have experienced an increase in the amount they pay for health insurance as a result of his policies? Subsequently, how radical would it be for the President to acknowledge that he has failed these individuals?

I do not offer this alternative to bemoan the immorality of the current state of affairs in our country — not in the slightest. I offer this alternative because I stand for restorative justice.

May reconciliation be the first step towards true righteousness! May the recognition of radical imperfection be the path towards true freedom!

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