Rhetorical Listening, the Inauguration Speech, and Luming Mao’s “Rhetoric of Responsibility”

Fuss says that “identification names the entry of history and culture into the subject” and that this “subject must bear the traces of each and every encounter with the external world” (Rhetorical Listening 47). She also emphasizes the inside outside dialect of the subject and the object(Rhetorical Listening 47).  I immediately thought of my own identity crisis in regard to the definition of identification, and I think maybe everyone who goes to another country will encounter such a crisis or dilemma. Harlow says that identification is a political choice (Rhetorical Listening 47), which is such a true assertion to me, yet I think there might be occasions that even a choice is hard to make from political and ethical perspectives. I think in comparative rhetorical studies, such “troubled identifications” should be studied indeed. You can interview me if you want my dear classmates.

For a while, I had thought that maybe leaving China and all the complex feelings I have toward it will render myself a new perspective. But I was wrong, once you leave your own country, that subtle emotion that is rooted in your heart will grow stronger because you cannot find any other form that is strong or big enough to define your primary identity. Maybe I can say that I am a Christian, that I found myself unbound to a communist fallacy that have disillusioned just as many Western philosophers as Chinese people. Maybe I can say that I am always on the road to pursue my childhood dream of living in an exotic world like in the novels. I just cannot imagine what my future identity will be like, and who I will become. I am currently experiencing this strange life that I had never thought of. Maybe everyone in this hustle and bustle era is experiencing all kinds of strange stuff like me.

I have always loved Obama’s speeches and his power of rhetoric. To me, his rhetoric is an example for us to follow. Arousing emotions, using symbols to seek for common ground, relying on logic to encourage actions, his rhetoric in the second inauguration speech can be analyzed in the perfect rhetorical triangle, just like any other big and formal speeches he gave in public. In this inauguration speech I see why  the Americans are proud of being American and why the non-Americans trying so hard and paying prices to become Americans. This is how rhetoric works, and how the thinking motions transcend into actions. Too many times, I met Vietnam friends, Mexican friends, Indian friends, who really paid a lot for becoming Americans. And I believe that there must have been quite a strong rhetoric inside themselves to keep waiting and stick to their dream.

Luming Mao, whose writings I have come across for several times, represents the main stream Chinese rhetoric studies, comparative rhetorical studies, Asian-American rhetoric studies, and many other related field. His assertions in the Octalog III, which seeks another way out instead of the self-other binary, gives a new direction in comparative studies. I totally agree with his definition of recontextualization—ceaseless negotiation with logic between two ideological systems, and the heterogeneity that actually bare some likeliness of human experience. However, his idea to use “the other for transformative agendas and resisting methods and logic that continue to silence or make invisible the same other” troubles me a little. Did he mean that even by using indigeous logic and mind set, one can understand a different or similar context? Or, did he mean that by using a different rhetorical logic, one can understand this different culture and ideology by setting him or herself into the context of this different culture?  I see both difficult as tasks before the internet can blur more on geographic borders. The “place” Butcher views as a linkage to identification (Rhetoric Listening 49).

But what if the borders disappear one day?  Does the epistemological problems of a different rhetorical system still exist? Or, people still have to fight against each other on the same, converged rhetorical system? Because as long as different language exist, people cannot communicate smoothly. Then, can the new media studies solve the problem once for all? Sometimes, this kind of ideas turn me into a pathetic fatalist, for even the lingua franca used by the “Western world,” which include the Middle East, does not embrace the lingua franca used by Eastern Asians. I cannot probably live to the day that ideological barriers disappear and people are truly friendly toward each other. The God has dead, the Author has dead, everything in the postmodern world is sort of ok because everything is under certain legitimate interpretation.

Burke’s “consubstantiality” is pretty much marxist because there is a common cause to fight for and people can still seeking for common ground while remain differences (Rhetorical Listening 55). I see this again in the transcended new Sisyphus who will always try to seek meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. Yet, even this action of trying to find one’s own identity, to me, is troublesome. Because I see a multi-identified me strangely transforming to a different other from time to time. But I know that for me, I am an old fashioned advocator of great causes and one who is willing to be “an agent of change” (58). I have always been a listener and learner of the Western logic, now I hope I can become a clear and righteous (Rhetorical Listening 77) interpreter and an upright rhetor who not only acts properly in a Chinese context, but also an American context.


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