By Jesse Laird
This Commentary is Unpublished
There is an old American myth, the myth of redemptive violence, which is so often repeated (often so subtly) that it has become almost invisible.
It is the myth of classic B-movie Westerns, with the villains in black hats and the hero in white. At the end of the movie, there is the violent confrontation –the shootout for Good against Evil –that sets the world right and makes everything safe for women and children (usually white women and children). It is the myth that ends justify means: that murdering the murderers will reestablish order.
The myth of redemptive violence plays a role in American thinking on critical issues –from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran, on the one hand, to prisoner execution and torture, on the other. It is one movie-camera lens we use to see the world –which would be fine if it were not so damaging to ordinary people (like ordinary Iraqis, Afghans and American soldiers).
The main problem with the myth of redemptive violence is it does not work in the real world –and we Americans are learning this the hard way in our War on Terror...
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Jesse Laird is a masters candidate in Conflict Resolution at Portland State University and works as an agent for PeaceVoice –the Portland (Oregon)-based nonprofit dedicated to peace inspired commentary.