The New Definition of Rhetoric

My mind is preoccupied with the misery of the USA Presidential Election which close to half of its population did not bother to vote, leaving the minority of Republicans to snatch away the election from an opportunity to give victory for the first time to a woman. As neither candidate had any great popularity with the public, breaking the “glass ceiling” would have been at least been a great moment in history.
Instead the art of rhetoric became the real winner of the election.
9780195392883The Oxford Dictionary’s first definition of the word is:
The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques
Then came the 1.1 “Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content
I would like to offer my version, a 1.2 if you will;
“The art of bold faced lying to anyone who will listen without shame or moral conscious.”
At 91, I seem to remember that lying was one of the most heinous acts anyone could commit. Honesty was part of who you were as a person and in my case, driven onto me from childhood onward.
We always knew that politicians would speak in “half truths” or be “misinformed at the time” or even “to the best of my recollection…” but now the veiled attempt at being honest has completely gone out the window. Society has not only given it’s blessing, but welcomed the ‘rhetoric/lie’ with open arms. We have shared it across the internet, embellished it, rationalized it, justified it, become violent defending it, but won’t call it what it is, lies.

RHETORIC Concept Word Tag Cloud Design

To make the rhetoric/lie even more palatable we have created the “Fact-Check” where anyone can go and check the validity of any statement. The problem with this is, the gullible already believe the lie and won’t bother checking and for those that do look find the Fact-check to be littered with the words true, false or “partially factual” and “Acceptable if you consider…” which just comes down to rationalizing the rhetoric/lie.

So now you have Donald Trump, a business man, billionaire, who masterfully, without shame, used the art of rhetoric to win the U.S. presidential election. Is no one offended? I do not speak of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, man or woman, race or religion, but to you as a human being, do you not remember what it felt like being lied to?

Accepting rhetoric without moral outrage has opened the doors to a decline of ourselves as a society. Remember the phrase, “The end justifies the means”? That is precisely what we have done. We have made the lie an acceptable part of our culture because we became obsessed with our own agenda. We forgot to look out for each other. We accepted disrespect toward women. We blamed an entire religion and a culture because the rhetoric said so.
The damage is done and I wonder how long it will take to recover. For the moment those immortal words on the American Constitution are more a source of embarrassed uneasiness rather than that of an inspiration, “We the people…

The Holy Qur’an, A Birthday Gift

For my 90th birthday, my wish was to acquire an English, large print edition of the Qur’an. I wanted to finally read it in its entirety as I felt this would enable me to make a more educated contribution to the necessary and imminent reformation of Islam, a reformation that will eliminate the hostile interpretation of this holy book that has resulted in sanctions of barbaric behaviours and discrimination against women.

I have only just read the introductory chapters, “How to Approach the Qur’an”, followed by “A Brief Look at the Life of Muhammad”, an historical account of the prophet’s activities. The latter chapter ends with the story of Barakah, Muhammad’s nursemaid who, by then over seventy years old, visited his grave every day to cry softly. Once asked why, she replied, “By God, I knew that the Messenger of God would die, but I cry now because the revelation from on high has come to an end for us.”


Painting of Mohammad

And how right she was. What a mess the Muslims have made of the “revelation”, twisting it into various misrepresentations of radicalism and hatred. These days, the two primary Muslim sects are on a constant war path. The Saudi Arabian Sunnis have enraged the Iranians with their execution of the Shiite cleric, Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, precipitating the burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and in turn, the order for all Iranian diplomats to evacuate Saudi territory within 48 hours. This stunning state of affairs has left the United Nations and Western powers at a loss. How might it be possible to prevent an armed conflict between the two largest Islamic religious communities in the world?


