SFPD on Nob Hill

We are a nation of violence

[Image: San Francisco police stand behind a barrier reading “S.F.P.D. Police Line – Do Not Cross.”]

Note/reminder: I am affiliated with no political party and endorse no presidential candidate at this time.

For the last several years I’ve rarely watched movies in theaters, but I’ve seen every Star Trek movie since Generations (1994) during the first few weeks of release. So this Monday Ziggy and I saw Star Trek Beyond in 3D. You can read my lukewarm review (contains spoilers) on the IMDb site.

The reason I’m writing about going to the movies on this social justice oriented blog is because of the incredible amount of violence I saw in the pre-movie trailers. Out of the six I remember*, four consisted mostly of people shooting at people, beating the shit out of people, or blowing shit up.  Here are three of them:

The Magnificent Seven:

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back:

Keeping Up With the Joneses (doesn’t look violent at first, but keep watching):

I’m thinking about this glorification of violence in relation to the remarks Donald Trump made yesterday, which were widely interpreted to be a suggestion that supporters of Second Amendment rights shoot and kill Hillary Clinton or one of her appointed judges, should she win the election. Just as I was appalled at Trump’s desire to beat up “little guys”, it should hopefully go without saying that I join the bipartisan chorus of condemnation of his latest expression of macho bullying.

But despite some saying that this is the final nail in the coffin of Trump’s candidacy, I still won’t be surprised if he wins. We are, fundamentally, living in a culture of killing. We claim to live by a creed of “Thou Shalt Not Kill“, but come pathetically short of living up to it. We trust police to use guns responsibly, while they kill black and brown folks with impunity. We talk about “controlling” lethal weapons, but never seriously consider getting rid of them altogether. Even the national security analyst who wrote a scathing op-ed against Trump insisted that we must have nuclear weapons as a deterrent, even though we never want to actually use them.

As I’ve posted before, I’m not suggesting that we ban violent movies or video games, and I know that we cannot exist without causing some harm and death, even if unintentional. I just want to stop living with the assumption that violence is a necessary and inevitable part of civilization.

* Two less violent movies that looked possibly worth watching were Sully, about the Miracle on the Hudson (and starring the talented Tom Hanks), and The Space Between Us, about a kid who was born on Mars (though I wasn’t really interested in the romantic theme of the latter).

6 thoughts on “We are a nation of violence”

  1. I’m glad you’re addressing this! When my 7 year old and I go to see movies I’m shocked at the level of violence that’s introduced into even children’s films, and have found myself in many conversations saying I don’t understand why healthy depictions of sexuality are so much more highly regulated than violence.

  2. Learning about…or depicting positive or non-violent sexual feelings…that’s really not ok. But…violence…hey…the more the better. Mr. Nicholson’s pithy quote sums it up succinctly.

    Grappling with moving away from a white man’s viewpoint of this (USA) society is slowly teaching me that we’re steeped in patriarchy and toxic masculinity…and…that stuff requires violence in order to maintain power/control over others.

    In fact…I’m stumblingly coming to the understanding that there may be a mathematical kind of equation that occurs in societies. The more oppression or dominance that exists in a society…the more violence there must be also.

    And…since it’s hard (often) to hide violence…then the next best thing is to make it appear to be acceptable and desirable and…maybe…even reasonable and necessary. Hence the “entertainment” we are exposed to carries those messages.

    Back in the 1970s there was a movement to bring into the public school system some teaching approaches that equipped children with the cognitive tools that would assist them is sorting out values and how to detect them. These approaches didn’t teach specific values…they just helped children figure out what values might be contained in…maybe themselves…or…maybe in something like violence in movies.

    You don’t hear about what was then called “values clarification” much anymore…the reason being it spooked the snot out of dominant groups in this society because clarifying values threatened to tear the veil away from some really ugly structures of dominance and oppression. The pushback was fierce and unrelenting and the pushback won. Our school systems don’t currently do much teaching how to discern values or value systems.

    Your post is titled: “We are a nation of violence”…yup…because it isn’t possible to dominate and/or oppress without violence or the threat of violence. At least that’s how I’m coming to comprehend it. Does that make sense?

