Is Man Innately Violent?

After reading “Lord of the Flies by William Golding, I began to muse about the cruelty of man and the forces (internally and/or externally) that encourage him to act violently. Oddly, I kept thinking about President Trump as the story developed in my  mind.

Golding makes a strong case that man to a great extent is aggressive by nature (not nurture). In the 1954 published book, a band of young boys ranging from 8 to 12 are marooned on a deserted island after their plane crashed. Without the help of adults, they formed a makeshift society and struggled to keep order. The author wants us to think they are not old enough to have been taught to be barbaric and un-empathetic. In a nutshell the boys separated into to two groups. Anarchy and violence prevailed. It’s Golding’s point that the boy’s behavior was caused by their DNA, and not anything they could have learned during their short lives to that point.

In J.D. Salinger’s classic,  “The Catcher in the Rye,” the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, was greatly influenced by his schooling and upbringing. The morale of the story is that Holden learned to be rebellious and antisocial (nurture).

Back to the “Flies.” Ralph was elected to be the chief of the young boys over Jack. The contenders were the oldest and strongest of the crew, another Golding reference to governing with strength. Over time, Jack’s more aggressive style enabled him to assume leadership of the makeshift society and violence abounded.

Americans have always been attracted to strong and combative leaders. In fact some say that one can’t be a great president unless he or she negotiates and wins a war. Until recently smaller nations throughout the world were attracted to and allied with countries that were world leaders. Pacts were formed and powerful nations protected smaller ones. In today’s world power exerted over others is anathema.

Nationalism, even for smaller countries, has become more prevalent.  Of course the Nazis before World War II practiced the most radical form of nationalism. In assuming power, Hitler convinced Germans to support him in condemning six million Jews. Was this despicable strategy reflective of an innate character trait of Hitler and his minions? Why didn’t the German people object to their leader’s genocidal strategy?

In the US, the citizenry has become more political and bellicose than in earlier eras.  What has caused this phenomenon? Is America now a place where people only get ahead by viciously attacking their opponents? Do Americans, as a group, have DNA that makes us more aggressive in times of crisis and confrontation, or are we teaching our children to be violent adults? Before you answer, consider Harry Truman’s decision to drop two nuclear bombs on Japan killing hundreds of thousands of innocents. Was Truman a hero or a cold-blooded murderer? In a few days he incinerated many people in a way that was reminiscent of the Holocaust.

I’m sure Truman rued the day he was elected president as he made his decision whether to continue to fight Japan with conventional weapons or use weapons of mass destruction.

The bad blood in Congress and throughout our society is taking a toll. Republicans and Democrats are on the verge of going to war on some of the most controversial issues.

Gun advocates are arming themselves for a showdown with gun control proponents. They seem to be willing to kill other Americans to secure the arsenals in their homes.

Right to lifers are just as passionate about saving every fetus from an untimely end. Yet abortionists are more focused on the rights of a woman to choose. Are these groups prepared to do combat with each other?

Many in America are unhappy with the snap decisions made by police officers doing their jobs during dangerous interaction with felons. Some Americans say cops are biased against people of color. They say cops are too quick to use force in their communities. The cops say the use of deadly measures is the only way to protect innocents. Now many officers are hesitant to respond to dangers affecting our society.

And finally there is Donald Trump. No president has been blamed for more things than our current leader. But he is belligerent and prepared to use force if necessary (maybe too quick for some Americans). Who taught the man that unfiltered rhetoric and the use of violence are the best ways to govern a great country? Or is it in his DNA to act this way.

There are too many people in the world who want to kill others that look different, pray different and have larger houses. How should America deal with this situation? Should we draw upon our most basic instincts and kill the evildoers? Or should we be applying diplomacy?

In 2020 we will elect a president that will need to answer these questions.