Fighting in Mosul

Hostilities have escalated frighteningly in both countries, further distressing the majority population of restless young adults who have been enlightened by the exposure to different cultural choices thanks to the Internet. Young Arabians are bombarded with everyday barbaric news from the Islamic State, but are also attuned to the liberal views of the democratic West, leaving them in a position to question, to choose, as they become more and more disenchanted with the status quo of their lives and mistrustful of the men who have not learned a single lesson from history, that absolute power cannot survive for thousands of years, such as Hitler had assumed. The princely rulers of Saudi Arabia have not learned that the “divine rights of kings” came to an end with the French Revolution in 1799 which overthrew their monarchy, established a republic, experienced violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in Napoleon’s reign of dictatorship until he, too, was deposed as all dictators have been or will be.


French Revolution

Only reasonable, kind minds may prevent the disintegration of humanity in Islam. The new reformation can only become a bloody massacre, nothing more, in the absence of a new Enlightenment which would elevate women to an equal status of power, which would cultivate a peaceful coexistence between nations, and which would eradicate the perpetual uprising of brotherhoods spurred on by corrupt and hungry demagogues.


Muslim Women Give the Voting Finger

Let the United Nations intervene to stop the escalation of violence, to invite all factions of Muslim sects, as well as observers of other religions, to listen to women, to theologians, those who have the heart and the sanity to enlighten mankind. Let those who sit on high come to the realization that bloodshed will not serve in the defense of their beliefs, but rather, they might alter their stance to achieve universal peace through a tolerance of diversity.

A Thought For You America


The day before the USA independence day, Wordsmith’s Website printed the statement of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd US President (1743-1826):


“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deemed them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

Last months the United States has made monumental strides in civilizing humanity, rectifying laws and symbols  of their barbarous ancestors!


Brass Scales of Justice on a desk showing Depth-of-field books behind in the background

            The confederate flag, a symbol of barbarous ancestors, has to come down, be displayed in museums, as reminders of the history of slavery, but also of the valiant and bloody war to defend a shameful exploitation of human beings who deserve equal rights and remembrance of the creation of a prosperous and mighty country and its people.



The equal right and permission to marry into same sex unions, because, by the nature of things they had been born with a disposition not to participate in the act of recreation, but have the equal right to live, love, and function like heterosexual bonding. To deny homosexuals the rights and happiness of heterosexuals is a regimen of barbarous ancestors.


The equal rights and social integration of people of different colours in society with dignity and love is still being denied by an obsolete white supremacy tradition, a regimen of a barbarous ancestors.


The religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church and the Islamic Religion, which denies women equal status in the celebration of their religion, has to be reformed to give women equal rights in the celebration and worship of their faith, which is denied them by the tradition of barbaric ancestors.


Let the Americans of the USA celebrate their Independence Day in the shadow of threats from Isis and other jihadists. Let them become the Nation that leads us into a new reformation of humanity, whereby they are the first to embrace fully their advancement of humanity to bring peace and harmony to the world – moving forward beyond the tradition of barbaric ancestors still lingering in some minds – at home and certainly abroad.

Let the recent events and sacrifices be the inspiration to move forward! Happy 4th of July.



Pilgrimage to Austria Part 1

Salzburg, Austria.My oldest son, Christoper and I made a trip to Germany and Austria. I’ve invited him give his accounts of what happened. The trip was fraught with inspiration, illness, wonderful meetings and the final resting place of my beloved wife. I hope you enjoy.

We almost didn’t make it to Vienna
by Christopher von Kap-herr

“Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
Luke 24:36b.

Several weeks ago, at my weekly Men’s Club meeting, I mentioned that I would be journeying to Germany and Austria over most of March with my 89-year-old father. The purpose of this trip would be for him to revisit the places of his youth and exchange family stories with relatives in Austria. My role on this journey would be to assist him on the trip and to not only hear the family stories, but also to visit the places where they’d happened. There was another reason, as well, which turned out to be important in turning this from a tourists’ enterprise into a ‘Hero’s Journey’.
I uncovered this ‘other purpose’ when I started reviewing my dream journal to see if any of my dreams had predicted this journey, and then, if there would be a good outcome. When I looked back on my dreams from the past year, I found one that I’d had on October 12, 2014 that might have been a message from my mother, who had passed away in 2013.