  3. Why I will never watch Sully (the Tom Hanks movie):

    On January 15, 2009, Chesley Burnett Sullenberger III was the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, NC. Shortly after taking off, Sullenberger reported to air traffic control that the plane had hit a large flock of birds, disabling both engines.

    Sullenberger discussed alternatives with air traffic control but quickly decided that the only feasible option was ditching in the Hudson River. Sullenberger told the passengers to “brace for impact,” then piloted the plane to a smooth ditching in the river. All passengers and crew members survived. Sullenberger walked the length of the passenger cabin twice to make sure everyone had evacuated before retrieving the plane’s maintenance logbook. He was the last to evacuate the aircraft.

    That story has been retold countless times by the media. I’m sure we all applaud the skill of the pilot and the “grace under fire” of the crew and passengers. But as animal protective advocates we can’t let it go at that. That story has evolved into a blanket justification for killing geese throughout the United States – especially in New York City.

    Before the ink was dry on the New York City tabloids and before the umpteen reruns of videos on TV had even started, the usual gang of goose-killing advocates weighed in by calling for the killing of Canada Geese to “assure the safety of airline passengers.” They are still at it — counter to all known scientific findings about the “bird-strikes” on airplanes, and in particular the bird-strike involving flight 1549 on January 15, 2009.

    One instant advocate of goose-killing was Sean Hannity, a commentator on Fox news. A video clip of his reaction can be seen at

    A few days later, in the New York Post (a Rupert Murdoch paper), an alleged wildlife biologist, Steve Garber, advocated that all geese should be removed from New York City:
    “It would be fairly easy for Port Authority workers to round up and net geese in June and July, when they’re molting and unable to fly,” Garber said. “Once they’re caught, they could be taken to a new habitat far from the city – or killed for their meat, which could be donated to homeless shelters,” he added. “If you keep on doing that, you will get the whole breeding population,” said Garber. “In a short period of time, you will have fewer breeding birds…” “There are lots of ways,” he said. “You can throw rocks at them. You can hit them with sticks…” Does Garber believe that there’s nothing wrong with shooting Canada geese, poking holes in their eggs, shaking their eggs so the embryos are destroyed, wrecking their nests, or taking any number of other measures to eradicate them?

    As time passes the refrain of “Kill the geese” persists – with Captain Sullenberger’s landing mentioned at every turn. On June 12, 2009, New York City and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that they are embarking on a plan to kill at least 2,000 Canada geese living within 5 miles of airports.

    Mayor Bloomberg said: “The serious dangers that Canada geese pose to aviation became all too clear when geese struck US Airways Flight 1549. The incident served as a catalyst to strengthen our efforts in removing geese from – and discouraging them from nesting on – city property near our runways.”

    On July 8th 2010 the department of Wildlife Services of the USDA rounded up 400 geese in Prospect Part in Brooklyn and took them to a building where they were gassed with carbon dioxide.

    Again the “Sully story” played in the media as the justification for the slaughter.

    Mayor Bloomberg: “Look, the Department of Agriculture has to deal with the fact that all these geese are a danger to people flying,” he said. “People are not going to stop flying and we have to make a decision. It’s geese or human beings — I can tell you where I come out on that. I don’t think you need a quote from me.”

    1. Thanks for sharing that information. I think it will be worth reading reviews of the film after it is released, to see whether and how the pro-slaughter sentiment is portrayed in it.

      1. Hi, Pax:

        This story always upsets me. I won’t even watch the Sully episode of “Why Planes Crash.” But let’s see the reviews.

        No matter how congested air traffic is, in the sky and around airports, birds will always be blamed and persecuted because this culture is killing the planet and has absolutely no regard for more-than-human life. “In 1956 members of an expedition to Antarctica encountered some naive penguins that waddled toward them in a friendly investigatory manner. Obviously, these flocks had never before seen members of the human race. The trustful birds were clubbed to death.” From Hope Ryden’s book “God’s Dog, A Celebration of the North American Coyote”.

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