Why is America so violent?


I report on this in different ways.

But, this time, I will let a study of two western mining towns illustrate the violence.

Popular wisdom says that generations of living on and conquering frontiers have made Americans a violent and lawless people. Popular wisdom is wrong. So is much scholarly literature that has drawn conclusions about violence and lawlessness from anecdotal evidence and specious assumptions. The kind of crime that pervades American society today has little or no relation to the kind of lawlessness that occurred on the frontier if Aurora and Bodie are at all representative of western communities. Robbery of individuals, burglary, and theft occurred only infrequently and rape seems not to have occurred at all. Racial violence and serious juvenile crime were absent also. The homicides that occurred almost invariably resulted from gunfights between willing combatants. The old, the weak, the innocent, the young, and the female were not the targets of violent men. In fact, all people in those categories would have been far safer in Aurora or Bodie than they are today in any major U.S. city. Even most smaller cities and towns are far more crime ridden and dangerous than were Aurora and Bodie.
There simply is no justification for blaming contemporary American violence and lawlessness on a frontier heritage. The time is long past for Americans to stop excusing the violence in society by trotting out that old whipping boy, the frontier. On the contrary, it would seem that the frontier, instead of representing America at its worst may have, in many respects, represented the nation at its best.

From: Wild West Myth.

We have a violence problem in modern America. Don’t you think?


About Wayne

First, I blogged on blogger, then Myspace - soon I was consistently ranked. Next, I quit. Then the blogging addiction came back .... Comments are appreciated. Not nice comments are edited. You can follow me at the top right.
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5 Responses to Why is America so violent?

  1. Anytime. It’s a really important topic, and I certainly wish I understood the causes better.

  2. I do think we have a violence problem here, though it’s much better than it was when I was a kid. I haven’t studied it academically or historically in depth, so my opinion isn’t any better than a hunch and you can take it at that level.

    In my own life, violence has been rewarded and glorified culturally. I was born in the 50s, and everything considered “manly” at that time had more than a hint of violence; sports, business, movies and TV, even comic books, and certainly the newspapers. America had recently emerged triumphant from the extremely rare historical anomaly of a war that most people considered just. All the able-bodied fathers in my neighborhood, including mine, had served as trained killers of humans.

    Through my parents I learned that the Depression years of their youth were also violent, and that many people were driven to crime by desperation after struggling through years of dire poverty.

    I don’t believe this kind of orientation changes quickly or easily. Men rewarded for the capability of violence become models for their sons.

    • Wayne says:


      Thank you for your comment. That is a good assessment of what happened.

      But, in it I find an irony. The era I posted about was the generation after the Civil-War. Over 750 thousand Americans died in that violent war, 6 times the rate of WW2.

      So, it is ironic that the 1950’s would see more influence of the war than did the 1870’s ….

      Do you think the difference might be from the rise of pornography and feminism?


      • Only opining theoretically again, but the Civil War was about national issues, and was fought here. Perhaps the real horrors of war were better remembered and understood as a result, and those who came after were more circumspect about violence.

        Aside from Pearl Harbor, WW2 was fought mostly by our men in far off places, men who returned to a prosperous land untouched by bomb craters. Perhaps that is also a reason for Europe to have developed less violently, remembering and having experienced the war all around them.

        On the basis of comparing Europe and the U.S. today, I wouldn’t say it’s connected to porn or feminism, because they have much more of both, and are less violent. I’m not saying porn is good for people at all (though I do think feminism is part of civil rights in general). I’m just comparing what there is here to what there is there.

      • Wayne says:

        Great comment!

        Thank you,


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