Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Violent Imagery

The English language is loaded with violent imagery to describe thing that in reality aren't violent at all, or at least shouldn't be. At work that talk about being "at war" with our competition. People talk about winning a debate with a "knock out" argument. The news reports on the "fatal blow" to a candidate's campaign. Even the term "campaign" has military overtones. These references have always annoyed me.
I've done my best to avoid them, but didn't take them too seriously. I just wrote it off as my own hyper-sensitivity against violence. However, lately some events are convincing me that all too frequently the violent imagery we use is not only annoying it is counter productive to the message that is being conveyed.
One Sunday, while attempting to describe all the struggles that young people are faced with each day a good friend related a story about the Battle of the Bulge. The soldiers were surrounded but the general convinced them they could fight this battle on all sides. He compared their struggles to avoid pornography, bad language, drugs, etc. to a battle being waged on multiple front. At face value I saw nothing wrong with this. That is until one young man stood up and, pretending to hold a machine gun, began facing each of us in the room and saying, "rattta-tat-tat-tat!" The whole point of the lesson was immediately derailed and turned into a chance for him to play war. The metaphor not only lost its meaning it was counter-productive. Otherwise it was a great lesson. But at least one of the students will walk away thinking that the Battle of the Bulge was the topic and not the metaphor used to visualize the topic.
I really dislike the story of the stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon. I just don't see the point of it. The whole reason they went to fight in the first place was because their fathers had developed such unconditional Christ-like love that they never wanted to fight again. They would rather die themselves than deny their enemy the chance to repent. This is my goal. I hope to be able to develop this type of love and this fathers are the true heroes of the story, not the military leader who persuaded a bunch of kids to go against their fathers' wishes.
I recently received a devotional packet that I'm expected to use while at summer camp. I've always done my best to stick to the program that I've been given and support my leaders. One day next week is going to be exceptionally difficult. They want me to teach the story of Capitan Moroni. Not only that they have embellished the scriptural account by referring to the enemy as highly trained "ninjas" and provided additional gory imagery of what battle would have been like with swords. Obviously this was in order to appeal to the young men. My concern is that the focus will again be lost, just as it after the Battle of the Bulge reference. Rather than focus of the concept of standing up for what is right they will take away a message that we need to fight away the ninjas. I'm sure that if I stick to the script more than one of the boys will turn the next stick they see into a sword and start swinging. Hey, I enjoy playing with sticks this way too, but not at the expense of learning to live a better life. I will do my best to teach the boys to stand up for what is right and resist what they know to be wrong. Outside of that, I don't think I'll be able to stick to their modern rewrite of Helaman too well.
A few years ago a friend was teaching an Elder's quorum lesson. He brought up the word "jihad". Most were shocked that he would even bring it up. The non-Muslim connotation of this word is typically something like "kill the infidel". And when Arabs holding guns over their head are chanting it it's easy to see why. However, all the word really means in Arabic is simply "struggle". Struggle? Personally, that's a much better word to describe what I'm going through than fight, battle, war or any other violent imagery. In that aspect aren't we all struggling to live a better life and to make this world a better place? In this tone I will continue to fight struggle to be a better person and remove these violent imagery from my thoughts and words.

Some if this post was inspired by a journal entry of my father's. My intent was not to plagiraize, but to echo his sentiments and to thank him for his example.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your comments about the Sons of Helaman. This was not a glorious thing to go and do. These young men had to live with what they had done for the rest of their lives. They did it to save their families and to help their fathers keep their covenants. Their cause was noble, yet I think it is profane and light minded to have them depicted on T-shirts. Yes, they were heroes but not in the Die Hard tradition.