violence


I really love this song a lot. It’s over four-decades-old, but it will resonate for the rest of human history whenever there appears in one’s life the coming of the end of history. In Christianity, we learn that God knows all things and knows how our lives will end and how things will come to pass. I hope human civilization can last generations more, but I must admit it appears we have some serious challenges. The first is with the climate situation, but the second is important as well and that is our propensity to use violence to solve our problems. So many countries are armed to the teeth. We can make laser-guided weapons and awesome aircraft carriers but building a car that gets 100 mph on the gallon and putting it on the road, now that’s a tricky one. I’m a part of the problem too. The worst thing is self-righteousness and Lord knows, I ain’t very righteous.

Barry Maguire was singing about self-righteousness, the thing that allows people to turn their backs on their own shortcomings and propensity towards violence. This shooting yesterday in Virginia raises questions in people’s minds and people will understand it as an abomination–as they should–but we may miss the point altogether, which is that we use violence so liberally, like it’s confectioners sugar to be coated and sprinkled about our food. But it’s our violence, so it’s alright.

My favorite line in Eve of Destruction is “Look at all the hate there is in Red China/Then take a look around at Selma, Alabama.”

I think that’s a great sentiment. Some violence serves our needs well–or at least it’s acceptable, so we roll with it. My brother’s good friend, apolitical as you can get, said to him sometime in 2004, when reason would lead anyone to realize that the war in Iraq was ridiculous, said of the conflict, “I’m against it man, it hasn’t made my gas any cheaper.”

That’s crazy talk! Because your gas is expensive or you feel scared of some far off threat you support war. It’s good for you at that time and place and there for can be justified. That type of thinking is something that we have to eradicate from our psyche, particularly because we’re packing some serious stuff. It’s not just America. Actually, there are far worse culprits, although maybe so on a smaller scale. We’re just armed better and are the most prosperous nation in the West. I have no doubt that if Sudan had the ability to they’d bomb the crap out of their minorities with laser-guided missiles. What about Indonesia? What about Russia? These are belligerent nations. We’re all belligerent…Even Canada. Have you seen Donald Brashear? Well, I’m just gonna snap my fingers to this song because I kinda like the way it sounds, even if the message can bring you down.

Lately, I’ve written a ton about Iraq, and I suspect that it will not stopped. I’m just aggravated by the whole thing. That said, I understand that not everything relates back to Iraq, the way everything for Walter Solcheck from The Big Lebowski went back to his experience in Vietnam.

One thing I know, and I have never served time in war, is that war sucks. That’s because violence is awful. This morning, more than 30 people were gunned down at Virginia Tech. It’s awful. So many dead people there. This story will dominate the American news media for the next week at least. I can predict what the stories will be about despite my reluctance to read anything about it: gun control vs. gun rights, violence in society, violence on campus, video games, who’s to blame, etc. Some commentator will say something about it that will infuriate someone. Months down the road, when the school opens up for fall term, NPR will cover peoples’ return to classes or why some students chose to go there after their admission.  I can see it like a softball down the middle.

It’s not wrong for the story to get coverage and for people to share their memories of the event; that’s helpful and essential in any tragedy. Nevertheless, when people get too dramatic about it, blaming anything and everything for person who snapped and killed dozens, it doesn’t make much sense. Why? Because people not only die every day in the world, but people also die because of us in the United States. Our country is responsible, directly so, for the deaths of thousands of Iraq men, women and children who never provoked themselves into being bombed or shot. Two years ago, in a small town in Iraq, as many as a dozen Marines carried out a mass murder of civilians. That story got very little press. People remember things because they’re close to home, which is understandable, but why get bent out of shape about it. If we want to know how things like what happened at Virginia Tech today occur we have to be honest. We are a society that values death and yet pretends to have some morbid revulsion by it. We’re a violent society for some reason or another and I’m not sure. Who knows. I just don’t look forward to the sanctimonious ponderings of commentators about violence in our society if we don’t recognize the dual tragedy in greasing Iraqi people in the name of our own safety or worse, theirs. Ours is a violent society. We’ve embraced death. It’s become an answer to our problems; warfare and abortion come to my mind. People are murdered everyday in America. If 30 is a tragedy, why not one? Isn’t 30 just 3o ones?