Wednesday, January 12, 2011

US violence 'direct legacy of revolution'

Our permanent culture of political violence
And why the calls for civility in the wake of Saturday's shooting won't end up changing anything

Glenn W. LaFantasie, Salon: America has a long history of political violence -- a dark river of brutality, even savagery, that runs through our entire national experience... We don't like facing up to that fact as a people or as a nation. Americans prefer instead to see each outburst of violence... as aberrations, isolated incidents committed by deranged individuals who cause mayhem and slaughter like human whirlwinds. When the wind has subsided, and the casualties have been counted, we proceed as we have done before, dismissing the event as an exception...

It's my belief... that American political violence is a direct legacy of the American Revolution, for the patriots' victory in that conflict proved to the American people that violence could achieve a positive end: independence and the creation of a new nation... It is a troubling, but inescapable bequest...We find it very difficult to admit that we are, in the end, a very violent people and that aggression can be found at the very core of our culture... What is unique is the American tendency to legitimize violence -- to rationalize it as necessary...

So what can we do about this tradition of violence? The remedy, in my opinion, should begin with recognizing its existence. Acknowledging our full and rather tawdry history of violence would be the first step... If we face up to our history, confronting it head-on, we might be able to move past all our elaborate denials of our worst traits, our shared sins, our mistakes, our lies. To accomplish this as a people... requires us admitting that the violent deeds that flow so calamitously through our history were -- and are -- quintessentially American.
Image source here.