Astrid Lindgren tells this story: "When I was about 20 years old I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five he did something that she felt warranted a spanking - the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, 'Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock that you can throw at me.'

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view, that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with, she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: no violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery."

Harold Bloom, in "The Lucifer Principle", believes that violence in fact begins long before the nursery. He cites not only the Trojan War and ancient Rome but an Amazon tribe called the Yanomamo, known as "the fierce people". According to Bloom, Yanomamo men "sneak up on a neighboring village and attack. If they are successful they kill or chase away the men. They leave the sexually-capable women unharmed. But they move methodically through the lean-to-like homes, grabbing babies from the screaming captives. Like the langurs, the Yanomamo men beat these infants against the grounds, bash their brains out on the rocks, and make the footpaths wet with babies' blood. They spear the older children with the sharp ends of their bows, pinning their quivering bodies to the ground. Others they simply throw from the edge of a cliff." (For more on Bloom, look at the Stanford Presidential Lectures,

Bloom calls this "the greed of genes", the imperative to procreate more of the same kind as oneself and destroy any others. In fact, in "Global Brain" he traces the race to repeat back to the ancient beginnings of the universe, where neutrons can only live for 10.3 minutes unless they find a mate. As he says, "a neutron is a particle filled with need."

That need seems to be consuming vast areas of the globe today. Anthony Shadid, in the Washington Post, writes "violence is the cadence of the country" when speaking of Iraq. The New York Times, in reviewing the new Eastwood movie "Flags of Our Fathers", tells us "we extract an unspeakable cost when we ask men to kill other men."

Is "neutron need" a legal defense? I doubt it. Nor is it an ethical one. If children are exposed to violence they will be violent themselves. It's that simple. In "Ordinary Heroes", Scott Turow's young soldier says, "Men down there are going to try to kill me, men who have never met me, men I've never tried to harm. Suddenly I could not remember why that made any sense."

It doesn't, does it? We have an elegant excuse for war and violence. It's called "NOK - not our kind" (Turow again.) NOK can be applied to anything or anyone that gets in our way, for whatever reason. Another religion. Another race. Another color. At a recent Little League baseball game, I saw a diminutive ten-year-old batter facing a tall husky twelve-year-old pitcher. In the stands, the batter's father was shouting, "Show no mercy! Show no mercy!" Is this the message we want to send? Is this what you want your kids to remember about you? You might want to read "Mid-Munch and Splatter" Maybe it will help to understand Joseph Nechvatal's outrage at Abu Ghraib Maybe we'd better figure out a way to believe "AOK", as in "all one kind" before there is no longer any human, kind or unkind, left on the planet.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2006