There has been much speculation as to the cause of mass shootings, of violence, of the viciousness prevalent in everyday life in our nation. Was it always there and with the growth of twenty-four-hour news and the internet we see events that years ago would not have appeared in your nightly one-hour newscast? Or, maybe it really is getting worse, maybe there is a real growth in the lack of regard for one’s fellow person? I suggest It is both of those and more.
It is our culture, or more accurately, the deliberate deconstruction of our culture. A deconstruction that seems to have accelerated exponentially since the sixties and has quickened so frighteningly that I question the existence of the United States in twenty years. The formidable array of agendas that all wish to hold America’s steering wheel are causing us to steer erratically, to lose control and skid, and I am not sure this skid may be recovered from.
It can be argued that in the absence of structure and culture, confusion and violence abound. If so, then our nation is without a clear culture or effective structure. Without those, the self-important individuals of the population are left to improvise, to come up with nonstructural solutions that are as varied as the flavors of ice cream.
But America does have a culture, of course there is a culture. So, the question becomes, has that culture changed? Has it evolved into belligerence and arrogance? I contend that the Unites States of America was born of belligerence, that Americans have always been belligerent, and in most cases that belligerence has served us well. From the moment a group of raggedy volunteers in 1775 took on the mightiest military in the world, the army and naval forces of Great Britain, belligerence was built into the national culture. Belligerence, arrogance, self-importance are hallmarks of our identity and behavior
When offered an opportunity to surrender when facing a much more heavily armed ship, Captain John Paul Jones answered, “I have not yet begun to fight”, an act of belligerence. During the American Civil War, the Confederate army was always outnumbered two to one, any war strategist could see their effort was doomed to fail, but the south knew man for man they were better Soldiers led by superior generals, and in that arrogance embarked on a ruinous war. World War Two, the commander of the 101st Airborne division refused to surrender to a much larger German force that had his beleaguered unit trapped in Bastogne, Belgium. American Bravery or American Belligerence?
Again, our belligerence has mostly served us well, we beat the British (but with help from their attention to other priorities) and the American army broke out of Bastogne, thanks to General Patton, the ultimate belligerent. Our belligerence made us successful in business, and it worked well for our national interests. American belligerence boosted our pride so much we found a nice term for it— “a fighting spirit”. This “fighting spirit” migrated to our everyday culture, from business to play, from entertainment to sports. The adoration of belligerent behavior.
In business, we admire those who break the rules. In our social lives we admire those who ‘break the norms’ to have fun. In entertainment, we want our actors and singers to be rebels, in sports we like our tattooed players with ‘fighting spirit’. For those described, once again, their belligerence served them well in competition. But our admiration of them has allowed their culture to migrate into our lives, ignoring a commitment of civility to our neighbor.
The last twenty to thirty years of music has put belligerence into our ears. What is more belligerent than Hip Hop music? Hip Hop is the most potent dose of belligerence poison being consumed. Do not leave out Heavy Metal/Speed Metal. The favorite music of our youth and young promotes the nastiness that we complain is all around us.
That belligerence means never losing. Ever. Never accept defeat. The US Army values include that phrase. Well, isn’t that what caused Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese refusal to accept defeat? Is that why street violence has gotten worse–because no one admits defeat? What used to be rare fistfights between two men has evolved to regular public altercations “taking it there”. I saw an outbreak of this recently, and even after a young man knocked another out cold, he felt the need to kick the unconscious man in the head twice. Belligerence.
Our culture has lost regard for our neighbor and decency, for right and wrong, only what suits ‘me’ at this moment.
Racing past churches on Sunday morning with loud vulgar music blaring; Cursing in public indiscriminately; offending people and calling them snowflakes when they complain; Smoking weed in public places just to annoy others;
In the midst of a pandemic refusing to wear a protective surgical mask because “I don’t want them telling me what to do!”; mouthing off at the police when they catch you doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing.
Belligerence has its place, but it is at the root of our gun problem, our race problem, our social problem. The idea that one should admit wrong and stand down is unacceptable.
Nothing will get the popular approval of fellow Americans like belligerence.