Rhetorical Theory and Practice Term Paper

Commonplace: “You Always Admire What You Really Don’t Understand”

There are a great many things that arouse admiration in this world of ours. Some of these things such as a creation of nature, a work of breathtaking art, scientific breakthroughs that benefit human kind, and acts of bravery are, without doubt, worthy of the admiration and the sentiment that they inspire. Unfortunately, however, human beings also fruitlessly admire a great many more things that are illusory in nature and, therefore, not really worthy of respect. Take, for instance, the human desire to be good looking, rich, successful and powerful. These qualities seem desirable purely because people who possess these attributes appear to be better off in life. But, are they really? Or, do these qualities give rise to admiration only because we don’t really understand what being beautiful, wealthy, successful or powerful entails?

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Perhaps, it is precisely the recognition that we admire what we really don’t understand that led Alexander Pope to say, “Yet, let not each gay turn thy rapture move; for fools admire, but men of sense approve.” (Part II, 190) In fact, Pope’s words begin to assume real meaning if one considers that works of fiction as well as non-fiction abound with stories of the unhappiness and even tragedy that often results from the foolish admiration of beauty without substance. Consider, for example, the wars and conspiracies that were provoked by the beauty of Cleopatra and Helen of Troy. Consider also the fact that people who enter relationships blinded by a person’s beauty usually end up feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, once the realization dawns that beauty can be just skin deep.

The possession of beauty, wealth and power can also prove to be an immense burden. Indeed, this fact is highly evident in the biographies of several rich, powerful and beautiful people, which testify to the unwanted, often insincere attention that these qualities attract. Thus, it is a paradox that such people actually, at times, wish away the very qualities for which they are admired, thereby lending credence to the saying that the grass is always greener on the other side.

Similarly, the confident and assured poise of wealthy, successful and powerful people can be highly deceptive since it is often just a mask that is worn to live up to a real or perceived self-image. Remove the mask and what will be revealed are probably layers and layers of insecurity and cynicism, wrought by years of living with being sought after for all the external trappings of beauty, wealth or success. It is, therefore, ironic that the people we admire for being beautiful, successful or powerful are sometimes very lonely people who are afraid to trust in the fact that they can be liked or loved for the person they really are.

Of course, admiration by itself need not necessarily always be a bad thing, for it can spur an individual to greater levels of achievement: “It is not because the touch of genius has roused genius to production, but because the admiration of genius has made talent ambitious, that the harvest is still abundant.” (Fuller) However, if admiration is aroused in the absence of knowledge, it usually leads to disillusionment and even contempt, once the true worth of the admired subject becomes known. Thus, there is a great deal of wisdom in the commonplace saying, “You always admire what you really don’t understand.”

Works Cited

Fuller, M. “The Modern Drama.” The Left Bank Review and Echo Magazine. Accessed Oct. 27, 2004: http://www.leftbankreview.com/profiles/MargaretFuller.html

Pope, A. “An Essay on Criticism.” Poet’s Corner. Accessed Oct. 27, 2004:


Praise or Blame: In Praise of Martin Luther King’s Position on Racial Issues

Martin Luther King is renowned world over for his leadership of a mass struggle for racial equality that doomed segregation and changed America forever. However, while King’s success in this struggle was no mean achievement, the fact is that focusing on this alone may actually be a far too restrictive assessment of his achievements (White, 1998). For, King deserves as much praise, if not more, for his position on racial issues, which was distinguished by its emphasis on basic human rights, justice, human unity, and the philosophy of non-violence: “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” (King, 1968)

King’s achievements are best understood when placed in the context of the American society that existed in the mid-twentieth century. Today, America may rightfully be seen as the leader of the free world, but the fact is that the America of King’s times would probably have never earned that position (White, 1998). For, it must be remembered that the world, which King faced was one where racial segregation was pretty much the norm in schools, public transport systems, hotels and restaurants, and even housing. In fact, blacks were routinely cheated out of or even blatantly denied their right to vote, serve on juries, or get a fair trial in the case of offenders.

King could have well chosen to lead or encourage a violent protest against the rampant racial discrimination and injustice, especially in the South. Instead, it is admirable that he opted for non-violent resistance as the answer to achieving justice for his people. Indeed, King deserves even more adulation for the fact that he stood firm in his belief in nonviolence in spite of the opposition and resistance that he faced from black militancy groups or young black power enthusiasts.

