Tag Archives: fighting

To Fight or to Win?

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Squire (left) and Speckles sparring through the gate, 2015

I wonder if some people just like to fight.  I don’t like it but grew up thinking it was necessary.  I don’t like competition of any kind, including competitive sports or games, but I live in a country where it’s anathema to admit it.

I’m an avoider who is more inclined to get caught up in other people’s battles.  Like the Greek god Chiron, the wounded healer, I’m the innocent bystander who gets injured by a mis-aimed arrow.  I don’t understand the purpose of martyrdom.  Did Jesus help anyone by dying on the cross?

My roosters like to fight, so I have to keep them apart.  They spar through the gate and attack the hardware cloth that keeps them from doing real damage to each other.  But I’m the one who suffers most if either of them gets hurt.  Son Speckles blinded father Squire in one eye before he knocked off his own spurs several years ago.  Now Squire has torn off his own back toenail and his toe may be broken.

Over the years, both have mellowed, and I wonder if either of them really wants to win.  If something happened to either of them, I believe the other would sorely miss the adrenalin rush they generate in each other.

I’ve worked with Vietnam veterans who complained of flashbacks and nightmares from combat duty.  After Vietnam, life in the United States seemed bland in comparison.  Some admitted to being “adrenalin junkies.”  Another man claimed to like being angry.  Is this the attraction of contact sports like football, or the intensity of war?  The emotional intensity of presumably “masculine” activities?

Our current US culture seems bent on fighting, arguing, opposing and otherwise disagreeing about everything from the climate to sexuality, but I wonder if there’s any purpose to it, except to fight.  Does anyone really expect to win, and if so, what would be resolved?

I recently read the book Fear:  Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward, about the Trump campaign and presidency so far.  The book’s title is based on a Trump quote, “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear,” from an interview with the author.  Essentially, the book says nothing new but it helps straighten out all the names and roles played by those close to the current administration.

The other night I finished reading a biography of Andrew Carnegie, an 800-page tome by David Nasaw, published in 2006.  Carnegie, who lived from 1835 to 1919, was a self-made multi-millionaire who was brutally competitive in his businesses but vowed to dispose of all his money to worthy causes before he died.  In his later years he became almost obsessed with the idea of world peace though arbitration.  However, a sizable portion of his wealth had been derived from government contracts to manufacture steel plates for battleships.  Later, his idea for a League of Peace may have inspired the League of Nations and later the United Nations.  He thought war barbaric, was outspoken in his views and used his wealth and fame to give unsolicited advice to presidents Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, as well as German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and notables in the British government.  He feared the arms race between the UK and Germany as early as 1905, beginning with the British Dreadnaught and other monster battleships, but could not establish traction for his ideas regarding universal disarmament or arbitration.  It appears the outbreak of World War I broke him, and he—a vociferous showman—went silent for almost four years.

Nasaw says that Carnegie was given to hero worship, and Theodore Roosevelt was his assigned disciple of peace, despite evidence.  History shows that Roosevelt was an imperialist and war hawk, who rode to glory in the Spanish-American War; as president he seized the land that became Panama through instigating insurgents against Columbia; and he volunteered for World War I when the US entered, although he was deemed too old at the time.  Roosevelt referred to “righteous wars,” and Carnegie replied that all warring individuals and nations believe their particular cause is “righteous.”

The current US President, Donald Trump, campaigned on the several issues regarding war, suggesting the US withdraw from Afghanistan, among other things, according to the book Fear.  However, he is surrounded by hawkish military advisers who apparently have convinced him to stay the course, at least for now.  He has received praise and criticism for his contentious approach to friends and foes alike.  His provocative demeanor invites retaliation from all those “righteous” warriors throughout the world.

There are those who believe refusing to fight indicates weakness or cowardliness, but history shows that fighting fire with fire only makes bigger fires.  Does anyone win in a war?  In Lincoln’s war, Carnegie was among those, like JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, who hired substitutes to fight for them, and they got rich off the war.  Who else benefited?  The slaves were freed, but slavery was already dying out, if Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln is to be believed.  DiLorenzo claims Lincoln wanted a war. Lincoln may have won the war, but he lost his life.  Some people would rather fight than win.