My Turn: Militarizing our culture one metaphor at a time

Reading the Juneau Empire’s (2/13/13) front page article ‘Veterans for Peace continues battle against gun range’ reminded me of the depth at which the way we use our language identifies developing trends in the underlying directions in which our national culture is evolving.

The VFP is appealing for more community scrutiny and public dialogue before the approval of a gun range that provides access to the use of machine guns, assault rifles and other rapid-fire weapons of war as an available form of public recreation. There is some community disagreement as to whether this is a good idea.

Note that the article frames the appeal as a battle and the group’s appeal as a fight against the proposed gun range. The words battle and fight are being used metaphorically here. The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.

We all regularly use metaphor to frame and clarify what we talk about. We do this more or less automatically largely out of our own awareness. The concept of argument provides one good example of this. In our everyday thinking argument is conceptualized as war. To that end we readily get such statements as:

Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point in my argument.

His criticisms were right on target.

I demolished his point of view.

You disagree? Okay, shoot!

So he shot down all my arguments.

I’ve never won an argument with him.

And we don’t just talk about argument in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We attack other positions and we defend our own.

My concern about approval of such a gun range centers on such questions as:

• Do we want access to automatic weapons designed for combat to be part of our Juneau community culture?

• Do we promote the firing of such weapons as a valid form of recreational entertainment?

• Do we want to see Juneau marketed in cruise ship ads as a place “where you can actually experience what it feels like to shoot a machine gun!”?

• Does such access move us a few steps closer to a “culture of violence”?

• Do we want to rear our children in a community where such access “is just part of things.”?

I believe that gun ranges that provide public access to weapons of war for recreational purposes contribute to an insidious militarization of our national culture at a time when it would behoove us to move in the direction of demilitarization.

To that end I favor of VFP’s appeal for more extensive public dialogue on this issue.

(I’m reluctant to suggest public ‘discussion’ because that word has the same Indo-European root as concussion and percussion. Enough of that!)

• Dillon is a Juneau resident.

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