I was approached by a woman at a flea market who asked me if I wanted a new pair of shoes. The woman was dressed in what appeared to be a peasant or gypsy skirt. Before I could answer, she led me by the hand to a mall to find a pair of shoes. I turned to my left and saw a street with a bus on it. I was not sure where I was, so I asked her, “Is that Sheffington Street?” She said, “No, we are on Shefford Road.” I awoke shortly thereafter.

This dream seemed remarkable because Shefford Road is the road on which my father still lives. The way the woman in the dream was dressed reminded me of the style of skirts favored by my mother. I began to wonder whether my insistent guide was really my mother taking me to see my father. That she was escorting me personally meant that there was an important reason for my visit. I had not seen my father since before this dream, so it seems that my mother wanted me to undertake something with him, like this upcoming trip.

The house of my parents

The house of my parents

How do I know this journey was what she had in mind when she escorted me towards my father’s place? The shoes suggest this because they are, obviously, symbolic of walking and travelling, something my father and I would be doing a lot of. Yet why would this be important to my mother? At first, I thought she wanted me to give this gift to my father, accompanying him on one last journey to Austria and Germany. But, perhaps there was more to it than that. What if she wanted us to undertake this journey, not for my father’s sake, but for her sake? If so, then what could be so important that she came to me in a dream? The only thing I could think of was that she wanted her ashes returned to Salzburg, the place of her birth. My father had been waffling on this idea. He said that maybe I should wait until he dies and then “do with our ashes what you will”. I cannot give the reason for why my mother might be so insistent that her ashes go back to Austria, but as with God who asks us to do things we do not understand, I decided to fulfill her wishes.

Mother's Ashes
When I wrote to my father about my dream, he agreed that this was a sign and the time was right for us to travel together to Europe. He was so eager that he put together the itinerary for our trip almost immediately. Our plan was that I was to travel from the USA to Montreal and from there we would fly together to Berlin. After that, we planned to take a short trip to Austria so my father could show me where he grew up and went to University, as well to Salzburg where he had proposed to my mother. The highpoint was to be the sprinkling of my mother’s ashes on the top of the Untersberg mountain. All of this had to be accomplished in four days because we had in mind to be back in Berlin in time to celebrate my sister’s 60th birthday by attending the recital of a well-known pianist at the Symphony Hall of the famous Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Once we arrived in Germany, however, events spun out of our control and I felt myself torn from the role of tourist and thrust into the midst of a Hero’s Journey!
I should have realized from the beginning that this excursion would not be just a stroll past the monuments of my father’s youth. Upon our arrival in Amsterdam from Montreal, I noticed my father walking through the airport in a way that seemed ‘labored’. Sure, I should have requested the use of one of those motorized golf-cart type vehicles that so annoys walking passengers with its incessant beeping. Why I didn’t was a combination of my father being, in my mind, the strong hiker he’d been for so many years, and the fact that he didn’t give me any indication that I should seek assistance. We made it to our destination in one piece, but I was finally shaken from my state of denial about my father’s condition when, on the second night of our stay in a ‘pension’ in Berlin, I heard a loud crash in the middle of the night. “Oh my God, my father has fallen!” I screamed to myself. I leaped out of bed and to my dismay realized he could not lift himself from the floor. Suffering some stress to my lower back, I managed to help him up. I held his arm to lead him to the bathroom when I noticed a standing lamp lying on the carpet. “Oh my goodness, he fell on the way to the bathroom already earlier in the evening!”, my thoughts shouted. I supported my father to the bathroom, but when he tried to sit on the toilet he fell again! Again I lifted him, then helped him back to his bed. I thought, “This is it, we are stuck in Berlin. I will have to continue on this quest alone.”



