Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

May 3, 2011

Chainsaws, Osama Bin Laden, Bullies, Revenge and Cycles of Violence

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:46 am
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      That unique sound that announces a breaking news bulletin came over the TV just as we were turning in last night.  At first, my blood pressure and anxiety rose.  Was it more deadly weather?  Some horrific violence?  With the commentators explaining that the President was about to issue a special address to the nation, and the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a raid, I relaxed.  Hearing of the spontaneous celebrations at Ground Zero, in front of the White House, at a baseball game, I dozed off before hearing the president’s speech. The prior Friday, on a panel with Dr. Dorothy Espelage and Dr. Ray DiGussepe, at St. John’s University’s conference on bullying, the topic of anger, revenge and retribution was discussed.  As the commentators shifted this morning from pure elation to concerns about possible acts of terrorism in retribution for the Bin Laden killing, my thoughts turned to chainsaws and cycles of violence.

A chainsaw has a motor that causes a chain that includes small sharp blades called teeth to rotate. These teeth have multiple cutting edges and are placed all along the never ending chain.  Chainsaws can do a lot of damage.

      I understand the sense of justice served and the relief that comes with Bin Laden’s elimination.  I, like so many others, was distressed that he was still at large, wielding influence and spreading terror.  I know it is very different, but I can’t help that it reminds me of how often victims of bullying, and especially parents of victims, voice their desire for justice, and revenge.  They want to give the bully a taste of their own medicine, usually in the form of physical aggression.  I was asked, at the conference mentioned above, what advice I give to parents of victims who want to encourage their children to violently respond to aggression. 

      I am either a pragmatic pacifist, a cynical pessimist, or both.  I don’t believe the myth that a good solid punch to a schoolyard bully will put an end to aggression (there is no data to support the claim) any more than I believe we have turned the page on terror with the elimination of Bin Laden.  Like the chain saw that has teeth all along the chain and can keep cutting, I am afraid that there is way too ample a supply of violence and aggression in the world.  I know Bin Laden needed to be addressed, and I am relieved he is gone.  It is, I worry, too simplistic to think that is all that was necessary to change the world.  Heightened alert states and warnings to prepare for retribution make it hard to feel that the violence is over.

      Built into each cutting tooth of a chainsaw is a depth gauge which rides ahead of the tooth and limits how deep it will cut. Depth gauges are critical to safe chain operation, and if filed too low they will make the saw dangerous and hard to control.  We may, as individuals and countries, need to use cutting aggression at times.  But we may also need gauges monitoring how far we go, so the lines between bully and victim, terrorist and terrorized never get blurred.  I have no question that the search for and elimination of Bin Laden was fully warranted, and the courageous Navy Seals, and all our armed forces who worked for years to accomplish it are to be celebrated.  The work of eliminating aggressors and terrorists, unfortunately, is, I suspect, as unending as the revolving chain that gives the saw its bite.

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2 Comments »

  1. Great analogy and well said. I was actually having a Facebook conversation the other day regarding whether the celebrations of this victory across America in the streets and public areas is similar to some of the celebrations in the streets half way across the world at a successful act of terrorism. A notable difference is in the way we celebrate. As a sports fan I like to think of it as rooting for your own team, vs. rooting against the other team. Chanting U-S-A in front of the White House in response to our success is very different from burning American flags in response to their success. It’s important to remember in our celebrations that we are not celebrating violence and death, but a potential success in an attempt to spread peace. But I think it’s also only natural for us, especially those directly effected by Bin Landin’s terror, to feel a sense of justice.

    Comment by Eitan — May 4, 2011 @ 3:08 pm |Reply


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