Anarchy or War?

This is another post stimulated by Adrienne La France’s article, The New Anarchy in The Atlantic. She stated that violence in America, which was at a peak just before World War I, “temporarily quelled the violence.” I had never heard of such a thing.

I wondered what the connection could be. How could a world war cause a reduction in domestic violence. The only explanation I could think of is there is a thirst for violence in any given society and at least in a good proportion of its citizens. War can satisfy this thirst.

The author offered her opinion that part of the explanation was that those inclined toward domestic violence left the country so they would not be subject to military draft. This suggests to me that at least some people preferred to engage in antisocial violence rather that participate in the officially approved violence of war.

I thought back to times in my life when I might have been disposed to violence. Once when I was in middle school, I recall having had a bully in the neighborhood who terrorized me as well as anyone else who crossed his path. It finally reached a point where I felt called to action. On the way home from school he made a taunting comment to me. I tackled him into a snowbank, and stuffed as much snow into his shirt as I could. I never had any further trouble with him.

My friends and I developed a game in which we tied each other up and bound the person involved to a tree. Then we waited to see how long it took for the person to work his way out and get freed.

Once we wondered how long it would take for a girl to work her way free. We tied a girl’s hands behind her back. Much to our dismay, she became frightened and ran, slipping on some stones and scraping her face. This was the dumbest thing I had ever done and it took quite a while to be seen as human again.

After eighth grade I went to a residential seminary where violence was frowned on. Just my luck to attract another bully who took to making fun of my mild obesity with rather original names he created for his pleasure and my mortification. I plotted for some time ways to get him off my back. Somehow his behavior came to the attention of the priests in charge and soon he was on the bus back home. That was the last time I had trouble with bullies or needed to plan how to deal with them.

I have had a very peaceful life since then. My father and two of my uncles always seemed to be raging about something, but no violence erupted, at least that I saw. I had three other uncles who were models of peace for me. My most peaceful uncle became a priest. I never saw him as anywhere near violence. I learned at his funeral that he had participated in the battle of the bulge and that exposure to violence does not always lead to adopting violent ways.