I Usually Just Rant

Edappel8@cs.com Edappel8 at cs.com
Fri Jul 19 18:59:31 EST 2002


David's original question was, how do we define "moral clarity" rhetorically. 
 From a Burkean perspective, which is what this listserv is devoted to by and 
large, Gary offered an apt and jarring answer: It's an oxymoron.  Burke and 
his philosophy are "substantially" BOTH/AND, standing as a continuing 
critique of a linguistic world, Burke has more than once intimated, that is 
entelechially driven to see things EITHER/OR.  At a session or panel at an 
ECA Rhetoric and Public Address Interest Group conference in Plymouth, Mass, 
in the late '80's--Ray McKerrow is the only other person I can recall being 
there--I referred to Burke as the "quintessential liberal."  Embracing a view 
of life that seems to me to be inherently tragic-frame, conservatives tend, 
glaringly contra Burke, to see things in blacks and whites.  "Moral clarity" 
is one of their mantras.

A corollary to that incantation is the notion of "no moral equivalence."  
We're right and the enemy is wrong, no matter how similar the end results of 
our actions in terms of material mayhem and body counts.  Andrea Yates has to 
get the electric chair even though she is patently nuts.  Poor people are 
poor because of personal moral failings, not genetic or environmental 
influences.  Rich people, ipso facto, "made it" on pluck, not luck.  
Conservatism is about "personal responsibility and moral judgment," Rich 
Lowery, editor of NATIONAL REVIEW, has told us.

Name an abominable act in history that doesn't have its partly, I say partly, 
counterbalancing extenuations.  Hitler had only one testicle, a domineering 
father and, in all likelihood, a compromised neurochemistry.  Stalin was a 
paranoid psychopath.  Burke's essentially charitab  




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