The manner in which an argument is presented is of as much importance as the person chosen to make it. When I consider the crass nature of verbal exchange that is becoming normative for presenters of any side of issues currently being debated, I reflect upon how the more effective movements of the past were presented. These movements had goals beyond gathering people together and being noticed for size. Great attention was given to make sure that the right representatives spoke as the voices of the movement and that their words presented the case being made with clarity and excellence. The ultimate power to persuade came through a singular, clearly articulated message, delivered by clear minded, articulate leaders. During the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, whether one considers Dr. King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Barbara Jordan or Shirley Chisholm, one always could be assured that their rhetoric would be powerful, clear, rooted in morality and free of vulgar and obscene references. We are failing to maintain this standard in our time.
In our contemporary efforts to speak freely, we are trending towards communicating lazily. We are failing to take the time to craft thoughtful, powerful and precise language that enables us to skillfully persuade and convince. Instead, we rely on the brute force of obscenity, vulgarity and rancor to shock opposing views with incessant verbal bombing. The problem with conducting a bombing campaign towards an opposing view is that it tends to harden those who hold the other view against you rather than to soften them towards considering a different point of view. This results in shouting matches that continue without resolution, breaking only to reload for the next assault.
The time has come to clean up the rhetoric, cut out the rancor and to take on the hard work of skillfully crafting a thoughtfully prepared argument, backed by a beautifully lived life, exemplified by a trustworthy representative who communicates and demonstrates the reality of the points being made. It is also time to yank the mic away from the lips of those who waste airtime with vile vocal eruptions and to demand more from anyone who dares to think they may represent certain views in a more formal manner. Fame does not guarantee persuasive ability. Being able to memorize amazing words for a script or to sing sweet melodies at concerts, does not ensure that one is the best choice to represent the voice of a movement or a people.
Dr. King did not emerge from thin air. He was carefully and thoughtfully affirmed by others who had done the foundational work and cared enough about their future to test him by fire so that when he was introduced onto the national scene, his power, presence, and character would sustain the momentum needed to project the cause to its rightful place in American society. We must look among ourselves for individuals who exemplify similar trustworthiness for the causes we hold dear. It is now time for us to guard the mics, watch the keyboards and mind the Messengers in our contemporary arena of ideas. The cacophony of furious, indistinct sound has already begun and it may be too late to produce the atmosphere of reason that might open opportunities for the sweet songs of healing to begin.