I just read Sally Jenkins' sports column in the 8/22/07 Washington Post, about Michael Vick and his dog-fighting choices…. Jenkins said that people who train animals to fight, and then make them fight, are “brutal…sleaze…wallowing in gore by choice…out of sheer dumb meanness…punishing…torturing…battering…killing…enslaving and tormenting…with unnerving ruthlessness…. (Fighting animals is) a bloodsport…barbaric…a gratuitous form of cruelty…a calculating, deliberate and sustained cruelty….”
If anyone did such things to people, Jenkins says, we would call it genocidal fascism.
No. We would call it military training, and war, and we would perpetrate such crimes without thought, everywhere, every day. We would take innocent, gentle, ethical young men, and put them through military (or terrorist) training, and then throw them into combat, to kill and maim or be killed and maimed, along with their buddies.
We would condition and indoctrinate our soldiers into forgetting everything they’ve ever learned about how to treat other people. We would turn them into knee-jerk mental, physical and emotional monsters, so that they can efficiently “do their jobs” without thinking of their victims as human beings.
After excruciating training, we would turn them loose upon strangers, many of whom are themselves innocents protecting their own homes and families. We would make our young heroes into snipers and bombers and interrogators and other cold-blooded executioners, to do “work” they can do only because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking of whole populations as demonized “others,” as “the enemy.”
Wars are about powerful, misguided leaders taking for themselves whatever they want—resources, power, money, land—by killing large swaths of people. But soldiers are carefully taught a very different kind of morality, a kind of contextual fuzzy logic that ethically “covers” their bloodiest actions for as long as they can believe that they’re fighting, killing, and dying to protect their friends and families, and to further their country’s noblest ideals and purposes. Soldiers cling to the illusion that that their jobs are necessary and valuable and moral, in hopes that their losses and sacrifices are not in vain, that they have not wasted their lives–and others'.
Unfortunately, when soldiers come home from wars, few can morally rectify the gore they've participated in with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious belief systems about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the understandings which make relationships work, and which make life worth living. Many veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives.
Everyone says training and fighting animals is an outrage. We wouldn't, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog. So why do we keep doing it to people?
It's time to reconsider the inevitability of our centuries-old practice of solving problems through violence. Human conflict is perfectly natural and unavoidable, since people will always have competing interests, misunderstandings, old grievances…. In fact, conflict is very beneficial, because it nearly always points to inequities or confusions which need addressing.
But violent resolutions of conflict only make things worse.
We can teach all people to resolve conflicts peacefully just as easily as we can raise them to respond to problems violently. It's time for