Way behind on blogging to current events and progressive messaging right now, and I have promised education and environment issue framing blogs to some folks…
But the recent ruling by Federal Judge Barbara Crabb overturning Wisconsin’s ban on marriage freedom is a perfect example of how powerful framing is – if done correctly. The rapid paradigm shift in public discourse on the issue provides a lesson and opportunity for progressives to continue moving public discourse forward on other issues just as rapidly. It has to do with education, the environment, and every other issue. So while we continue to follow this story and celebrate with people who continue to struggle against oppression and phobia, a lesson in neural power.
First, it is critical for us to understand why, for conservatives, marriage is a moral issue. Conservatives actually believe their position on gay marriage is moral, just as progressives believe they are moral on the issue. Why? It has everything to do with the metaphorical basis of the conservative ideology – the “strict authoritarian father.”
In the conservative moral frame, the strict father is the highest authority (see previous posts for more detail about the conservative frame). This means authority “over” the family, and the metaphor extends through a hierarchical structure to everything in the conservative moral frame. This is critical, as much of what progressives consider to be overtly racist, sexist, or homophobic is a natural function of the hierarchy in the conservative frame. The hierarchy is highly metaphorical, embedded, and everywhere: father over the family, men over women, man over nature, rich over poor, whites over non-white races, Christianity over all other religions, United States over other nations, and of course – straight over gay people. The hierarchy must exist in the strict authoritarian father frame, and as you instinctively know, it is everywhere. For conservatives, it is part of their moral frame.
For progressives, it is a moral issue as well. Fortunately, a little over one decade ago, the leaders of the pro-marriage freedom progressives in California recognized the morality of the issue – and framed it as such. While he was in Madison recently, George Lakoff conveyed the story.
Prior to a decade ago, as many in the LGBT community will recall, the issue of gay marriage was a “gay rights” issue. Professor Lakoff, cognitive scientist at UC-Berkeley met with the organizers in California. The organizers had conducted extensive research on how to message the gay marriage issue, and Lakoff encouraged them to do what they instinctively thought was effective framing of the issue. Lakoff encouraged them to stop talking about “gay rights” and “gay marriage” (the issue) and focus on why the issue is moral (values). Fortunately, they followed their hearts – literally.
The issue of “gay marriage” in the progressive frame is about love and freedom. That is how public discourse was changed so quickly. People, even those who consider themselves conservative in one way or the other (unless they are sociopaths), are capable of empathy for others. Communicating over and over again about “love” and “freedom,” in the context of gay marriage, reinforced and activated the progressive moral frame – and inhibited the conservative frame – in millions of people across the country. This is, quite simply, how public discourse changed. It is also how progressives can continue actively changing public discourse in Wisconsin.
The progressive value of freedom applies to every issue, and needs to be talked about again and again. Quite simply, we want our communities and our state to expand freedom, not impinge upon freedom. We want communities where we care for (love) all of our neighbors. Through the Public (government), we must all act together to empower and protect everyone’s freedom in Wisconsin to…(insert issue i.e. get a great public education, marry the person they love, enjoy and protect our pristine land and water, etc.). And “expanding freedom” cannot mean impeding other’s freedoms for personal greed (sorry Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce).
By following the example set so beautifully by “Marriage Freedom Fighters,” we can work together to change public discourse and move Wisconsin Forward again!
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