Casual Violence

I don't know what the motive for the shooting in Arizona was.  Anyone that tells you that they do is either a liar or the shooter.  And I wont accept the easy scapegoats like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck either.

But not knowing the specifics of that particular event won't change the grim reality that we have a problem with violence in this country.  A problem with casual violence.  Violence seen as a reasonable response to any of life's unpredictable twists and turns.   Casual violence permeates our language to the extent that I recently heard a man declare that he would 'kill for a cigarette.'  Not to take nicotine addiction lightly (I was a nicotine addict for 20+ years), but the fact that the individual in question wasn't actually killing at the time that he made that declaration was little comfort.

The common vernacular of sports holds that great players are 'warriors' even at a time when many of our young people have experienced the un-glamorous and terrifying truth that 'warrior' is something that no sane person would aspire to.  War, among all human endeavors, should be condemned out of hand.  War should be the bane of all sane and thinking people. The idea that the vocabulary of war is casually invoked in metaphor to describe something like a football game should be repugnant to anyone.

Likewise political speech should not require martial metaphors to be effective.  War is about killing people to achieve political ends.  War fighting, therefor, should be the last resort of civilized people to resolve any difference.  Casually evoking the language of warfare in political discourse must be rejected.  Those who use it must be held to account by all reasonable people.


  1. I think you are right, but I have a negative emotional response to the the argument. I'll try to articulate it in a later post.

  2. That's a powerful and well-written post. Thanks for sharing.

    But it seems to me there are two arguments here. One is that militarism is wrong. "War, among all human endeavors, should be condemned out of hand."

    I agree. There is no honor in war. War is a "negative sum game", there are no winners - only different degrees of losers. War is the voluntary destruction of human potential.

    The second claim is that the use of martial metaphors to discuss things as trivial as football and as important as politics & public policy must be condemned.

    On the one hand, that seems reasonable to me, in the same way that we should oppose sexist and racist comments when we encounter them.

    On the other hand, I suspect I must "pick my battles", speaking metaphorically of course.

    I don't actually wage war on people when I tell them to "stop oppressing women" or try to persuade people that racial stereotypes are soooooooo 1787.

    Even if I were to tell someone to shut their racist mouth lest I smack the shit out of them, I wouldn't be waging war on them...

  3. I understand both Neal and Jason. After posting the original piece and re-reading it I thought about a couple of things. The first was how to justify a closely-held belief in the importance of free speech with my belief that the casual use of martial metaphors and other violent rhetoric is poisonous to society.

    Modern America has become too comfortable with the images, language and reality of constant warfare. Casual use of violent rhetoric enables our comfort. The idea that war could become merely the background noise of daily life should frighten and sadden us all.

    The second thing was that of all speech in this country we place the highest value on political speech. This is as it should be, but as Stan Lee taught us, with great power comes great responsibility.

  4. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them?


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