A Broken Nation
It should come as no surprise to anyone with walking around sense that there is something terribly wrong with the USA. It is broken and broken at a deep level. I think perhaps it always has been.
I was about to turn twelve when JFK was assassinated in 1963. That was my first inkling that something was seriously amiss in my own country. The murder in broad daylight of a beloved president was my first clue that the land I had been taught was the paragon of human and national virtue might be something else, something darker, maybe much darker.
Of course what I'd been taught of history by age twelve in 1963 was mostly fairy tales and nonsense. I now understand that for all of my life we have been living Eisenhower's nightmare, descending ever deeper into a cesspit of corruption and blood.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961, in his last speech as president warns of the MIC
That we did not heed Ike's warning is a pity beyond measure and now we live with the horrifying consequences of that failure.
Eisenhower's worst fears came true. We invent enemies to buy the bombs
Why do we still go to war? We seem unable to stop. We find any excuse for this post-imperial fidget and yet we keep getting trapped. Germans do not do it, or Spanish or Swedes. Britain's borders and British people have not been under serious threat for a generation. Yet time and again our leaders crave battle. Why?
Last week we got a glimpse of an answer and it was not nice. The outgoing US defence secretary, Robert Gates, berated Europe's "failure of political will" in not maintaining defence spending. He said Nato had declined into a "two-tier alliance" between those willing to wage war and those "who specialise in 'soft' humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and talking tasks". Peace, he implied, is for wimps. Real men buy bombs, and drop them.
Yes, our nation is deeply broken and it's not just the Military Industrial Complex, though the enormity and significance of that cannot be overstated. The MIC overshadows all else, but it's also the overall culture of blatant lies, unrestrained propaganda, cheap tricks, tomfoolery, skullduggery and compulsive over-consumption. It's the money, the greed, the meaninglessness.
As a society long plagued by social inertia and backwards thinking, conservatives in this country took the flaws and shortcomings the hippies and the counter culture warned us about in the 60s, doubled down on them and made them into features, not bugs. Superficial? Check. Materialistic? Check. Irrational, short sighted, dishonest, environmentally and psychically destructive? Check, check, check, check and check.
Plastic people, oh baby now, you're such a drag
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
We've done precisely the wrong things at nearly every turn. Led by the conservatives of both wings of the duopoly, we have, for the most part, made social conditions progressively worse, not better. That is, worse for ordinary people, the poor and the working class, albeit better for the insanely rich - at least ostensibly and materially. But in truth, immeasurably worse for everyone. A degraded and broken global society hurts all of humanity.
We have neglected our schools, our poor and our prisons. We have continued the mindless pursuit of profits at the expense of virtually everything else – even our children. We have allowed corporations to become all powerful. We have allowed money to be defined as speech and corporations as persons. We have opened the flood gates to unlimited dark money in our political process, enshrining corruption as our guiding light and highest value.
We've allowed the conservative social message to dominate that sharing is un-American, compassion is passé, the little people and the rest of the world don't matter and all anybody needs is a warm gun.
Happiness is a warm gun (bang bang shoot shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, mama (bang bang shoot shoot)
When I hold you in my arms (oh, yeah)
And I feel my finger on your trigger (oh, yeah)
I know nobody can do me no harm (oh, yeah)
Because, (happiness) is a warm gun, mama (bang bang shoot shoot)
Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is (bang bang shoot shoot)
We have allowed the warmongers and profiteers in the Military Industrial Complex to seize more and more power, perverting our democracy, undermining the advancement of society and spreading wars, violence, famine, ecological destruction and other horrors across the face of the earth. This shameful legacy amounts to a curse on our species.
As a nation we have behaved as if life were cheap, profits sacrosanct and nothing at all sacred: not the global ecology, not humanity, not the victims of our blood lust and profiteering, not the suffering masses.
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred
Many of our present woes such as school shootings, mass murders, police violence, open racism, proud ignorance and the general level of mindless hatred can be traced back to things we allowed the ultra-rich and all-powerful warmongers to do to us - not necessarily in a grand Machiavellian scheme (with notable exceptions like the execrable Koch brothers) but just by being greedy, selfish, short-sighted and blinded by profits.
When people amass wealth and power beyond a certain level, they apparently lose their minds. American plutocrats are not rational, thoughtful, forward-looking people. They risk humanity itself by ignoring the damage we have done to the earth and stalling any fixes for climate change, ecological destruction and so forth. They have cheated the public out of the best possible education by choking off funds for public schools and jacking up the price of college while pouring trillions into the mindless and unjustifiable business of unnecessary war in a blindered, souless and morally bankrupt pursuit of profits over humanity.
Education, broadly speaking, is a desirable public good. The entire society benefits when everything possible is done to elevate the thinking, increase the knowledge and enhance the capacity for reason, critical analysis and problem solving for every single citizen. But instead of investing in public education we have lavished money on the MIC and endless wars, and now we live with the dysfunctional and deplorable consequences. What we have done to ourselves is insane. What we have done to the rest of the world is a disgrace. The guilt and shame alone should be enough to kill us.
U.S. ARMS SALES EXPLODE, GIVING MORE WEAPONS FOR WARS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
U.S. arms sales have surged significantly in the past four years as more weapons flowed to clients involved in violent conflicts in the Middle East, according to a conflict monitoring and disarmament analysis institute.
