Syria and Chekhov’s Gun

Syria and Chekhov’s Gun August 28, 2013

syria and chekhov's gun cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
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I’m not a politician. I’m not even very political. Nor am I a political cartoonist. This cartoon is about a reality I’ve observed in human nature: if force is an option we allow then the temptation to use it will be at times overwhelming. Like this cartoon illustrates, it doesn’t matter if someone gets the order to engage or not. Once the idea is launched, how far behind is the weapon?

Have you heard of the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun?

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

I read a poem quoted in Wendell Berry’s Citizenship Papers, of James Laughlin called “Above the City” which was written soon after a B-25 bomber flew into the Empire State Building in 1945. I’ll quote it in part:

“none of us were much surprised be-
cause we’d always known that those
two Paragons of

Progress sooner or later would per-
form before our eyes this demon-
stration of their
true relationship”

Prophetic of 9-11? This is what concerns me about Syria. No, the world. No, us! Weapons, the consideration of the use of force, the inevitability of their use, violence as a solution, the human need for swift justice or revenge, all combine to create a recipe for death. Just the fact that weapons exist as well as targets to point them at is a relationship that begs union. Someone in Syria had chemical weapons stored somewhere that were crying to be used. And they were.

All this applies not just to physical weapons, but emotional ones as well. Churches who consider the use of control, manipulation, coercion, shame and even abuse to accomplish their ends will employ them. Just read my post “Why I Wouldn’t Attend Pastor Steepek’s Church” and you will see from the 190+ comments that the overwhelming majority of people are in favor of the application of emotional violence to achieve a good end. Is it any surprise that we so easily transfer this to physical violence?

It’s scene one. There’s a rifle hanging on the wall.


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