Monday, March 10, 2008

What does violence mean?

See also: "What does peace mean?"

Peter King recently wrote about his USO trip to Afghanistan. It's mostly what you'd expect: an incredible experience being in a war zone, his experience talking with the soldiers, etc. After writing about one soldier that died, he writes about "guys [that] jump out of planes and hunt Taliban soldiers for a living." He writes about a guy that reminds him of Rambo, of another guy "as tough as they come." He writes,

"One of them talked about mowing down Taliban troops as they walked into death.

"'We heard on their radios later that we got 75 of 'em,' one of the Rangers said. The platoon members joked about what bad shooters the Taliban soldiers were, and if they had been any good, how many more of our side would be dead or wounded."

Later King describes a ceremony for a soldier that was killed. At the end, he writes about his trip to visit the military in Afghanistan that "They don't sell tickets for the experience of a lifetime, but if you can do it somehow, I'd highly recommend it."

During all this writing, King speaks nary a word critical of war. He doesn't challenge military values. Yet near the end of his column, he manages to do what he frequently does in his columns; he criticizes violence in film:

"While waiting for the flight out of Bagram on Sunday night, we watched the worst movie of all time. Death Sentence, with mindless killing until everyone in the world was dead. You're better than that, Kevin Bacon. I think."

Peter King talks about visiting with soldiers that were "mowing down" 75 real human beings. He speaks of two soldiers that were killed and being mourned. He doesn't condemn war. He doesn't suggest war is a bad thing. He doesn't show horror at real life killing.

But he doesn't like a movie that had a lot of killing.


  1. It's simple, he described the Bacon movie as 'mindless killing'. Killing during war is done in a certain context and is certainly not mindless.

  2. Anonymous5:03 AM

    Maybe King means for the movie comment as an irony that illuminates the satire of the over all text.


  3. But this reflects our entire screwed up way of talking about peace and violence.

    In that earlier post, I commented on a book proclaiming Christianity the religion of peace, but featuring blurbs by a pro-war Christian criticizing people who didn't support a war. In that context, what does peace even mean?

    In this case, King writes without criticism of "mowing down" 75 real human beings, but criticizes a movie that featured a lot of fantasy killing, but NOT ONE real killing.

    That we separate actual war from fantasy violence makes sense; that we condemn the fake killing and leave real killing without comment is weird.