Perhaps, King was canny enough to understand that violent protest would only succeed in widening the gulf between the whites and the blacks. Or, perhaps, King was simply a humanitarian who believed that non-violent protest was a more civilized way for the black people to make their point. It could also be that King may have had more than one reason for the path he chose, including the wisdom that the white reaction to black non-violent protest would shame all decent Americans into supporting the civil rights movement. Be that as it may, it is still highly noteworthy that King managed to mobilize the blacks as well as white liberals into using non-violent methods to secure basic civil rights for all American citizens.

King’s passion for human unity, civil rights, and justice is also evident in the manner in which he turned his attention to issues such as poverty and unemployment after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Unfortunately, it will never be known if King would have succeed in bringing down more barriers to achieving true human equality and social justice since his life was brought to a premature end by the malicious bullet of an assassin.

King did, however, leave behind an exemplary example for a world, which is increasingly facing the problem of terrorism: “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” (King, 1968)

Works Cited

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “The Peaceful Warrior.” NY: Pocket Books, 1968. National

Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee. Accessed Oct. 27, 2004: http://www.mecca.org/~crights/dream.html

White, J.E. “Leaders & Revolutionaries: Martin Luther King.” The Time 100. Accessed

Oct. 27, 2004: http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/king.html

Comparison: Writing and Speaking

The human race has an innate need for self-expression. This need has, over the years of human existence, led to the development of many communication channels such as speaking, writing, painting, music, architecture, sculpture and film. Of these, the most popular and commonplace of communication methods are speaking and writing, primarily because the development of both these skills are considered to be important by society. However, while society may stress equally on speaking and writing skills, most people usually express a preference for speaking. This preference is rather puzzling since there are several aspects to writing that lead to better expression and communication of intended messages.

In some ways, the common preference for speaking is understandable. A child, for instance, learns to speak before going on to read and write, and, that too, with little or no effort. Therefore, it can be argued that the human senses are more geared to the use of sound as a means of expression. Writing, on the other hand, is more difficult to learn, requiring formal schooling and practice. Secondly, speaking, especially in informal conversations, does not call for as much attention to aspects such as grammar, spelling, or even sentence structure. In writing, however, observation and adherence to such formal rules is not only expected but also usually enforced, especially by educational and business institutions.

The third advantage that speaking is perceived to have over writing is that it can be done on the spot, allowing for spontaneous reaction, expression and interaction. In contrast, writing calls for more thought, organization and structure. Further, communicating through the written word also means allowing for a time lapse in any expected response even if it is through the more instantaneous channels of email and mobile text messages. Thus, it is evident that speaking is, by far, the easier method of communication. The question that must be asked, however, is whether it is also the better channel for communication?

Writing may be more difficult to learn and require more effort but the fact is that it is these very aspects that ultimately lead to a better quality of communication and expression. For instance, writing allows time for careful thought, reflection, evaluation and correction of messages prior to submission. This process, therefore, allows a person to ensure that the meaning of the intended message is clear and will be interpreted as such. True, that it is also possible to think before speaking but usually people are prone to do exactly the reverse. In addition, speaking does not allow for much time to think through a response.

The development of excellent writing skills also calls for analytical and critical thinking abilities, thereby honing an individual’s mental acumen. Of course, the same can also said to be true of formal speeches, which are preplanned carefully. But, on the whole, it can be argued that writing is usually more effective in demonstrating critical thinking, as it does not depend on an individual speaker’s presentation or oratory skills.

Last, but not least, the conscious development of excellent writing skills could well lead to more articulate and grammatically correct speech. Thus, there are some very good reasons why people should actually learn to use writing as their preferred method of communication.

Description: An Automobile Accident

It was a dark, wintry night when the accident happened. It had been snowing heavily for the past few days and the roads were icy. This did not, however, stop Derek from going on his nightly bike ride since he felt that the roads would be free of traffic, especially with the hourly media bulletins advising motorists to stay off the roads. In any case, Derek simply loved biking in the wintry air and feeling the chilly wind blow past his face in a rush.

A few miles out, and Derek was in seventh heaven, soaking in the quietness and beauty of a winter landscape that was devoid of any human presence or noise. In fact, the only discernible sounds were the whistling of the wind, the rhythmic clacking of his bicycle chains and the far-off barking of a dog. Of course, the peace and quiet were disturbed now and then by the sound of an occasional car but otherwise Derek was enjoying one of the most exhilarating bike rides of his life.

Perhaps it was the long, lonely stretches of the road that beckoned. Or, the feeling of utter solitude and empty space. Or, the desire to be completely free of all human restrictions. Or, perhaps it was a combination of all these factors that made Derek, who was usually very careful about traffic safety rules, take off his helmet and pick up speed. And, that too, just as he was turning into a rather narrow by lane!

