With Cormac McCarthy's ascension "from cult writer to Great American Novelist" and the "primordial joy" of Grand Theft Auto IV as backdrop, Stephen Marche reflects on the central role violence plays in the American mythos in Esquire. "Purification through violence has been created and nurtured by figures as diverse as George Washington and Dick Cheney," he writes, as "the necessary inheritance, perhaps, of a revolutionary nation’s birth in blood."
Response to violence isn't even-handed. "Nobody complained when Johnny Cash from Arkansas sang about snorting coke, killing his woman, and fleeing the law," explains Marche, "but when Dr. Dre from Compton starts singing, Congress holds hearings." The acceptance of violence isn't all that new. Even the ancient Olympics—during which the Greeks took a hiatus from war—saw their share of brutality in the form of pankration, a sort of nude precursor to Ultimate Fighting.