Furthermore, all the “losers” go back to what are potentially lucrative careers, whether in the world’s most exclusive millionaire’s club (the U.S. Senate) or to a life of -- presumably -- helping the poor. (When he suspended his presidential bid, John Edwards said he first spoke to a homeless woman who begged him, “You won’t forget us, will you?”)
The real problem is that we’ve lost the meaning of “war” because we allow everything to be called a war. “Every day we hear about the ‘war on cancer,’ the ‘war on drugs,’ the ‘war on poverty,’ and exhortations to make this or that social challenge the ‘moral equivalent of war,’” notes Jonah Goldberg in his new book “Liberal Facism.”
That’s been great for politicians, who get to pass more laws and control more facets of our lives. But it’s not helpful to clear thinking or clear communication.
The irony is that all this violent rhetoric comes at a time when actual war is rarer than ever. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that “from the beginning of 2002 to the end of 2005, the number of armed conflicts being waged around the world shrank 15 percent, from 66 to 56.”
Also, “estimated battle-death tolls declined worldwide by almost 40 percent over the same period.” And while the genocide in Sudan remains a problem, it’s now the only such incident in the world. That’s an impressive change from 1989, when there were 10 ongoing genocides.
Of course, there are places where actual violence is needed. Our country is engaged in a war against terrorist enemies, who’ve distinguished themselves with their willingness to kill anyone they can. We’re going to have to kill most of these, in order to convince others not to join their hopeless cause.
Yet when a reporter describes a mere political spat as a “bloodbath over NAFTA” (CNN’s Dana Bash), she’s making it more difficult for Americans to keep things in perspective.
There’s little need to “ride to the sound of the guns” these days, since there’s less gunfire than ever to ride toward. What we do need are reporters who are as precise in their use of language as our troops are in their use of firepower. That’s worth a shot, isn’t it?