Could it be time to stop using the War Metaphor? The war on this, the war on that – it’s often silly, it’s usually excessive, and when you get right down to it it’s almost always inappropriate.
Maybe most important: It doesn’t work. No one can win these “wars,” so calling them wars only makes us all losers.
A quick review, in chronological order:
War on Drugs
Almost universally recognized as a failure, this one is mercifully falling out of favor, both idiomatically and – more recently – in a practical sense, with harsh mandatory sentences for low-level drug possession coming at last under effective scrutiny, and legalization of medical marijuana cropping up in more states. Will The Man really, finally, quit harshing our buzz?
War on Terror
The Obama Administration has dropped this Bush-era phrase, and good riddance to it. In some ways the struggle against terrorism worldwide is as serious and at least as difficult as a traditional war might be, it’s true. But with the damage our perpetual war footing has done to civil liberties in the Land of the Supposedly Free, the fading of the war metaphor is a blessing, even though its effects – Patriot Act, I’m looking at you – will be with us for years to come.
War on Christmas
The epitome of absurdity. As if the most commercially over-hyped holiday in human history could be damaged by a few court decisions stressing separation of church and state or the complaints of a sprinkling of sensitive non-Christians. Try declaring war on apple pie – you’ll make about as much headway.
War on Women
The latest bullet-free “war” is being waged against women, or so we’re told. I’ve come close to using the phrase “war on women” myself, but I hereby disavow it. Even the most egregious civic assaults on certain medical matters that pertain to female-Americans don’t constitute anything like a war, nor are they, usually, even intended as attacks on women per se. Ill-conceived (no pun intended) and offensive though they are, measures like Virginia’s law requiring ultrasound before abortion are adopted under the aegis of moral codes, however outdated and discriminatory those codes may be.
Using the phraseology of war where war is not occurring diminishes both the evils of war and the sufferings of those who are sent to fight actual wars. Plus, it makes us all sound screechy and look stupid.