Thoughts with Richard Bleil
As a society, we have a habit of romanticizing and glorifying violence. The thought crossed my mind as I was watching a movie where the high school mascot was the Vikings. I have several friends who enjoy dressing as Vikings for Renaissance fairs, but the Vikings, the true Vikings, invaded small towns, killing, raping and razing them for profit. Pirates, also highly romanticized, were thieves, murderers and slave traders. Knights were bullies for royalty, used to oppress and terrorize peasants.
I can’t help but wonder why we romanticize these brutes. Maybe it’s a way of “white washing” history, ignoring the brutality and bloodshed to more easily deal with the stories of our past, not unlike the way black history in the US has been rewritten to hide the brutal truth.
The Brothers Grimm wrote absolutely grotesque stories, such as of women cutting off their toes and heels to fit into a shoe to marry the prince. While these women in the original story ended up deformed for the rest of their lives, the modern corporation who now owns the rights turned it into a sweet cartoon where the triumphant but poor oppressed spirit simply rises above her tormentors, all of whom fail to win hand of the prince but are free to go on to live their lives.
Today I was reading a story about Rittenhouse and his glorification at Republican meetings. If you don’t remember, he was the vigilante who was under eighteen, procured an assault rifle that he was too young to own legally, traveled with it across state borders to “protect” a town where largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests were underway. He claims that he was merely protecting himself when he shot some protesters, killing one, who were advancing on him without provocation. In this age of people shooting each other for knocking on the wrong doors and mass shootings, the message being sent by the Republicans is that its okay to kill people and that you’ll get away with it thanks to stand your ground laws.
I have a friend who I know looks at Rittenhouse as a hero. She has seen the videos, and yes, he was being threatened, but he never should have been there in the first place. There is no reasonable excuse for him to have taken matters into his own hands, and having an assault rifle in a demonstration is a provocation whether or not there are any other threatening actions.
It’s time we re-evaluate how we view violence. I often make fun of the plethora of movies that start with “he was a cop who didn’t play by the rules.” Vigilantism is at the heart of every superhero character in history, as all of them decide to take matters of justice into their own hands. The Republican party ignores gun violence by blocking every proposed legislation to curb gun violence, instead hoping to turn attention away from what is happening by “protecting” young women from transgender youth using what they view as the “wrong bathroom” or participating in sports. Their priorities just don’t align with mine.
Violence is very popular in politics as well. Trump is still facing the consequences of calling for violence to overthrow the US Constitution so he could remain in power, but beyond that, there is always a political popularity boost for any president who declares war. President George W. Bush, arguably the one of the worst president in history, had an approval rating of around 90% when he invaded Afghanistan, launching a war that would last over twenty years.
Even in wars people enjoy violence as long as it’s on the right side. In Afghanistan, one of the earliest moves in the war was “shock and awe”, where massive ordinances were launched in a single night designed to frighten Afghani military so badly that they would simply throw down their arms and surrender. It failed, miserably, as we spent millions of dollars per missile just to wipe out tents and caves in a war that would continue for decades, but my god did the operation get great press since we were the ones who launched it.
As long as we continue putting politicians into office who value bathroom etiquette over gun violence and cheer on military actions of questionable legality by our country, things won’t change. Too many people fall into the idiom of “monkey see, monkey do” in our nation, as is evident by one idiot shooting a young man for knocking on his door being followed by shootings by others for pulling into the wrong driveway and balls rolling across property lines. It feels as if people get jealous of those who murder and decide they have to get into the action as well.