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In the 1970s the conflict over British rule in Northern Ireland was heated in sentiment and violent in many encounters.  There were many songs written in support of Irish independence.  In the political and emotional context, many of them were very appealing to those who already believed in the cause.  But it wasn't always a time of songs to persuade the undecided or otherwise able to be influenced.  There's an exception that I think we might use as an example of how one might change the thinking of some people.  The wording can suggest how we can express ourselves on other issues.  Many of you may not be familiar with the song, despite the general fame of the songwriter.  The song is Paul McCartney's "Give Ireland Back to the Irish".

You can hear the song at YouTube

Or just read the lyrics:

[chorus]
Give Ireland Back To The Irish
Don't Make Them Have To Take It Away
Give Ireland Back To The Irish
Make Ireland Irish Today

Great Britain You Are Tremendous
And Nobody Knows Like Me
But Really What Are You Doin'
In The Land Across The Sea

Tell Me How Would You Like It
If On Your Way To Work
You Were Stopped By Irish Soldiers
Would You Lie Down Do Nothing
Would You Give In, or Go Berserk

[chorus]

Great Britain And All The People
Say That All People Must Be Free
Meanwhile Back In Ireland
There's A Man Who Looks Like Me

And He Dreams Of God And Country
And He's Feeling Really Bad
And He's Sitting In A Prison
Should He Lie Down Do Nothing
Should Give In Or Go Mad

[chorus]

Now let's look at how it presents its case.

Give Ireland Back to the Irish

The linking of "Ireland" and "Irish" can make this sound like "Dog food is for dogs" - true by definition.  "Give back" implies Person A had something and Person
B took it from him.  It's wording that conveys the idea of it rightfully should be returned.  Like a number of phrases in the song, these connotations can act on a subconscious level.  It can be like sending a larger message in a smaller number of words, and there are various ways that can make it more effective.

Don't Make Them Have To Take It Away

In light of what I just said, it might have been better to say something like, "Don't make them have to fight to get it back".  Still, "Don't make them have to" indicates the English have a choice.  It doesn't have to be a fight, just return what isn't yours.

Great Britain You Are Tremendous

When you're making a protest statement, you don't always feel like saying something like this.  However, if you can honestly say something positive like this, it can convey, "I'm not an enemy and I don't want to be.  But there is a problem that needs to be fixed."  This can make someone more open to paying attention to what you say.

But Really What Are You Doin' In The Land Across The Sea

"In the land across the sea" carries the idea: On this side of the sea is "here".  On the other side of the sea is "there".  England's place is "here".  England's domain is not over "there".  At times, it may be effective to ask a question like, "Why are you over there?"  And if you ask in the right way, some might think about it.

Tell Me How Would You Like It If On Your Way To Work You Were Stopped By Irish Soldiers

It's been said that empathy is an important part of progressive thought (and it's not entirely limited to progressives).  Making others think what it would be like to be in the other person's shoes can make them more sympathetic to the cause.  And this is a stark image.  Foreign troops on your streets coming up to you and impacting your life.  If you can get an image as emotional into someone's head, it should be easier to influence them.

Would You Lie Down Do Nothing Would You Give In, or Go Berserk

You have a person who's been manipulated by politicians and media to make "the other side" of an issue look like the bad guys because they're fighting.  It might be worth asking that person, "What would you do differently in the same circumstances?  Would you shrug your shoulders at a foreign army in your country?"  Of course, saying it more like the song does may be more effective.

Great Britain And All The People Say That All People Must Be Free

This isn't some foreign or fringe ideology I'm asking you to consider.  It's a political concept you were taught in school.  Do you believe in freedom and independence for all countries, or just certain ones?  When you can use the ideology used in school and otherwise what officials claim to stand for, you don't have to persuade a person of a new framework.

Meanwhile Back In Ireland There's A Man Who Looks Like Me And He Dreams Of God And Country

"Man who looks like me" - this isn't some diabolical-looking crazy person - this could be YOU.  "Dreams of God and country" - he does what any decent person is expected to do.  How can you be against someone dedicated to God and country?

And He's Sitting In A Prison

In prison for being for God and country.  If you can get a feeling like that into a person's head, you can get a strong emotional reaction telling the person this is wrong.

Should He Lie Down Do Nothing Should Give In Or Go Mad

Would you just shrug your shoulders in that situation?

Originally posted to workingwords on Thu May 16, 2013 at 10:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging, Logic and Rhetoric at Daily Kos, and An Ear for Music.

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