Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Reframes It For Us

Having advised Progressives in the previous post to learn to apply George Lakoff's concept of value framing, I thought it behooves me to conduct an experiment in looking through Lakoff's lenses:

Cindy Sheehan probably hasn't read George Lakoff's books, but she has instinctively enacted the principle of reframing which he espouses. I don't know whether Cindy sympathizes with the Progressive agenda across the board (how many Progressives do anyway?) Nor do I know how she viewed the world and her role in it before she lost her son and then lost the moral justification for his sacrifice and hers. But it is obvious that she is now embodying the Nurturant Parent Model as elucidated in Lakoff's Moral Politics and don't think of an elephant! But not as the parent figure. No, she stands as citizen/child before Bush as President/Father-figure requesting an explanation for why her most precious asset has been taken from her under false pretenses. As such she claims the right to be heard and assumes the right to an explanation with a bit more substance than "Father knows best."

In contrast, Bush himself continues to embody the Strict Father Model in his response which is essentially the unyielding stance of a quintessential Patriarch. As such he claims the right to unquestioned obedience and assumes no obligation to explain himself--right or wrong, he is the Head of the Family and "Because I say so!" is the only explanation he owes her.

The rest of the nation views this morality play through whichever lens they view the world. If their primary conceptual model is the Strict Father, they will see Cindy as a child throwing a tantrum. Worse yet, as a girl-child with the gall to cry foul against her father! They view her behavior as justification for her husband filing for divorce--such flouting of authority obviously makes her an unfit wife. (Would they, I wonder, turn on Carville's wife were their marriage to disintegrate under the myriad pressures of a traumatic grief lived in the public eye?)

Meanwhile, those whose primary conceptual model is that of the Nurturant Parent will view Cindy as the abused child whose father took her prized possession and smashed it instead of putting it in service for the good of the family--for which it had been required of her and for which it had willingly been offered.

The reason Cindy is attracting so much of both praise and vitriol from all sides is because she has tapped into the power of the unconscious metaphors that generate our most profound reactions to the world. And she has dared to ask the question which so few of those whose role and responsibility it was to ask ever bothered: Why? Cindy asks, Why did Casey die? Which is essentially another way to ask, Why did you lie?

And the reason Cindy has had so much more success than other ant-war spokespersons to attract and hold the notoriously fickle attention span of the MSM is the power of her story to move those who hear it and the power of the symbol she has become of a courageous citizen who, having already sacrificed that which she held dearer than her own life, stands before power as an equal requiring that truth be spoken to her.

0 tell me a story:

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