Talking with your Friends about Impeachment

Submitted by Bill Crosier on September 6, 2006 - 2:36pm. :: |

Below is an edited version of the presentation that I gave at the end of the Impeachment Town Hall Meeting, Sep. 4, 2006.

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This is the introduction to the workshop that Kris Graham and I did that day, on how to talk with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers about impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

It stresses the principles of framing the discussion from a positive point of view, as discussed by George Lakoff ("Don't Think of an Elephant") and Jeffrey Feldman "Framehop is Open").


Impeachment Workshop

Talking with Friends & Associates about Impeachment Sep. 4, 2006

Introduction & Purpose of this Workshop

I'm Bill Crosier, and this is Kris Graham.  We are the co-chairs of the Progressive Action Alliance.  PAA is the main organizer of this event.

The PAA mission is to promote progressive candidates, ideas, and issues through action, advocacy, education, and networking.

I'm not here to plug PAA, though.  I'm here because I care about what's happening to our country.

I'm not a politician.  I've never run for office nor been paid for political organizing.  I'm just an ordinary American, like you, who feels the US government has been hijacked and who wants to stand up for what's right.

I don't want to have to tell my grandchildren that I stood by while our country and its Constitution went down the toilet because of what thieves did in the White House.

I don't want to tell my grandchildren that I did nothing but complain, as our leaders took us down a path that depleted our resources, destroyed our environment, caused the rest of the world to hate us, neutralized the Bill of Rights, rigged the elections, and effectively installed a fascist monarchy here.

How many of you have been discouraged because you've been to protests but nothing has improved?  I don't want to stop people from protesting, but today, I want to talk about another approach that we can all take.

If we only complain to those who feel the same as we do, it won't do much good. It's easy to go to a protest or meeting like this, but that alone isn't going to get the crooks out of the White House.  We need to step out of our comfort zone and begin talking more with those around us, who haven't been keeping up with how our leaders have been betraying us and alienating the rest of the world.

I'm not asking you to risk losing your job, to give away your savings, or for you to do something you feel is wrong.  On the contrary, I want to encourage you to stand up for what's right.

We know that the US has had a long history of misdeeds, both in how the government treats people here, and in foreign relations.  But the misdeeds of previous presidents pale in comparison with the combined assault on our freedoms and liberties, and on the future of the world, by the Bush-Cheney regime.  And we can't fix the various problems here as long as we have criminals running the government.

I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I was part of a grassroots movement that worked to restore support for US and international law, for ending preemptive war, and for bringing our country back from the brink.

How many of you want to be able to tell your grand kids this, too?

I want my country back.  I want my country back.  I want my country back.

But we're not going to get it back unless we can connect with those folks who sit in front of the TV and who never look at a newspaper, who never listen to KPFT and other alternative media, who never hear the speakers at a protest, and who never read the online blogs.

We're going to get our country back by talking with people, ordinary people, one on one.  We're going to get our country back by talking with them, not to them, about values, values we share, and why that means we have to get new leaders for this country.

Framing the Discussion about Impeachment

George Lakoff, Jeffrey Feldman, and other linguistics experts have talked about the importance of framing when talking about issues.
  Here's an example that Lakoff uses. Do this for the next 10 seconds: "Don't Think of An Elephant". 

How many of you were able to do this? 

Lakoff says when someone tells you "Don't Think of An Elephant", that it's impossible not to do so, at least part of the time.  We think of a large animal with a trunk, and not about monkeys or goldfish or cantaloupes.  The image of the elephant defines the frame. 

Bush and Cheney and their media buddies are experts in this. 

They know how framing works.  When they say "war on terror", how do people respond? 

They respond with the feeling of fear, and the need for protecting themselves and their family, going after the terrorists, and so on.  That's the frame Bush & Cheney want.

 Who remembers Maslow's hierarchy of needs?
 Maslow said that after humans meet 'basic needs', we seek to satisfy successively 'higher needs' that occupy a set hierarchy.
 What is the most basic need?
 The basic needs are for physiological necessities and safety.  These include protecting ourselves and our families from threats, and providing security.
 Higher needs include love and belonging, status/respect/recognition, and actualization/spiritual needs.  These include doing what's right.

