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An employee of mine lived in New Orleans until August 28, 2005. That’s the day she evacuated with her boyfirend and their four cats and all the valuable things they could pack in to their two cars. They booked a room in a pet friendly hotel in Tennesee and rode out the storm there.
For months after her subsequent move to Portland, people, when they found out where she was from, would say, “Oh, you’re a victim of Hurricane Katrina?” Her response was always, “Not really. I had two cars and plenty of cash and credit cards. I was ‘inconvenienced’ by the hurricane and flood and it was a changing point in my life, but I’m not a victim. The victims were the poor people who didn’t have the means to leave.”
She goes on to frame this even more positively, “It was an opportunity for a new life, a new profession and a new city where the values are more in line with my own.”
Of course, not everyone was so lucky and she has definite feelings of loss and sadness and anger about the hurricane and the subsequent nightmare of New Orleans, but for the most part, she turned this upheaval into a happy new life.
Framing is a powerful tool for positive change. It can be an unbeleivably potent instrument for persuasion.
Look at the frame that we now put on the Holocaust “victims”: Survivors.
Thousands of social workers use framing each day. Gang members consider killing an opposing gang member honorable, but social workers and parole officers use framing to show how ugly murder is no matter who is the victim.
Advertising is all about framing. To appeal to younger audiences, advertisers usurp “rebellious” or “indie” mentalities in order to sell their products to the “alternative” youth culture. So now even a carton of eggs seems “edgy” and cool when advertisements imply that these aren’t your daddy’s old-fashioned, lame, square outdated eggs, these are cool eggs and only the truly awesome are eating our eggs.
Although politicians use framing to put their own spin on issues, who’s to say they’re wrong? Although I don’t understand it, for some reason Bush believes that the war in Iraq is just. He uses framing in every speech he makes, and was successful in 2004 when he convinced more than half of the nation that his view was right. He used 9-11 to frame us into believing that we’re all in imminent danger and that “It’s better to fight them over there, than to fight them over here.” This also presupposes we’d have to fight them over here.
On the other hand, the Democrats have framed the war as something that has been prolonged and has crossed the line of sacrificing too many American lives for a cause that is based on lies and is less than worthy.
We can use framing as a positive thing depending on what we consider to be positive. If you frame it in a positive light, almost anything can be positive. People use this strategy all the time to convince others to “do the right thing”. Martin Luther King Jr. framed segregation as eveil convincing many people that it was wrong, and so here wer are today with millions of black and white Americans who’ve grown up together not knowing that kind of blatant inequality. Was he right? I think so. But for opponents of integration, he was absolutely wrong.
Frame a hardship into a challenge,. Frame a setback into a time for reflection. Frame a victim into a survivor. Frame an old-fashioned product or service into something cutting edge and indispensible and awesome. Frame everything!
Until next time,
Kenrick E. Cleveland