“Strange Bedfellows”

Generalization: a wide-sweeping statement or conclusion drawn from specific cases.

What can we say about generalizations?

We don’t agree with them sometimes because we have specific experiences that differ from the generalization.

When generalizations result in labels we don’t like, they can make us mad.

We all use them because we like “wide-sweeping” statements that don’t get into details, which can 1.drive you crazy 2.bore you to death.

Let me make a generalization: it is tough to take individual people with individual life experiences and put them into a box, stick a label on them and basically say this label fits them all.

But that is the nature of politics.

People who run political campaigns try to get out ahead of large groups of people with generalizations.

It basically works like this. For thirty-six years, I taught my speech students this all the time. What is the core of your message?  Boil it down to a few words that reflect how you really feel about your topic.  If you speak to an audience and put on an act, they will know it.  If you speak from the heart, they will also know that.

Next and most importantly, how will that message resonate in your audience? Will they hate it?  Will they love it?  Will they respond somewhere in between hate or love?

This is important. How close to hate will their response be?

How close to love?

If you are speaking on something they hate, you have to make tough choices: toss the subject out completely or change your message to make it more positive. Remember it needs to reflect who you really are or it is just an act and the audience will know it.  Sometimes how we feel about a topic cannot be changed.  A speaker [or politician] is on the wrong side of a topic with an audience and they know it.  Avoiding the topic altogether is the best policy.

Or if you are forced to comment on the tough subject…use “political speak.”

I am not a politician but maybe I am. At times my wife would put that label on me.  She is a person who likes direct communication and fewer words rather than more words.   When she asks me a question, she would like for me to “say what I mean and mean what I say”.  She would like for me to use ten words in my reply instead of one hundred and fifty.

Instead I use “political speak” too much.

She asks, “what are you doing in the back yard” and I say, “I am busy.” Did I answer her question?  Not really.  “What are you doing in the back yard” and I say “I am so busy with the seasonal needs of the composition of our two acres; they require so much of my time and attention and on top of that several costly trips to the store to maintain the soils and upgrade the area.”  Now I have not answered her question and I have used a large number of vague words to obfuscate my message.  How did you like that one…obfuscate?

If I was a real politician, I would repeat a lot.

When politicians face tough questions they tend to rely on what are called “talking points”. Talking points are phrases that politicians memorize and then use when they are confronted by issues that are hard to address.  We see it all the time in television interviews.  An interviewer asks the question and the politician responds with a talking point.  The interviewer knows that that yields little information because it may be so vague or it could be “canned.”  That answer is the same answer that all the people in that person’s political party are giving on the subject.  So the interviewer asks again.  Here comes the same talking point with a little different phrasing but basically it is the same answer.

If I was a real politician I would use euphemisms.   Euphemisms are mild or indirect words or expressions substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.  When they are used, you just shake your head and say “What does that mean?”

Here are some great examples based on one of the most negative messages we will ever hear. “You are fired” can become early retirement opportunity, employee transition, personnel realignment, staff reduction or workforce balance correction.  You get the point.  Clear communication becomes very unclear communication.

Let’s end this post with this thought.

Say you are a Christian.

A candidate for political office is going to speak to you. What is your Christian core, your view of the world?  What would you want that person to say to get your vote?  What are the key issues that really mean a lot to you?

We all know that Christianity and politics are “strange bedfellows” but there is very little in the Bible that would support the idea that we should turn our backs on our governmental processes and ignore our right to vote.

A prime example about Jesus’ attitude toward government is the episode in Mark 12 when the Pharisees try to trick Him into making an insurrectionist statement: “They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?   “Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.”   They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.”   And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The politician generalizes about you. You are a Christian.  What can I say to win this person’s vote?

The Christian generalizes about the politician. What do they have to say to win my vote?

Somewhere the two individuals need to intersect and American government happens.

“In God We Trust”…our national motto.

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