MUSICAL MUSINGS: Words Matter (continued…)

By Scott Rieker

Choir Director, Emerson Choir

On Sunday, June 25, 2017, I had the privilege of giving the sermon at Emerson. I spoke of the power of words, and how words carry the meanings and the frames through which we see the world. Because I had time constraints in delivering my sermon, I am offering two short addenda here.


First, it is extremely important to understand the Right’s concept of a culture war. The Right operates according to Lakoff’s strict father frame, which is predicated on the idea that the world has evil in it and people need to be protected from it. Contrast this with the Progressive’s nurturing parent frame, which believes that people are basically good, and that—except in extreme cases—we can cooperate to build the sort of world we want.

Strict Father Frame


Nurturing Parent Frame

The take-away is this: For a strict father culture war to have any validity, there needs to be conflict to which the Right can react and say, “No, our way is better.” If Progressives instead propose (rather than oppose), the rationale for a culture war disappears. Further, in order to propose, there must be vision, not just policies. Policies flow from principles, which flow from values, and values are expressed in frames. By concentrating on our shared progressive morality, we can express our vision in positive terms and render the opposition mute.


Second, philosophical discourse is phenomenally important (my BA is in Philosophy…). However, there needs to be a practical application of philosophy—particularly in terms of a concerted effort to frame ideas in a Progressive worldview. To that end, I direct my readers to two foundations based on Progressive values. The Right has been using “Conservative” foundations to support their talking points for more than four decades, while Progressives have remained splintered and focused on specific issues. Reframing the entire conversation is essential for the victory of Progressive morality.


Begin by exploring the Rockridge Institute ( Immediately, you will notice that it’s closed. However, the website still provides useful articles as well as talking points that you can use to good effect. You may not agree with everything you find there, and THAT IS OKAY! By way of comparison, a Libertarian may not agree with a Conservative defense policy think tank, but they work together because they share the same underlying worldview.


More current is the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice ( This foundation was created to provide a Progressive voice in the education debate, which is particularly pertinent in the age of Trump and DeVos. One of the Great Lakes Center’s most entertaining (and truly useful) features is the “Think Twice Initiative,” which critiques Conservative white papers and proposals for education. The GLC is crucial in the ongoing struggle for a quality public education for our children.


Finally, there needs to be a Progressive answer to the Koch-related web of foundations, think tanks, etc. Maybe it’s time to start one… After all, words matter.