Tag: violence

Of Guns and Civility

A preface: I don’t know any of the details of what is upsetting some members of this community lately, or leading some people to declare their intent to leave.  I don’t particularly care either.  This is not a statement about any of the reasons why any individual here is upset with any other individual here.  No one has asked me my opinion of those disputes, and I have no particular feelings about any of them.  This is about the relevance of civility to political discourse in general.

One thing that I try to make clear, when discussing politics with anyone, is that at the heart of any political idea is violence.  This notion is made clear by American history itself.  A ten cent increase of the tax on tea carries with it an implication that those who attempt to evade paying the increased tax can be attacked with violence by agents of the state.  Should the evader survive that attack, they will be incarcerated for a period of time in a penitentiary where they risk violence by other agents of the state, not to mention rape and murder by sharpened toothbrush from other inmates.

Every political notion we speak of here carries with it the same implied threat and justification of the accompanying violence.  You want to increase someone’s taxes?  Well, you are threatening them with violence if they don’t pay.  You want to have affirmative action?  Well, you are threatening anyone who doesn’t comply with violence.  Behind every government action, waiting in the wings, are the men with the guns.

A disease of the soul.

One of my favorite concise summations of what’s wrong with this country came from film director Philip Kaufman, in a 1990 article in Time Magazine. Kaufman’s film Henry and June had been slapped with an X rating for excessive eroticism, despite the fact that said eroticism was a fundamental part of the story, about the writers Henry Miller and Anais Nin, and Miller’s wife, June. Ironically, of course, Miller’s books had also been censored by the officious false morality of Puritanical America. But Kaufman understood that something larger, and more insidious, was at play:

“You can cut off a breast,” says Kaufman, “but you can’t caress it. The violent majority is dictating to a tender minority.”


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