The next morning, at my sister’s nearby apartment, we related the story of my father’s falls. It occurs from time to time in my family that when something out of the ordinary happens we look for someone to blame, particularly when it is something unsettling. In this case, my sister chose to blame my younger brother for “neglecting to fulfill his role as caretaker; our father has clearly not been eating well and has not been exercising”. As described in Joseph Campbell’s classic novel, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, help was soon on the way. A friend of my sister’s advised us to bring our father to a clinic near the Schloss Charlottenburg. We arrived by taxi unannounced, which caused some grumbling on the part of the attending physician, but who despite the lack of notice agreed to admit my dad. A few tests were performed and it was quickly determined that my father was not only seriously dehydrated, but had contracted some kind of contagious intestinal virus. This diagnosis resulted in his being quarantined in a private room for five and a half days. I must say, if I had to be in a hospital this would be the place to be. My father had a large room with a picture window overlooking the Schloss, which at night was ablaze with lights. I certainly felt alright about leaving him there until he was well enough to be sent ‘home’.
Reasonable people said there was no way he could go to Austria, let alone ride in a gondola to the top of a 2000-meter mountain, which was what we planned to do in Salzburg. But, on this trip, I had checked reason in at the airport and allowed myself to be guided by the spirit of my mother. As long as we have assistance from the spirit world, who cares what is reasonable. With some persuasion, my father convinced the doctor to release him in time for our flight to Vienna. He called to tell me to pick him up, so I grabbed our suitcases, packed with a few clothes and my mother’s ashes, and took a taxi to the hospital right away. From there, we went directly to the airport to catch our flight.

Next stop, Vienna

Next stop, Vienna

To be continued…

The Semantics of Genocide – April 24, 2015 – 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

The eternal flame at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan, Ar

The eternal flame at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan

The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines ‘genocide’ as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”, such as the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate the Jews in the 1940s. Today, however, we must commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which was the inspiration for the coining of the very word ‘genocide’ by Raphael Lemkin in 1943 or 1944.
Despite Obama’s campaign promise in 2008, that as President he would “recognize the Armenian Genocide”, the White House issued a carefully worded statement at a high-level administration meeting with Armenian groups that avoided using the term ‘genocide’, obviously for political reasons, for fear of offending their Turkish ally. On the other hand, Pope Francis used the word ‘genocide’ to refer to the mass killings of Armenians by the Turks without hesitation or retraction.
In my mind, ‘genocide’ is a specific and considered war effort to exterminate a declared enemy. An act is genocidal when it is carried out not only to obliterate the fighting force of a nation, but to indiscriminately include the killing of women and children. Women and children are essential for the survival and future of a nation and, therefore, require special attention and protection, attention and protection which the criminal and barbaric mind dismisses.



During World War II, the mass destructions of the cities of Coventry in England and Dresden in Germany, and the USA’s atomic bombings on Japan, to call a spade a spade, were genocidal acts. The murder of so many women and children in that war cannot be justified with a claimed goal of shortening the conflict or minimizing casualties. In plain truth, it was simple, inhuman carnage. And in the Iraq war, targeted city bombings caused the deaths of countless women and children, deaths that were labelled ‘collateral damage’, a nice, sanitized term, an excuse for unintentional but unavoidable acts of war.
Let us not be deceived by politically correct terminology, by semantics. The words used to describe calculated acts of warfare which include the slaughter of women and children cannot gloss over the face that they are a disgrace to humanity, and whether they are committed intentionally or carelessly, they are pointedly ‘genocidal’.
It all comes down to the persistent sexist attitude of men, considering women as second-class citizens. Instead of granting women, not only equal status in all facets of everyday life, but a superior status in politics to curb the limited male ability to find peaceful solutions, men engage in macho altercations which lead to wars, wars which women in power could and would have avoided. Let men become the champions and guardians of women, at home as well as in enemy camps. We desperately need their enlightenment to turn the hearts of belligerent men to the singular, necessary goal of achieving universal peace, peace which the United Nations has so far, dismally, failed to achieve.

Photos: Goggle images.