Someone once said that rhetoric can be defined as "non-rational persuasion." Or maybe a simpler way of stating it, rhetoric is "emotional persuasion." In politics rhetoric is used all the time to justify programs, causes and candidates. Most recently rhetoric was used when re-playing a horrific 9-1-1 call in front of the commissioners. The result was the commissioners voted 2-1 to increase the public safety levy from $1.5 million to $1.8 million. Their reasoning was that this group that replayed the 9-1-1 call needed to be funded by government. The thinking is that with proper funding these types of calls would not happen.
But is that true? Will more funding designated for a particular group guarantee horrific 9-1-1 calls are never heard again in Klamath County? That seems to be the rationale for the increase in the levy. But again, is it true? Here is where reason comes in. Up until that particular question, rhetoric was at play. Our emotions were engaged, not our minds. "This 9-1-1 call is awful", we think. "We can't have these kinds of evil things going on in our community. Someone needs to do something! Increase the levy, fund Group A whose mission it is to help stop these sorts of bad things and we'll all be safer." But the reasoned approach dares to ask the tough questions such as will extra funding really stop these sort of acts of evil?
When we take the emotion out of the air then we get down to what government can do, what government can afford to do and what government's proper role is. Also we begin to ask the question, when is the citizen responsible? The 9-1-1 call was of a woman screaming because her boyfriend was beating her, again. When is it the responsibility of the woman to leave the boyfriend? When is it her responsibility to seek help and protection from friends, family, neighbors, churches or synagogs before this beating happens again? Or is the woman completely innocent and therefore has no responsibility. Instead she expects that it is all of our responsibility to fund a government program to protect her from a poor choice in boyfriends?
Believe me, I don't want any woman beat in Klamath County. Just the thought makes me cringe. However, it is rhetoric that get's government involved in things where it should not be involved. Our county government spends millions on programs trying to fix the unfixable. A girl in high school gets pregnant. No problem, government will pay her to stay in school and help with her pregnancy. What? Yes, you read that correctly. What happens to the natural consquence of a poor choice? The government is there to help erase or soothed away the consequences through a government program funded by you.
What I am advocating for is a proper role of government and proper proportion of personal responsibility. Our "modern" society seems to think everyone should have the liberty to make any choice they want. Then when a poor choice ends up being harmful, the thinking goes that government should step in and have a program that will help pick up the broken pieces. There should be little if no consequences for poor choices. And that kind of thinking is exactly what is wrong in our society. The people who make good choices every day end up paying for those who don't think or just don't care about disastrous consequences that lead from their poor choices. There are plenty of churches, missions, and non-governmental outreach programs who can help those who hurt in our community. Government should do the right thing and find the bad guys and lock them up. As for the person who was harmed, government should stay out and let the community do its best work by being a community.
Be sure to visit soon for Part II of this discussion of Reason over Rhetoric when it comes to candidates for elected office.