After a long dry spell, Barack Obama at last offered up some juicy oratory in a speech at the United Nations. Tying American policy to its founding principles—freedom of speech first among them—the president wound up with a fine accumulatio.
There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There’s no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.
accumulatio (ah-cume-ew-LOT-io), the heaper. From the Latin, meaning “a heaping up.”
The accumulatio summarizes a speech, piling up all its themes and making them blaze. In this case Obama uses the figure to blast inexcusable responses to speech, making the responses sound more offensive than the original speech. He’s talking, of course, about the movie trailer with an abusive portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed.
Obama’s speech represents the best of epideictic or demonstrative rhetoric, language that defines a people and its values. Long live America’s freedom of speech. And long live those who speak out against hateful speech.