Unfortunately, the one time that Derek chose to ignore traffic safety rules proved to be his undoing. For, suddenly the headlights of a car coming from the opposite direction blinded him, startling him enough to throw one hand in front of his face in an attempt to shield his eyes from the glare. Derek’s understandably reflex action, however, meant that he was now controlling his bike with just one hand, depending on his expert balance to do the rest.

Maybe if Derek had, instead, braked and pulled to the curb, the events that followed could have been averted. But he instinctively chose another course of action, which resulted in the car striking him down when he temporarily lost balance and rode directly into the path of the car. The impact of being hit by a car, which was traveling way above the speed limit, led to Derek and his bike being thrown quite a few yards before landing in a tangled heap against a tree.

The collision was so severe that it also resulted in the car swerving before the driver was able to take control, straighten it out, and then slow down enough to use the brakes and come to a halt. When the motorist was finally able to run back to investigate the cause of the collision, he found an unconscious cyclist who was bleeding profusely from what seemed to be a head wound and other injuries. Luckily, for Derek, the car owner had a cell phone, which he used to immediately notify the police and summon an ambulance.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the wonders of communication technology and the timely help that Derek received, he may not have lived to narrate his tale. And neither would I, his closest friend, have been able to pen down this story about the dangers of flouting traffic safety regulations!

Legislation: Should marijuana be legalized?

A 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 19.5 million Americans, or 8.3% of the population aged 12 or older, used drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin (MDCH). These statistics are very disturbing in the light of related research evidence, which establishes that drug abuse adversely affects the physical and mental functioning of users (NIDA). Logically, therefore, the question of legalizing marijuana should not even arise since this drug too is known to have several short- and long-term ill effects.

In fact, marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States, as evidenced by its over 200 street names such as pot, weed, grass, and reefer. Used purely for recreational purposes, marijuana is perceived as being fairly harmless since the drug does not have any immediate, dramatically adverse effect on health. Indeed, this perception probably accounts for its widespread use and the current demand to legalize its status. However, there is sufficient research evidence, which shows that it is actually inadvisable to smoke or use marijuana frequently, since it results in long-lasting adverse effects on the human brain (Cool Nurse).

Marijuana also has other long-term effects such as psychological dependence, asthma, lung cancer, lowered sperm production and damage to the immune system. Further, while it may be true that the drug does not have any immediate, dramatic effect on a user’s health, the fact is that marijuana use can, and does, cause some short-term effects. Indeed, marijuana can cause users discomfort through: a dry mouth and throat; an increased heart beat; bloodshot eyes; loss of learning memory, judgment, and motor skills; slurred speech; loss of concentration; anxiety; paranoia; and distortion of sensory perception (Cool Nurse).

Thus, it is evident that no concerned society can take the issue of marijuana abuse lightly. True, that marijuana does have some medical benefits for the drug can reduce pain and nausea associated with the treatment of cancer, AIDS and other diseases. However, there is still no research, which proves that the drug will be safe when used purely for medical purposes. Whereas there are many existing studies that have already shown the negative effects of prolonged use. Moreover, there are many drugs that have already been approved for treatment of the same ailments that marijuana helps relieve (PBS Online).

Even assuming that subsequent research later proves that marijuana is safe to use for medical purposes, legalizing the drug may strengthen the current perception that it is safe for recreational use. Such a move will, therefore, end up negating all efforts to educate the public, especially the vulnerable youth, that it is not safe to use marijuana. Therefore, it is evident that legalizing marijuana, even if it is only for medical purposes, will lead to serious social consequences elsewhere.

Supporters of the movement to legalize marijuana draw parallels with the failed attempts to prohibit alcohol all over the world. However, this argument is at best a fallacious one. For, while alcohol abuse can also affect health adversely, it is not known to do so only when consumed only in moderate quantities. Thus, any argument in favor of legalizing marijuana is on very shaky ground whereas there are several sound reasons why the drug should continue to be categorized as illegal!

Works Cited

Cool Nurse. “Marijuana.” Cool Nurse Web site. Accessed Oct. 28, 2004:


MDCH. “Key Facts from the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Michigan

Department of Community Health. Accessed Oct. 28, 2004: http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-2941_4871-79336 — ,00.html

NIDA. “New NIDA Drug Abuse Education Materials for Middle School Students.”

National Institute on Drug Abuse Web site. Accessed Oct. 28, 2004: http://www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol12N5/MOMTearoff.html

PBS Online. “Should marijuana be legalized for medical purposes?” Accessed Oct. 28,

2004: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/closetohome/viewpoints/html/marij.html

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