Anger and "Violence"

In a world of liberty, violence is the last sin. To condemn that with which you disagree, therefore, it's expedient to label it as violent.


A while back I said that the Palestinians are more unjust than the Israelis because they seek civilian casualties, whereas the Israelis merely accept them. In response, a liberal posted to my guestbook that I had committed "linguistic violence." That odd phrase piqued my curiosity. It sounds like something a grad student would write. I wasn't sure what to make of it.


Then I read that Soulforce, an interfaith gay-advocacy group, called the US Catholic bishops' condemnation of gay marriage "spiritually violent." I looked up Catholic position statements on gay marriage, and it turns out that the Pope says that allowing gays to adopt does "violence" to the adopted children. Other Catholics have used the term "violence" to describe their church hierarchy's doctrinal rigidity.


What is it with people labeling stuff they don't like as violent?


Here's what it is. You can righteously oppose violence in a way that you can't oppose opinion, error, or vice. In a postmodern culture, where people do their own thing, violence is just about the only sin that's not to be tolerated. That's why one defends indiscretions and vices with the phrase "It's not hurting anyone." Violence is the last thing that you're allowed to get angry about without being judgmental or narrow-minded.


Getting angry about Moe and Joe adopting a child smacks of intolerance. Getting angry about what some Catholic bishops say about gays or some web rant says about the Mid-East seems like simply favoring one subjective opinion over another. But violence, now there's something to get angry about. Violence is just plain bad, even in a do-your-own-thing world. Why? Because violence keeps other people from doing their own thing. So violence remains a great reason for getting angry. A reason, or an excuse.


In a classic presto-change-o, we get from one thing to its logical reverse. "Violence gets me angry" becomes "I'm angry, so you (other, bad, different person) must be violent."


December 2003




Puffin the keeshond, 1977 - 1990

"Violence" in the News

May 2007: Criticizing the Pope is "Terrorism"
The Vatican's newspaper accused an Italian comedian of "terrorism" for criticizing the Pope and the Catholic Church during an act. I guess "violence" just isn't shocking enough any more, and the verbal ante has been upped. (Reuters)