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Essay/Term paper: Emma goldman's speech

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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Few people are fearless speakers. As students, we generally feel the rumble of butterflies in our stomachs, but the most we have to lose is a good grade.

For Emma Goldman, the stakes were considerably higher. She had the daunting

task of speaking to secure her own freedom when she was placed on trial for obstructing the draft in 1917. The country was awash in patriotism, and she was prosecuted as an enemy of the state. When preparing her speech, she realized that a seated jury would be a microcosm of the country's national spirit. Jurors may have had children or loved ones committed or lost to the Great War. Her position, though heartfelt and eloquently expressed, with an attempt to express her own patriotism, was subversive and threatening to the population.

Although many of her words may have angered the jurors, Goldman made the key points of every topic that she discussed very clear and easy to understand. She was able to talk about her stances, and use powerful language and various sources to help the jury understand why she held certain ideals. When describing her opposition to war, Goldman stated that "all wars are wars among thieves who are too cowardly to fight and who therefore induce the young manhood of the world to do the fighting for them." Also, Goldman goes to great lengths to clearly depict the fact that she was not acting in a violent manner. She used imagery, such as the officers who went to arrest her finding "Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman, in their separate offices quietly seated at their desks, wielding not the gun or the bomb or the club or the sword, but only such a simple and insignificant thing as a pen." Goldman also makes it very clear why she does not believe that the war should continue. She claims that it is "not a war for democracy. If it were a war for the purpose of making democracy safe for the world, we would say that democracy must first be safe for America before it can be safe for the world." By repeating this idea throughout her speech, Goldman emphasizes why

she behaved in the manner that she did. She also explains that "the war going on in the world is for the further enslavement of the people." Goldman works to point out that "the fight began in Australia and conscription was there defeated by the brave and determined and courageous position of the Australian people." She wants the jury to understand that her battles are not as radical as they may seem. As it turns out, the same war, so to speak, against conscription has been fought and won in countries all over the globe. She also goes to great lengths to depict the fact that what she was doing was not technically a crime. She even takes the time to reinforce the judge's words, when she says "now then you have already been told and I am sure you will be charged by His Honor that the indictment against us is, having conspired and having used overt acts to carry out the conspiracy to induce men of conscriptable age not to register. That is the indictment and you cannot and you may not render a verdict for anything else. " She works hard to make sure that the jury doesn't use its previous bias against anarchism to indict her. Because Goldman is able to explain her topics with such detail, and powerfully reinforces each concept into her audience"s head, her speech effectively relates the main ideas that she wanted to express.

Goldman's strongest attribute is her ability to make the jury feel like pardoning her will be another giant step towards liberty and justice for all in America. At first, Goldman paints the picture of the government trying to make her and her partner "stay in the Tombs instead of enjoying [their] liberty." This is essentially an attempt by Goldman to make the jury feel like the litigation against her is very undemocratic. She compares herself to Jesus, playing on her audience's religious side, and relates that her she refuses to "cast the stone at at the 'political criminal'" By doing this, she

makes the jury feel that condemning her would be just like condemning Jesus again. She even says that "Jesus was put to death because he was not within the law. I know that all of you are Americans and patriots. Please bear in mind that those who fought and bled for whatever liberty you have, those who established the Declaration of

Independence, those who established free speech--they were not within the law; that they were the Anarchists of their time. . . Those men were rebels and Anarchists." Goldman realizes that her audience is very patriotic, and is attempting to show them that her Anarchism is also a form of patriotism. She also doesn't want to make the jurors feel like she is contesting their loyalty to the state, so she says "gentlemen of the jury, I wish to say right here that we respect your patriotism. We wouldn't, even if we could, want you to change one single idea of what patriotism means to you." She wants to make the jury feel that it might not agree with what she has to say, but that they can still coexist, because "the kind of patriotism [she] represents loves America with open eyes . . . and cannot be blind to her faults." She makes them feel that saying she is innocent will prove "that [they] are sincere enough and honest enough and brave enough to render a verdict according to [their] convictions." Throughout her speech Goldman works to convince the jurors that if she were released, it would only prove their loyalty to the country, and the nobleness of each of their characters. She invites them to be like Jesus, the Founding Fathers and herself: people who work for the highest causes. They would be in good company as patriots if they accepted her argument. This is excellent structure, as it flatters the jury.

In the eyes of the jury, Emma Goldman was a criminal, trying to plead her case and earn her freedom. Although she did a good job of presenting her main points, there were times when her words seemed to put her relationship with the jurors at odds. One can assume that the jurors were law-abiding citizens, who during this tumultuous time in America's history had a strong sense of nationalism. By suggesting that America wasn't as perfect as the jurors might like to believe, she automatically puts the jurors in a defensive position. For example, in the beginning of her speech, Goldman attacks the police, an organization that no citizen wants to believe is evil. She claims that "a dozen stalwart warriors" rushed into her room and "turned [their] office into a battlefield," without a search warrant. Not only is Goldman showing a lack of support for the government's law enforcement, but she does it in an aggressive

way that automatically makes the audience feel like they have to defend their country. Also, Goldman mentions more problems with the legal system, that although they may exist, probably made the jury feel like she was a lot more radical than she actually was. For instance, Goldman discusses the fact that her bail was unusually high, but even after she was able to come up with the money she wasn't released. Without any evidence, Goldman maintains that the judge wouldn't release her because "he suddenly remembered that he needed 48 hours to look into the man's background." The jurors don't want to feel like they are actually part of this so-called corrupt system, so they immediately rationalize that the judge must have had a legitimate reason for his actions. This makes Goldman seem like a much less credible source. No one likes to think that we live in a corrupt society, especially those who are taking part in the justice system, such as a group that might be selected for jury duty. However,

Goldman comments that "an act of political violence at the bottom is the culminating result of organized violence on top." She goes on to list what she feels are the atrocities of the government, such as "violence which expresses itself in war, which

expresses itself in capital punishment, which expresses itself in courts, [and] which expresses itself in prisons." During this point in American history, where the nation's pride was sweeping the nation, the last thing Goldman should have done was criticize the United States. These accusations against the country, although they were her belief, went against the accepted norms and rules of the time. By continuing to behave in such an antagonistic manner, Goldman makes the jury feel like it needs to vindicate its country and punish her.

Emma Goldman's remarks may have infuriated the jury, and this may have proved too big an obstacle to overcome. Jurors may purport to be impartial, but they carry within them a belief system that is threatened by a revolutionary perspective. Goldman's organization and logic was compelling, and her persuasive skills were impressive. It was a wise decision to portray herself as pro- America. But Goldman's failure was to underestimate the depth of commitment that Americans had at this time to the War effort. To allow Goldman's opposition to the government system of conscription would mock the sacrifices of loved ones. Despite an eloquent defense, Goldman was not able to overcome this bias. 

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