Are You Human?
In the 1992 speech by Mary Fisher titled “A Whisper of AIDS” she speaks to not only the people attending the 1992 Republican National Convention, but the world and all who can listen to her speak. She speaks of a condition known as “AIDS” (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) that springs from the origin HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and is the cause of thousands of deaths every year. She uses pathos to persuade her audience that AIDS is a concern in our nation by using the emotions fear, anxiety, and sympathy.
She uses anxiety and fear interchangeably, making her argument strong; all the while, she talks to her young sons directly to spark a resilient sympathy from her audience. The speaker is HIV positive herself and uses that to make the audience sympathize with her. She is an ordinary wife and mother that appeals to those who are in denial they’re at risk. AIDS is a disease that is lurking quietly at our doorstep. The author proclaims “AIDS is not a political creature. It does not care whether you are Democrat or Republican; it does not ask whether you are black or white, male or female, gay or straight, young or old. By saying this she has just addressed essentially everybody; making her appeal broad. This quote makes me feel like nobody is safe, evoking anxiety into me. Anxiety is a noun describing a feeling of nervousness or agitation, often about something that is going to happen. In this case, the risk of getting AIDS is what causes an emotional response. She has personified the disease to make it look like an enemy or a physical threat. When something is compared to a human in a way that can potentially harm them or others, it creates feelings of anxiety.
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By using this tactic, she makes it seem like you can run, but you can’t hide. Fisher’s other emotional appeal is fear, which awakens the audience and grabs their attention because now suddenly they’re at risk. “If you believe you are safe, you are in danger” is the quote that pops out because of the word “you. ” Me? The person who doesn’t inject drugs? Me? The person who isn’t gay? She makes a safe place look like hell, and then she appeals to me specifically. She eliminates all prejudice by creating an audience in which could be anybody, whether they believe they’re safe, or not.
Usually this could eliminate an audience because they may not be part of the “you” group but in this case “you” could mean anyone. And this is where the fear originates. She makes me feel like no matter where I go I am not safe. AIDS is a disease lurking quietly at our doorsteps. There used to be a time when AIDS was only seen in male homosexuals, drug users, and neighborhoods considered to be in poverty. Underdeveloped countries, such as Africa, have increased numbers of those affected because of the lack of education and sanitation. Fisher creates an audience in which you can be one of the above or none of the above.
AIDS will not discriminate unless you’re not human. Coming from a traditional white Republican family, she creates a whole new era of people susceptible to AIDS. This realization constructs fear into the lives of those who never thought it would be possible to be “not at risk,” but get it anyway. It’s almost as if there is an imaginary line that kept them safe, but somehow the line was overlooked. In a way, Fisher’s ethos is her pathos, because she establishes the credibility that she is HIV positive and knows firsthand the effects of this disease.
We are more likely to listen to what she has to say because she knows what she is talking about. All the while, we immediately start sympathizing with the fact she might not be alive much longer. AIDS is a disease that is incurable; we can only cure the side effects. It is fatal because it makes the immune system extremely susceptible to other infections, which can prove to be deadly. Fisher truly doesn’t know when her last day could be. I think sympathy is what people resort to when they cannot personally help or change the situation. We want to listen to her because she is the next victim of this merciless killer.
A killer in which we cannot stop or slow down, one that we can’t see don’t see coming for our own families. Talking about family makes most everyone soften up because we have a natural instinct to love them. She talks about her two children, Max and Zachary, and how they might become orphans if her HIV inevitably turns to AIDS. She appeals to mothers specifically when she talks to her children about her life’s injustices. “I do not want them to think, as I once did, that courage is the absence of fear. I want them to know that courage is the strength to act wisely when most we are afraid. Every mother will sympathize for her because of the fact that she has children at home that depend on her to be there. A mother’s pride and joy are her children and mothers all unite upon that common ground. A mother wants to do everything to make sure their babies aren’t hurt and what will she be able to prevent when she is dead? I sympathize and I am not a mother so I could only imagine the emotions that would evoke after listening to the love in her voice. This speech will appeal to people all over the world because it is a big deal in the world of politics however you must have access to the argument.
People around the world will not be appealed to because they do not have televisions. AIDS is a well-known deal in Africa, because of the wide infection rate but the low effort in order to educate them about the causes. Another example of an audience that the speaker is not specifically appealing to would be men without children, because she talks a lot about the love you feel for you children and making the world safe for them. A woman without children could still relate because I feel she still she still feels love for another person’s child, but a man doesn’t really have love for a child until it’s his own.
Mary Fisher uses anxiety, fear, and sympathy to persuade her audience to spread the awareness of this disease and emotionally change the audience’s viewpoint on whom exactly is at risk. By not discriminating against her audience and using her sons as a gateway to a person’s heart, I believe she effectively presented her argument. The use of pathos was a great choice for this speech, the right combination between emotions connects us to the speaker and makes us feel obligated to complete the objective she may not be able to complete herself. Someday, we might not have to worry about AIDS lurking at our doorsteps.