I'd been kicking around an idea for a while, but, to be brutally honest, I feared readers would shoot holes in my argument and the whole thing would blow up in my face. The issue is how deeply violence is ingrained in our society, and how it manifests itself in every aspect of our language.
From shopping to sports to politics and everything in between, we are bombarded daily with violent imagery in language.
Retailers get into the spirit of holidays by slashing prices or promising to beat the competition. Shoppers are on an elusive quest for that killer deal.
On the gridiron last week, the Baltimore Ravens beat back a late push by the Jacksonville Jaguars. They had hoped to kill the clock, but the opposition mounted an offensive challenge that didn't end until a Ravens interception put the final nail in the coffin for the Jags. Loyal fans hope the team will claim a decisive victory over Texas today. Failure to win out could put them in danger of being eliminated from playoff contention and kill any chance at another Super Bowl. Talk about Super Bowls today might be considered jumping the gun, but it is something the team could shoot for. They just need some veterans on the team to pick up the gauntlet and lead the charge.
On the political side, when some social trouble gets out of hand we issue a call to arms, with our elected officials vowing to fight the problem, hit it with both barrels and eradicate it. If the problem is particularly difficult, we might have to bring in the big guns. We have a war on drugs, a war on crime and a war on terrorism. We even have a war on homelessness.
Our national motto should be "give us a problem and we'll declare war on it."
The entire legislative process, in fact, is full of violent imagery. If a proposal doesn't have the votes, it is essentially dead in the water. Lawmakers speaking out against a proposal might be characterized as shooting from the hip, or criticized because they weren't armed with the facts.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz shot himself in the foot last week when he tried to stop a budget bill, but his efforts to twist the arms of fellow Republicans to come around to his thinking backfired. It gave Democrats a chance to take a shot at getting some nominees confirmed. Even Cruz's own party unloaded on him after the fact. They went after him with guns blazing, cutting the legs out from under him and admonishing him for shooting off his mouth.
Cruz should have put a little more effort into rallying the troops. When push came to shove he needed more ammunition. At the end of the day, he wasn't able to kill the budget bill, and the rebuke from his party was a real slap in the face.
Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. In politics and in life we have to learn to pick our battles.
In sports and in the arts we offer up an encouraging "break a leg" to participants. If a performance was particularly good we might say the cast really nailed it, or that the performance was dynamite. The worst thing that could happen, though, is to really bomb.
In comedy, we hope the audience dies laughing. Then we can say that we really killed them, or that they were blown away by the performance.
In life, we may spend some time just shooting the breeze with friends, or perhaps your tastes run toward something more off the beaten path. Some folks may just be killing time until something better comes along.
Hopefully all these examples aren't overkill on my part. But once you get started thinking about it, finding violence in everyday language is like shooting ducks in a barrel. If you don't believe me, just take a stab at it yourself. I think you'll find I'm dead-on in this analysis.
For a time of year that is supposed to represent peace, love and understanding, our violence-based language is a real kick in the pants.
And that's about the whole shooting match.