Send me back in, coach

We try to limit our commentary on national issues except when they directly affect us locally—for example, health-care reform. But this murder of Kasandra Perkins by Jovan Belcher seems worthy of note. Let’s hit it from a couple of points of view.

First, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country every day. How many make national headlines? The only reason this story made the headlines was because Belcher was a professional football player. In fact, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, “On average, three women are killed by their intimate partners every day in the United States.” If there were two others killed on Dec. 1, we haven’t read about them.

Second, about 6,000 people are killed every year with guns. In fact, Belcher reportedly bragged in a text about having eight guns “from hand Gunz to assault rifles” in his home.

Add into this mix new science from the Boston University Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy that shows that even mild repeated head injuries among athletes and soldiers can trigger the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. “CTE is clinically associated with symptoms of irritability, impulsivity, aggression, depression, short-term memory loss and heightened suicidality.”

Thought we were going after your guns, didn’t you?

According to many sources, including the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, “a strong predictor of domestic violence in adulthood is domestic violence in the household in which the person was reared.” People had the view that that result was purely social, in other words, kids saw that their caregivers got results with violence, so as they grew up, they acted with violence. (Johnny saw Mom placate Dad when he acted violently. Dad smacked Johnny around when he didn’t mow the lawn.)

But doesn’t this new science make a lot of sense in the context of American society? Why is our society so violent in comparison to most societies? Why are societies that are more violent in the home than ours more violent in their relationships with their neighbors?

To borrow from the movie Lincoln, which borrowed from Euclid: “Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another.”

If repeated blows to the head from sports or soldiering cause aggression, why don’t repeated blows to the head from dad’s fist or from a “shock and awe” carpet bombing campaigns cause aggression?

Many sports—boxing, soccer and football among them—feature repeated blows to the head. Is there a culture where violent sports are more a thread in the social fabric?

It appears possible there may be a biological and evolutionary imperative to develop violent behavior in reaction to violence. In other words, by making changes in our physiology, nature enables us to protect ourselves from head trauma because head trauma can kill us, which would tend to take us out of the gene pool. The problem is, for the most part, we are not in a violent environment so those tendencies are not used defensively.

Though probably not intended for this use, this new study offers a whole new way of looking at the root causes of violence in our culture. If we can identify and ameliorate the root causes of mild head injuries, issues regarding domestic violence and gun control may be made moot.