Suddenly there is a controversy about what is and is not a war zone. The meaning of words and phrases in the English language changes constantly, and the phase “war zone” has been used to describe areas of urban conflict since the 1960’s.
I personally never use the term war zone to describe the street violence that happens in Oakland, California, Detroit, Michigan, or even in the South Bronx, where I went to high school.
But I fully understand why other people do.
I don’t use the term war zone to describe urban conflict because I have served in a war zone, and lost close friends there.
I have seen miles and miles of jungle where nothing grew because of all the bombs and defoliants that had been dropped there; and nothing lived there either, except the North Vietnamese troops passing though at night as they infiltrated into South Vietnam.
I have seen the burnt out hulks of airplanes where some of my closest friend burnt to death. I have experienced moments when I knew I was going to die, and I have had more than my share of nightmares about that war zone.
So I don’t use the term war zone to describe an area of urban violence, but I don’t get upset when someone else does.
Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
Was Brockport a war zone last Friday night during Brock the Port? The answer is absolutely yes; in the modern meaning of the phrase.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines war zone as: “an area marked by extreme violence.”
Dictionary.com defines war zone as a slang term meaning: “an area where things get rough; a tough neighborhood.”
Thesarus.com defines war zone as a “hot spot” or a “trouble spot”.
But the use of the phrase war zone to describe areas of urban violence is not limited to only the United States; the usage is world-wide.
Collins Language is a UK publisher with headquarters in Glasgow, Scotland, and their logo says they have been “Pioneers in dictionary publishing since 1819.”
You can’t get more staid and proper than that, but ColinsDictionary.com still defines war zone as: “an area where a war is taking place or there is some other violent conflict.”
For decades, the media has used the phrase war zone to describe urban violence in many places including:
- Montreal, Quebec
- Athens, Greece
- Oakland, California
- London, Ontario
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- London, England
- Denver, Colorado
Moreover, the mainstream media all use the term war zone to describe violence in the streets.
PBS News used the term war zone to describe drug wars in Dallas, Texas
ABC News used the phrase war zone to describe the domestic situation on the island country of Jamaica.
NBC News used the term war zone to describe the riots in Los Angeles of the Rodney king incident.
The Boston affiliate of CBS News described Chicopee, Massachusetts as a war zone on April 13, 2012.
On April 24, 2011 FOX News even described Oslo, Norway as a war zone.
The SUNY Brockport student newspaper, The Stylus, used war zone to describe Detroit.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has even used the term war zone to describe Rochester.
On November 13, 2006 the D&C used the term A War Zone as the headline of a 357 word editorial about expanding Operation Impact, a program that brought in state troopers and sheriff’s deputies to help patrol Rochester.
Using the phrases “war zone” and “battle” to describe urban violence has even made its way into academic papers published by SUNY Brockport.
Protestors, Police, Presidents and Politicians, Buffalo, Brockport, Blacks and Buffalonians: Bloody Battle and Peaceful Protest Against the Vietnam War in Western New York, is an Honor’s Thesis by Joshua Baker (May 8, 2006).
It describes how anti-Vietnam demonstrators “helped turn the campus into a war zone”.
If academia can use the term war zone to describe the SUNY campus in the 1960’s, then it is perfectly acceptable for Brockport Police Chief Varrenti to describe the streets of Brockport last Friday night as a war zone.
I am sure that the police officer who was suddenly faced with an angry mob of drunken college students advancing on him had the same kind of “Oh S _ _ T!” feeling I had when the North Vietnamese were shooting at me.
I’m sure the Brockport Police Officer who got hit in the face by beer can thrown by a drunken college student, was as angry and frustrated as I was when things went wrong in Vietnam and Laos.
And I am sure that Chief Varrenti was just as ticked off as any Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, when he had to tackle a drunken college student who was young enough to be his child.
But unlike some prominent people in Brockport, Chief Varrenti had the dignity and class to apologize today to a veteran who had taken offence at the Chief’s use of the term war zone.
On May 8, a Rochester resident wrote a letter to the editor to express his displeasure with,” The idea that the remnants of a college party constitutes a war zone.”
Chief Varrenti wrote a letter to the editor to express his apology to that Rochester resident.
Thank you Chief. That shows class.
Maybe Brockport politicians could take a lesson in humility from the Police Chief.
Last Friday, when a voter thanked a local politician for doing something that the local politician hadn’t done since last year, the politician graciously replied, “You’re wrong!” That is not a good way to win friends and influence the voters.
A few days ago, Sweden Town Justice Bobby Connors tried to defend his decision to go turkey hunting instead of being available to do arraignments for people arrested during Brock the Port. But his decision was selfish and indefensible.
Everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes.
It takes a classy individual to recognize that they have made a mistake and apologize for it. Police Chief Daniel Varrenti has proven once again that he is a classy guy.
Let’s hope that someday some of that class will rub off on Brockport and Sweden’s politicians.