Maslow says that the higher needs only come into play after the basic needs are met. Do the people doing the thinking for Bush understand this?
They know this very well, and that's why they keep the frame on terror, on threats to the US by evil-doers, and on other things that induce fear and compromise our feeling of safety.

Remember This

I say, it's time to stop talking about that frame.  We need to change the frame of the discussion.  We need to talk about:

  • standing up for what's right
  • making the US strong by protecting its Constitution and leading the world by example

When people invoke the terror frame, we should instead talk about how to strengthen the US by doing what's right rather than being a bully to the rest of the world.

We should talk:

  • about standing up for truth
  • about respect for laws and the rights of individuals, and
  • against bullying.

Talking about this, and about strengthening the US in this way, is an important frame that everyone can relate to, and that we should embrace and use whenever possible.

Which frames?

What frames should we avoid getting sucked into?

  • fear and terror
  • protecting the US from immigrants/gays/whoever's not a right-wing-religious zealot
  • strength means militarism, etc.

What frames should we use?

  • Do what's right, moral, and fair
  • Defend the Constitution
  • Restore U. S. values
  • Tell the truth
  • Lead the world by example
  • Make US strong &  safe by making friends rather than enemies who will may to hurt us

Standing up for the Constitution, for fairness and what's right, and for restoring US values is an important frame that is very powerful.  It will be difficult for anyone who believes in the US to argue against that frame.  The Constitution's Bill of Rights, that so many people have forgotten about since they went to high school, is one of the most important documents in the world, and has been a model for constitutions of many other countries.  The major thrust of the Bill of Rights is to limit the power of the President and national governement and is the main reason why we don't have the problems of monarchies and other dictatorships.  Standing up for the Constitution means standing up against tyranny and government oppression, and for the rule of law. How many of you know at least three people who are not sure that Bush and Cheney should be impeached?  How many of you are willing to start a new kind of conversation with them, about standing up for what's right?

What We Should Do

  • Talk with our neighbors, co-workers, and friends who watch Fox News and think that's all they need to understand what's going on.  We need to remember that they are not bad people just because they may be uninformed and brainwashed by the Bush regime and by corporate media that wants us to feel good about what they see on TV so they'll keep watching the commercials.
  • We need to help our friends understand why we need to change direction, why it's important to THEIR values, and why Bush & Cheney must go.
  • But first, we must listen to our friends and ask how they think this country is doing, and then talk about values we share and how we can stand up for them.

What We Should Not do:

  • Lecture (as I'm doing now).
  • Blame others (Congress, the press, the military)
  • Talk without listening to the other person's concerns.

Talking about Impeachment, Step-by-Step

Here's what we should do, when talking one-on-one with someone else:

  • Say you're concerned about the direction this country is headed.
  • Ask what they think, and Listen
  • Reflect back the concerns & feelings of others
  • Relate their concerns to your values
  • Make a strong values statement (I believe in...)
  • Relate your values to US policies -- what they could/should be, & what they are not
  • Explain how standing up for what's right can strengthen, not weaken, the US
  • Ask again what they think, listen, and dialog

Here is an example of how you can do a dialog like this.  In it, one of us plays the part of the Fox News junkie who only knows the fear and terror frame.  The other keeps bringing the frame back to defending the Constitution, telling the truth, leading the world by example, etc.Watch for how examples of reflective listening -- how you can show the other person you are listening to their concerns, but without  getting trapped into responding in the fear and terror frame.

(example dialog)

In a minute, I want you to do this:
Pair up with someone near you (or go into another room if you want) and practice this kind of one-on-one dialog.  Take turns being the person who feels Bush & Cheney must go.  Do this for about 20 minutes total, with half the time taking each role. Refer to the suggestions on your agenda if you need them.
First, do you have any questions?

After your one-on-one practice dialogs/role-plays, we'll briefly discuss how this went and share ideas on how to make this more effective.

[practice dialog -- see below]

How did this go?
What was difficult?
What worked well?
What suggestions do you have to make this work better?

How many of you will talk with at least two of your friends about this in the next week?  How many of you will talk with at least five of your friends about this in the next month?  That's how we're going to get Bush and Cheney out.  We're going to talk with people we know about standing up for values, and how that means throwing the crooks out.