Rhetoric

By Dr. Jim Ferguson
Do you believe or trust what you hear these days? Admittedly, I have become a skeptic about climate issues and politics. And I no longer trust the media who, like Chicken Little, preach everyday that the sky is falling – at least since Trump became president. I don’t believe it’s healthy to listen to this diatribe of negativity and hatred spewing from the likes of CNN and the NYT. I just don’t see the apocalypse they preach around every corner.

Rhetoric is the persuasive use of words and speech. In antiquity, rhetoric, along with grammar and logic, was a key component of a classical education and known as the trivium. And along with the quadrivium of math, geometry, music and astronomy comprised the seven components of a liberal arts education. Together, these afforded a student the foundations for thinking skills and paved the way for advanced studies in philosophy and theology.

My formal pre-med education was in the liberal arts, though weighted heavily toward the sciences. Even so, some of my favorite courses were electives in music and art appreciation. My math aptitude precluded a career in engineering or astrophysics. It broke my engineer father’s heart that calculus was not my forte. I didn’t have time to study philosophy, theology or rhetoric in college, but as a thirty something my liberal arts education resumed.

Education today is very different than in antiquity or in my era of the sixties and seventies. I’m a bibliophile, so I was surprised to learn from a high school patient that all his course work was done all online and without any books.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. I have learned to use new technology to conduct seminars in medicine for Lincoln Memorial University through the equivalent of Skype. However, though I’m an experienced and competent internist, my effectiveness as a doctor and teacher depends on rhetoric and the ability to communicate effectively and persuasively.

In this modern era there is no shortage of verbiage, even though there is a dearth of rhetoric. Obama’s lofty prose delivered from the podium with a teleprompter shaped the opinions of millions. Unfortunately, his policies led to the decline of America’s position in the world and our economy, as well as doubling our national debt. The fawning media never challenged him, and to this day work to sustain his troubled legacy.

Trump is a striking contrast to Obama. The brash man from Queens does not have Obama’s chiseled good looks or his academic credentials and his hair is a distraction. However, Trump speaks from his heart and projects a love of country. He’s a businessman and a charismatic leader. He wants to Make America Great Again, and after Obama’s worldwide “apology tours” this is a welcome redirection of our country.

A considerable influence on my non-traditional education comes from historian, Professor Rufus Fears (University of Oklahoma). The Founders of our country studied history and believed history was a guide to solutions of current day problems. It seems that history is deemed less important in modernity and our current educational system. Perhaps we should all reflect on the observations of George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In his lectures, Dr. Fears repeatedly returned to the attributes of an effective leader. Men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and FDR projected “bedrock principles and a moral compass.” They were able to “articulate a clear vision and build a consensus” to attain their goals. I measure our leaders by these laudable standards.

Like CNN and the New York Times, I wonder how Donald Trump can still be standing. The media, Democrats, the Deep State, the Ruling Class, Hollywood and academic elites have thrown everything including the kitchen sink at Trump and he marches right along with his bedrock love of America and his vision to Make America Great Again. Most Americans want our country to be great and prosperous again. We tried the other direction and it didn’t work. And excluding despots like Rocket Man and Putin, everyone knows that when America is greater the world is safer.

The scowls on the faces of Democrats during the State of the Union address were telling. Pelosi said that she wasn’t frowning, but was “having denture problems.” This does not explain why she and Schumer and all the rest of the Democrats were unable to stand and applaud even for the military or the good economy. Apparently, the Democrats clear vision is to hate Trump, “resist” America and champion DACA over the “deplorables.”

Haters of our duly elected president maintain that he is not worthy because of previous male locker room bravado and the claims of women in this era of the #MeToo movement. These same moralists claim there is right and wrong behavior for some, but no criteria for Mr. and Mrs. Clinton. I can comprehend (though not understand) the passion of Democrats, since their Russian collusion imbroglio has fallen apart, major tax reform has passed and Trump has been effective building a supportive base and a consensus in the Congress to advance his vision.

So which do you prefer: the surrogates of a smooth talking academic with no experience making a payroll and whose policies have been demonstrated failures; or a brash businessman with bad hair who pushes back against the establishment with Tweets and whose policies are working? During the Clinton presidency the mantra was, “It’s the economy stupid,” emphasizing the economic successes of the nineties. So I ask Democrats, why not now?

As I write this essay our Congressional  “leaders” are trying to pass a budget that raises military spending, but as usual there is no decrease in social budgets despite historic low unemployment and four million fewer on food stamps. I have no idea what will happen as a result of corruption in the FBI, the CIA and the DOJ. Now the State Department has been added to the scandal. And don’t forget the perpetual mess at the IRS and the Veterans Administration.

Aesop told the fable of the little boy who called wolf too many times, and everyone quit listening. I have quit listening to the major news media. But maybe that’s what the Beltway Boys intended all along. When the cat’s away, the [rats] will play. And that’s not a rhetorical statement.

 

 

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