I’m tired of the word “fight” and all it represents.
Just out of curiosity, I did a quick search of my inbox for emails containing the word “fight.” There are over 600 of them since January 1, alone. 600 emails talking about fighting, enjoining me to fight for a cause, against an atrocity, for or against a politician – 600 of them in less than two months. I’m tired of it.
We live in a cult of death that glorifies the “fighting spirit” and people who “fought the good fight” (notice how that’s usually said posthumously, implying they put up a grand struggle but lost the war). We like to think of “competitive” as a virtue, and maybe – sometimes – it is. Sometimes, a good competition inspires people to work harder and achieve more. We were competing with Russia and our own limitations to put men on the moon. But that’s not fighting. That’s not slugging the other guy so you can cross the finish line first. It’s someone in the next lane, goading you to be a better version of yourself than you were in the last race. If we saw every competition as a “fight,” we’d be fighting ourselves half the time, slugging ourselves on the chin, shooting our–well, maybe there are people who do view every competition as a fight. That’s tragic.
I “fought cancer” and won. Actually, I drifted from one medical appointment to the next, glad of the people whose work included coordinating appointments, surgical teams, O.R.s, and insurance benefits so I didn’t have to employ half a brain cell. I was glad of family and friends who took care of the practical, day-to-day things while my mind and body grasped at what was going on, submitted to the various procedures that felt scarier and more painful than the cancer, and healed – so that life could go on. I showed up. They did all the work. And I am grateful to be alive. But the “fighting” metaphor doesn’t really work for me. Together, we humans kicked cancer’s ass. This time.
We can do remarkable things when we’re in it to win it. We’ve been kicking cancer to the curb for years, and more and more people are living longer to tell the tale. Some of them have battled the treatment, itself, though – chemo isn’t for sissies. And when the chemo beats the cancer and says, “Okay, you get to live another day,” do we claim defeat? Or is the damage chemo, itself, inflicts chalked up to “friendly fire”?
Seriously, we need better metaphors. Or we need to be careful in defining our enemies, because it should never be the fight that we glorify. The glorified fight is never-ending, because we don’t want it to end. When it ends, we need another enemy – real or imaginary – to keep the fire burning in our bellies.
We have The War on Drugs; The War on Christmas; The War on Terrorism; The War on Women; The War on Men; The War on Voting; The War on… hell, you’d think we’re at war with breathing. Here’s a list of 109 Things Obama Has Declared War On (“according to conservative pundits, lazy headline writers, and Google trawling”). And we’re not winning any of them, so again – we seem to be in love with the fight, not the victory. And I think that’s what’s been wrong with every conflict we’ve entered since WWII. There’s something about a fight that unites. But rather than fighting other people, couldn’t we find plenty of common enemies to vanquish together?
I believe we have enough to keep several generations busy finding ways to win – because if we have the will to win, we hardly need a “fighting spirit.” We need to join hands with a will to make peace – the enemy should never be us. We could annihilate a huge list of diseases, poverty, hunger, homelessness – if we just made up our minds to do it, once and for all, together. We can’t end climate change, but together we can figure out how to feed the hungry as climate change challenges current agricultural bands and farming methods; we could develop cleaner, sustainable, renewable energy sources to meet our growing demands without further damaging our planet and its resources. Together, we can.
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