Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why Do Men Fight?

“I’ve seen some bad fights break out during weather like this”
                                          ~ Louisiana farmer, circa 1976

I don’t mean to be gender exclusive on this one, but it’s just that I’m a guy thinking again today about why guys behave the way they do. It all started with a little rain. I had the day off and a couple of outdoor projects planned for the day. A thunder storm put those projects on hold and I sat on the front porch watching the rain come down.

While sitting there watching the rain, I remembered a brief conversation I had with a farmer one summer when I was working in Louisiana. There had been over a week of steady rains. “I’ve seen some bad fights break out during weather like this,” he said. “Farmers ain’t got nothin’ to do. One time they was some guys in a card game in the back of Jake’s General Store – weather just like we’re havin’ now – and two fellas got into an argument over who made the best combine. Before you know’d it they was beatin' each other up. Folks just get frustrated when there’s nothin’ to do. It don’t make no sense.”

I can understand the frustration. Even though a farmer wants rain, when it goes too long, they can’t be out doing what needs to be done in the field. Then there is the danger of loss of crops with ground that is too wet. People become acutely aware that things happen that are beyond their control. Add to that the fact that they probably won’t be getting much of a pay check for the week if they are hired hands. That can lead to highly irritable people. Many who are in such situations will find healthier ways to let off steam, but there are others who will simply give in to aggressive impulses.

Most people I know today are not farmers, but most still find themselves in situations that are beyond their control, especially in today’s economy. We hear about fights and scuffles almost every day. Fans get into fights at sporting events, violence occurs in housing projects. When I think about this impulse to fight, I also am distressed over my own country’s seemingly constant war activity.

After Viet Nam, I thought that we would see less military action, but that has not been the case.  I was opposed to the first Gulf War, and have been opposed to our subsequent military actions. After 9/11, we were shocked and didn’t really know what to do. We did have guns and tanks, so we responded by going to war. Except you need another country to go to when you wage war, and terrorism is not a country. Iraq was a country, and they were in that general vicinity (and they had oil reserves to boot), so off we went.

I was encouraged that many protested that action, crowds marched in the streets chanting “No blood for oil!” The Quakers had a campaign called “War is not the answer,” and I saw many of those signs in people’s yards. In spite of those voices, we as a nation went to war yet again. That was ten year ago. We are still fighting.

I am sure that two guys fighting in a back room in Louisiana over who makes the best combine resulted in some collateral damage, perhaps some clean up and repair expense, but when a nation goes to war, the collateral damage is exponential. Why are we so willing to spend billions of dollars we don’t have on war when we are so unwilling to spare any tax money on schools, healthcare, and infrastructure here at home?  

There is no simple solution, or else we would have found it by now. Nevertheless, I think that if we can give people meaningful work to do (rather than leaving them idle with no prospects) that will lead to a decrease in violence. If we as a country can imagine a national ideal other than fear of the enemy, perhaps we can curb the military action.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “There was never a good war or a bad peace.” Destructive fighting on a personal level or on a national level is not in anyone’s best interest. Maybe we should all just stop and ask ourselves why we are fighting. Backing away to allow some perspective, we just might say, along with that farmer I met down in Louisiana, “It don’t make no sense.”

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You may be interested in checing out the Friends Committee on National Legislation at http://fcnl.org and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2212023534&v=info

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