A momentary aside from the budget negotiations.
Remember after the Gabby Giffords shooting three years ago? Some people seized on violent metaphors by conservatives as an impetus for the shooting (like Sarah Palin putting crosshairs over the faces of candidates she opposed at her website). Other recent incidents have been framed in similar ways. President Obama made a speech about the need to avoid violent rhetoric in public discourse.
I’ve noted before that use of violent metaphors is a bipartisan behavior. That usually gets pushback from my left-leaning friends, saying that conservatives are far worse about this than liberals. I maintain it is worse with whichever camp is most aggrieved at the moment. On that note, I invite you to listen during our present troubles to the rhetoric of liberals, Democrats, and the President, as they talk about the Republicans as “terrorists,” “hostage takers,” and “suicide bombers,” with bombs strapped to their chest, ready to “blow up the government.”
ALL of us have a tendency, when hearing violent metaphors, to overly ascribe malevolence to people with whom we disagree and to discount it when uttered by those with whom we agree. When it is used toward people with whom we agree, we tend to take it personally. When it is used toward people with whom we disagree, we are less critical. The metaphors give voice to our anger and frustration. For that reason, if we are unable to achieve some emotional distance from the fray, as so many of us seem unable to do, we genuinely perceive that other tribes are meaner.
Personally, while I agree violent metaphors can become excessive, I don’t generally find them troubling. Jesus used them. “I will make you fishers of men.” Ever thought about this from the fish's standpoint? The Kingdom of God is where people get violently snatched from their lives, killed, and then consumed by their captors? Or how about Paul writing to the Galatians that he wished the Judaizers had cut the whole thing off during circumcision? Ouch! Violent metaphors are a part of everyday speech that, when used sparingly and appropriately, give voice to our emotional state. (However, they aren’t so effective in persuasion.) So while I agree that we see many public figures going over the top with this stuff, let us also admit that there is also a lot of posturing to show just how evil and insane the other tribe is with their violent rhetoric while ignoring our own.
You may now return to your news coverage of the budget negotiations. As for me, I’m focusing on the road to the World Series and cheering for the Cardinals to totally annihilate each of their adversaries … but in a Christ-like manner.