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Burke and Proposal 1

November 9, 2010

In my discussion class yesterday my class was broken up into groups and was given a two-part assignment.  Part one included deciding whether or not Burke would have voted yes or no to proposal one, and how would Burke try to convince Michigan voters to vote. Part two required each group to come up with a skit, or advertisement that Burke would have come up with if he would have been alive today.

Six classmates and myself first decided that Burke would have voted no to proposal one. We came up with this decision based on the fact that Burke was against radical change.

In “Reflections on the Revolution in France” Burke states that, “Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure-but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement…”(521). In just these few sentences we see how Burke really values social contracts, like the constitution and the state constitutions.

After we all agreed that Burke would have voted no to proposal one, we thought of how Burke would have tried to persuade Michigan voters to agree with him. After we examined Burke’s writing style in “Reflection on the Revolution” we found Burke’s writing style to be overly dramatized. For example Burke wrote that, “…the queen was first startled by the sentinel at her door…they were upon him (the king), and he was dead…cruel ruffians and assassins, reeking with his blood, rushed into the chamber of the queen and pierced with a hundred strokes of bayonets and poniards the bed…(the queen) had but just time to fly almost naked…”(515) We concluded that since Burke tried to appeal to people’s emotions rather than trust them to make a smart decision, he had to depend on his way of writing dramatically in order to get people emotionally excited and interested about what he wrote.

Through this rhetorical analysis of Burke, our group decided that we needed to come up with an emotionally intriguing campaign for our skit reflecting Burke’s opinion about proposal one. We were inspired by an analogy written by the president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Joseph G. Lehman reflecting his views on proposal one. His analogy goes as follows, “The problem with Michigan government isn’t so much what’s under the hood, it is what we’re letting the driver get away with. If your teenage driver is irresponsible, no mechanic can change that.”

My group then decided that our skit would play out this analogy of the constitution being the engine, and the driver being the state governor and representatives. We quickly put together a short, and of course dramatic skit, that started with a mechanic checking over a mans car and reporting that it was in extremely good shape. The man then proceeded to give the car to his teenage daughter, who while driving with her friends and not focusing on driving the vehicle, runs over an innocent citizen. Then a member of the group stood up and introduced himself as Burke, and began explaining that rewriting the state constitutions was a radical change, and that tradition and consistency were the true answers to fixing the state of Michigan.

In our skit we effectively showed how Burke was against quick fixes, and how he attracted people by not necessarily showing them a real life example, but an example that is overly dramatized and out of the ordinary in order to attract there emotions, not necessarily their thoughts on the matter.

3 Comments
  1. schearer permalink
    November 9, 2010 1:56 PM

    I was going to also blog about the same group activity in my discussion section. I really like your advertisement and how it creatively portrays that Burke would never want to disrupt tradition because he was more conservative. Burke states on page 503, “Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the state, in what we improve we are never wholly new: in what we retain we are never wholly obsolete.” This being said it is apparent that Burke would say no to proposition 1 because he would not believe in ruining tradition and completely beginning a new State constitution.

    In my group we decided to address a United States tradition that no one would want or have changed, Thanksgiving. In our skit we decided to have a group of us eating a Thanksgiving dinner consisting of mashed potatoes, turkey, and other traditional food for the Holiday. As we ate we were representing the Michigan society and how we have no problem with tradition when change is not brought up. Then we had someone walk up and say that he was starting a rice revolution and going to have a sweet and sour chicken and rice for Thanksgiving. This proposition appealed to some at the table, but not our “Burke”. Our Burke explained that tradition is something that should not be disrupted and that eating mashed potatoes and turkey for Thanksgiving dates back to 1621. In this event it portrays to the students that tradition is greater than revolution and Burke would not agree with this proposition because change could bring more harm to society than good.

    After class I began to think about our act more and also noticed in another groups advertisement that revolution can be appealing to many that truly just like the sound of something different. In this case many could think having chinese food at dinner is a great change, but it is harming the tradition that we have grown up and lived with and even a little change like that could effect our society. In society today I have noticed that the constant idea of change is brought up when referring to making things better. Change doesn’t just make everything better and in Burke’s eyes it has a great chance of causing great suffering. When talking about a mixed system of opinion and sentiment dating back to ancient chivalry and the possibility of being totally extinguished, Burke says, “The loss I fear will be great. It is this which has distinguished it under all forms of government, and distinguished to its advantage, from the states of Asia and possibly from those states which flourished.” Traditions can be varied and can contribute to a better society, but a radical change could bring more suffering than happiness in the end.

    Many people can be influenced by someone who has no background in the subject of change. In this case our rice revolution man was just trying to spark change, rather than being a scholar like Burke. Those voting should listen to Burke who has a greater knowledge of the outcome than the man trying to start a drastic revolution. In the end I completely agree with saying no to proposition 1 and would never want rice rather than mashed potatoes. There are many people who think change can bring back good, but what they don’t know is change can make it worse and sticking with tradition and working to make things better is the only feasable option. When it comes to voting it is best to research what you are actually voting for rather than just voting for something because, someone told you to or it sounds like it might do something.

  2. adamkornbluh permalink
    November 9, 2010 2:24 PM

    Your discussion activity seems very interesting and I would have enjoyed participating in it. Had I been a participant, I feel that Burke would have supported Proposal One (assuming we are discussing the Michigan medical marijuana proposal). My main reason for this is I do not feel that such a proposal would be viewed as radical change. Burke supported making changes to laws and government as long as it did not disrupt society. In my opinion, making an illegal drug a controlled, regulated prescription medication does not qualify as such a monumental change in order. In Burke’s writings, he describes such a change as a revolt or overthrow of a King. In comparison, simply allowing a natural plant to be used as a regulated drug fails to shakeup the society of a country in a remotely similar way. On the other hand, I’m not exactly sure where the usage of marijuana falls within Protestant and Christian ideals. Had it be majorly opposed by the church, Burke may have opposed it due to his religious upbringing.

  3. erikamir permalink
    November 9, 2010 5:00 PM

    I agree with adamkornbluh. Legalization of a natural drug really isn’t much of a radical change considering its uses, for example, medical conditions. However, in my discussion section we consider whether or not as time change traditions change. As we learned in lecture the best source of information is to look to the past. My discussion section considered that as times change Burke is suggesting that we apply traditions to new times. Making marijuana legal isn’t harming anyone or society, it all falls on the individual to make their own decisions based off of their morals.

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