In our culture, it has become routine to respond to deep seated problems with knee-jerk superficialities. The solution to mass shootings, police violence, racism, hatred, foreverwar, a rising suicide rate, the opioid epidemic, etcetera is not some new bit of legislation or raising the age at which one can purchase an instrument of murder (not that those measures aren't welcome, but they are woefully insufficient).
Any real solution is not going to be about gun policy, arming everybody, banning violent video games or any superficial quick fix. These problems are symptomatic of deep underlying pathologies in our culture. These deep-running problems reflect the many ways human life has been cheapened and disrespected throughout our history, starting with the genocide against Native Americans, continuing through all the horrors of slavery and the war on the working class, and persisting into the present as embarrassing artifacts of a shameful, indecent and intolerable past. Isn't it high time for our petty irrational hatreds to be consigned to the dust bin of history? Isn't it time to start fixing what's broken? Isn't it time to start living up to our own lofty and laudable principles?
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
In the way that we think about ourselves, in the way we teach American history to our children, we focus almost exclusively on the good while ignoring, glossing over or distorting the rest. If we had courage, integrity and clarity we'd be teaching Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and other books of that ilk; books that take a cold hard look at the facts, as best we can know them, and asks the hard questions. Then maybe we'd have less to crow about and more to atone for. And as painful as that might be, we'd at least have the clarity to go forward and an opportunity to work out our redemption.
We are undeniably broken. That is not meant to imply that we were ever whole. When our history is faced objectively, there are no “good old days” to get back to. This is not about going backwards, it's about going forward. The word progress has been much abused of late. You can't trust everyone who claims to be "progressive" but that doesn't mean that progress isn't a thing - it is, and given the state of the world, it's mandatory - not just desirable, mandatory. Progress or perish. It's that simple.
“Goodness, if we could spend the same money learning about the world that we spend on wars.... We’re so stupid aren’t we? We seem to have lost the connection between our clever brains and our hearts.”
We need to stop the wars, stop the killing, lift people up and respect human life. We cannot kill people every day all over the world and not expect that horror to seep into our bones and manifest in the schoolyard, the workplace and elsewhere. We must learn from our past to honestly value human life, not just in word but in deed. We have so much to make up for, we should be righting historical wrongs, not perpetuating them.
Never forget that children need something to look forward to. It is incumbent upon every member of society to work diligently for peace and opportunity for their sake. It is our responsibility to do all we can to ensure a vibrant, whole and healthy world for all people. It is up to us to build a future in which life is worth living for all children everywhere.
Every single human being on the planet deserves to live in peace and in a world that is not being raped, defiled and murdered by uncaring oligarchs and fossil fools looking to make a quick buck.
Our great challenge as Americans is to deconstruct and repurpose the Military Industrial Complex, scrub the militarism from our souls, de-escalate the wars and tensions around the world, ban the bomb at last, reign in the corrosive greed of the power elite, rid our political system of corruption, stop the mindless hatred and racism, respect all life on earth and act like an intelligent species that wishes to preserve itself and the planet upon which it depends.
Our times demand that we begin to cooperate, help each other and shun violence and war so that we might all survive. We cannot afford to continue to act like our ancient barbaric selves without regard for long term consequences, because the consequences of our own destructive behavior have become so incredibly dire.
We have a choice if we get serious about it. We don't have to continue to allow the most violent among us to exercise unrestrained power all over the world: not if we are a nation of laws, not if we are a democracy. Of course we're neither at the moment. We should rise up and change that. We should push for an America that lives up to its own standards and a USA that leads the world to peace and ecological sanity.
This primitive lust for violence, murder, mayhem, torture and war, and this capitalist lunacy that riches and profits justify anything and everything, no matter how depraved, are undermining our progress as a people and imposing unspeakable human misery on a wide swath of the world's population. In the mean time, the American war machine is gobbling up and pissing away precious resources while raining down unmerciful hell on some of the poorest people on earth. It's unjust, inhumane and inexcusable. It's crazy, flat out insane. It's human folly of the worst kind and a distraction none of us can afford. We, as a species, have pressing existential problems to address.
Here at home where no one is dropping bombs on our neighborhoods, we nonetheless pay a steep price to keep the war machine rolling along. We sacrifice a better life for all and hope for the future so these depraved power addicts can play army while looting the world. The militarists suck up the lion's share of our resources, what isn't handed to them they steal, and we desperately need for those resources to be applied wisely to real problems, not phony wars.
Has Our Government Spent $21 Trillion Of Our Money Without Telling Us?
“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” ~ Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, The US Constitution
Because of the very dynamics Eisenhower warned us about in 1961, we find ourselves dominated by war profiteers, warmongers and militarists bent on global destruction for the sake of profits. Our challenge, both moral and existential, is to stop them. By doing so we can begin to fix ourselves, heal old wounds, make things right, ensure a reasonable life for our citizens and a desirable future for our descendants.
It is to our everlasting shame that we have unleashed these war criminals upon the earth. If we have a decent bone left in our collective body we will stop them. These tragic dynamics must change for the sake of all people everywhere. War and hate are not the way forward, peace and love are. The hippies tried to tell us. We should have listened.
It's time to fix America - down deep where it is broken.