I am sure many of you have seen the above graphic. It is worth noting that several of the states on the left of the image are our allies, and the two we do not consider allies are not exactly enemies either. Our military budget is bloated beyond any reasonable boundaries, and yet somehow this is perfectly acceptable to most Americans. Oh, some speak out about it. The Democratic party likes to pretend that they are willing to cut back defense spending but wither in the face of war profiteers and the small but obnoxious ranks of the violently patriotic.
That is an important distinction, by the way: “violently” patriotic. Ones love of country need not be tied into that country’s ability to do harm to those in other countries. Some folks have a hard time making that distinction, but what is worse is too many of us that do still give into that idea, afraid to appear weak. We let the war mongers and captains of the military industrial complex control the conversation and give only the weakest lip service to reining in our out of control defense spending whenever balancing the budget is mentioned.
We have accepted the notion that we need a strong enough military to inflict our well on whoever, whenever, and wherever we want. We do so at the detriment not just of our reputation abroad, but at the expense of our most vulnerable here. We do so and guarantee we have less money to hire people to regulate the powerful here in agencies like the FDA, OSHA, and the EPA. We hamstring our ability to make sure our society is a stable one by reducing the ranks of the desperate.
Some argue that our great military has driven innovation over the years. They ignore that some of our greatest advances have come from the peaceful exploration of space, and from international, peaceful efforts of the physics community (thank you CERN for the internet, oh, and Al Gore.) Somehow these people get cause and effect turned on their head. Many of our explosives were designed for construction uses, plastique and dynamite both come to mind, but were co-opted by the military.
Others will tell us we need to keep military spending high to keep our economy going. They will tell us that GE, General Dynamics, and Lockheed provide jobs. So did the Conservation Corps though. In fact it provided far more jobs, and yet there is no clamor to reinstitute it to bring people out of poverty and to fix our crumbling infrastructure.
How we spend our money says a lot about us. So many of those advancing the rallying cry of austerity only do so in regards to every other government expense except the military. We must not touch that, ever, because our military is what makes us tough and that is so very important to Americans isn’t it? We so desperately need to be tough. We need to be able to take what we want from who we want, whether it is oil, land, or a cheap work force for our corporate masters.
It is easy to blame that last group. I don’t believe we should let ourselves so easily of the hook. We have the means to put the pressure on, with our voices, with our choices, and yet we do not. Why should they not take advantage when we are so willing to let ourselves march to the war drum’s beat? Why blame them when we tie so much of our sense of self in the sleek steel of a fighter jet and the thundering roar of cannons? We get what we pay for, and what we are paying for is a country primed to fight, willing to lash out, and one less willing to care for its neighbors.
This post, if it is not obvious (and I can understand where it may not be) is not for the war hawks. I know who you are and so do you. This is for the people who meekly sit by and let those folks decide what kind of country we are. It is for those who bemoan defense spending behind closed doors, or in our echo chambers, but not with those above mentioned narrow-minded patriots. It is for those who say they want change and applaud young people for getting out to protest but do not have the courage to do it yourselves. You have let masters of war get their say without challenge. You have tacitly approved of these policies. It is time to stop being shy, and start putting the pressure on. We are feeding a system that by its nature needs to keep consuming and it will keep doing so, eating up our budget, our young and our global community. We all have the power to change that and need to claim it, before it is too late.