Vail Daily letter:
Vail, CO, Colorado
Constant exposure, via media and video games, to “tragedies,” real and manufactured, may, rather than having a cathartic, calming effect, instead stimulate certain individuals to antisocial and violent behavior. Censoring media is probably wrong and legally impractical. Is there something positive we could do and do quickly to set us on the road to more calm and civility?
We. and more importantly our leaders and our media, could refuse to use the word “war” to describe practically any set of actions that we wish to strongly encourage: war on drugs, war on poverty, etc.
We think that it will fire people up to support a cause, but it also confuses what is allowable in pursuit of that cause. Almost anything is OK in war to many people even in the U.S. “War” is not just applied to actions against a nation but to quite amorphous groups, such as Al Qaida or Colombian drug gangs.
To some, these groups are justifiably characterized as enemies to be pursued. To others, less curious, who have not thought for a moment about the particulars, they hear the word “war” as a justification for something someone, or the government, does not like. So for them “war” has now become a catchall box they can put anything into, a rival gang or religious sect, whatever. “You got permission! War on poverty was domestic. So’s my war on the group down the street. War on drugs gets rough, so will my war on Harry and his gang.”
“Kill” is a word that invariably goes along with “war.” We could do without hearing that on a daily basis, too. Most disturbing to me is the blatant discussion of killing our enemies, not just conquering them or winning them over, but actually killing individuals.
We are trying to “kill” Osama, “kill” his No. 2, “kill” a drug lord. We don’t say we are trying to end the Al Qaida movement and tangentially “somebody’s gonna get hurt.” Senior people name names and target them publicly for “killing.” This used to be called assassination. We may have wished the brilliant World War ll German Gen. Rommel dead, but as far as I know there was no public targeting of him as an individual. Nor do I recall such public targeting of individual leaders in Korea or Vietnam.
To me, admittedly an old guy, it is not only unseemly but a very bad notion to decide that killing individuals will solve the problem. More likely it gives every Tom, Dick and Harry who has some off-the-wall cause that in his mind can be called a “war” permission to kill the offending leaders-members of the other group and collateral damage is just too bad.
The blatant public and unfettered use of these two words to justify, describe, etc., all kinds of behavior seems to augur ill in the long run.