There’s been a lot of marching going on.
Half a million women marched in Washington last Saturday (January 21, 2017) in one of the biggest protests in history, and now it looks like scientists around the nation are gearing up to march in order to conserve science in politics. It seems that everyone has something to say and something to march about, so when I was tasked with exploring ecological rhetoric in its current context, I felt like this was the appropriate route to take.
Today- probably right now, as I’m writing this blog post- hundreds of thousands of individuals are lining up for the annual March for Life in Washington DC. Every year around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a monumental Supreme Court decision regarding the right to privacy and legality of abortion, protesters march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and Capitol Building to speak out against the practice of abortion. Accompanying the march is a rally program, with multiple speakers, political and nonpolitical, as well as time to visit an individual’s Representatives and Senators to advocate for life. There are many similar rallies and marches all around the nation throughout the month of January, allowing many Americans’ voices to be heard.
This event interested me in particular because I see both Edbaur’s and Bitzer’s theories of rhetoric involved. The marches themselves adhere to Edbaur’s theory of rhetoric because there is no fixed location- it is possible to get involved no matter where one is, and has spread over many generations of time. This year marks the 44th march on Washington; though the time has changed and the popularity of the movement has spread, the message remains the same. And people are talking about it. Edbaur explains that rhetoric is “more than a matter of discrete elements… in static relation to one another… Rather, [rhetoric] is distributed across a range of processes and encounters” (13). Marches- the pro-life march in particular- are so much more than elements all thrown together. Marches are a rhetoric that are so broad in scope that they go through endless processes and encounters to accomplish much. However, I do see Bitzer’s theories of rhetoric in the rally portion of the March for Life, as each individual speaker knows the audience, has particular exigence and constraints, and gets one moment in time to explain his or her message. These rallies are perfect examples of what we normally think of when we hear the word “rhetoric.” They have a specific purpose of persuading a specific audience. It’s a one-and-done deal.
It is wonderful to be a part of a country where we are free to have our voices heard in this way. Whether it be the women’s march, the march for science, or the march for life, these examples of ecological rhetoric give us voices and tools for persuading others, for getting our ideas and words out there for the public to hear. Rhetoric is alive and ever changing- we just have to keep our eyes out for it.