You can never walk a mile
in someone else’s shoes
unless you shop at a thrift store.
You can never walk a mile
in someone else’s shoes
unless you shop at a thrift store.
March 20th marks the 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Since 2003, we’ve spent more than a trillion dollars and helped create terrorists who make Al Qaeda look like amateurs.
When we kill civilians we drive countless angry, traumatized young men and women into the hands of recruiters for these terrorist organizations. When we disbanded the Iraqi military after the invasion, we left thousands of soldiers unemployed, armed, and angry. Many joined militias, and ultimately, ISIS. The CIA calls it ‘blowback’. It’s almost as if someone needs the wars to continue. It certainly appears that way if you look at the stock market.
Regardless how the wars go in 2018, Lockheed Martin will be taking 35 billion dollars from tax payers. Boeing will get 26 billion. Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, even Motorola will get a big piece of the pie. The list goes on. We’re stuck in this deadly cycle that drains money from our communities, and blood from theirs. As Dr. King said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
For every bomb that drops and bullet that flies a dollar leaves this island and helps the war stocks continue their rise. I wonder who profited from the bombs that fell on Kaho’olawe and Kalaupapa, or the bombs those same pilots dropped when they were no longer just training.
Until everyone here has healthy food to eat, good health care, and a learning environment filled with art and music and creativity, not one penny should leave our community. Imagine if our taxes went to buy the ranch instead of to buy more weapons. What if they went towards eradicating invasive species and bringing back native forests, or towards renewable energy, or both? Think of all the jobs that could be created. Instead, half of our federal tax dollars pay for war.
No one should turn hours of our lives into weapons that kill people who are just trying to survive. What would Jesus drop on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, (and everywhere else)? Imagine if, after 9/11, America had responded with aloha rather than hate and fear? ISIS would not exist if we had brought medicine and clean drinking water to the farmers of Afghanistan, or if we had removed the sanctions we had on Iraq and helped them rebuild critical infrastructure, rather than further destroying it.
Let’s sing a song for the dead
let’s sing a song for the dying
I want to hear more
than just poor villagers crying
let a chorus of cries ring out
from sea to sea
and we will fill oceans
if we properly mourn history.
Let’s sing a song for the living
let’s sing a song for all those giving
or a flower,
or gallons of blood
let’s sing a song
for those dying with no regret,
and those placing all their bets on humanity
regardless of the insanity we see
from sea to shining sea
let’s sing a song for those who live free
regardless of the chains
let’s sing a song
each and every time it rains
because no matter how bombed out and sunbaked
the earth might be
look real hard and you will see
showing us theres hope
at least for the planet…
we got here at the 11th hour
and we’ll be gone before midnight
we, who have the audacity to fight,
to kill the earth and each other
out of greed
but if the earth is a garden,
we are the weed
and we are the Roundup
we’re the paper
and the pen
out of the song
but the chorus will continue on
long after we’re gone
the dogs will bark
and the chickens cluck
the cats will meow
and they’ll wonder how the fuck
they ever let such cruel beasts
join the band in the first place.
Lets sing a song for the dead,
and if we see no reason to sing
we might as well
count ourselves among them already.
A lot of people are angry at Trump.
I honestly have no feelings whatsoever
regarding the man.
America is an empire with vicious foreign policy
and the Donald is but one
of many Caesars to rule.
There were many before him,
and in all likelihood
there will be many after.
A puppy could win the next election
and, while it would certainly be a lot less ugly,
the show would no doubt go on.
We would be distracted by its cuteness
the way we are currently distracted
by the Donald’s ugliness,
but the results would look pretty much the same.
War stocks continuing their upward climb,
and the people continue their downward fall,
bellies full of beer
and fists full of pills,
feeling only our own pain
as we cry from the bottom,
not realizing that we’re still relatively safe.
Yes, we are safe.
We can’t fall any further
since we sit here now
atop this growing mountain
the dead and the dying.
Our pockets nearly empty,
the blood on our hands
all we have to show
for our investment,
but still the taxman cries;
And still, we listen.
And still, we pay.
And still, we wonder…
Most Americans have never heard of Smedley Darlington Butler. He spent over 30 years in the United States Marine Corps, and retired as a Major General. At the time of his death in 1941, he was the most decorated Marine in history, having been awarded two Medals of Honor, and the Brevet medal, for separate actions. He served in the Philippines, China Central America, the Caribbean, and in France.
During the summer of 1932, Butler was the only high ranking (recently retired) officer to stand in support of the ‘Bonus Army’, the tens of thousands of WW I veterans who were petitioning congress to pay them the bonus they had been promised. Many of them were losing their farms and houses during the depression and were desperate. Butler stood with them, Gen. MacArthur led active duty troops against them, burning down the shanties they had been living in along the Anacostia River outside of DC. Several of these WW I veterans were killed, many more were injured. Though they were denied their bonus, the actions of these brave veterans that summer certainly helped lead to the GI Bill.
In 1933, he reported to congress that a group of wealthy businessmen were planning a military coup, and they had hoped that he would lead a group of veterans in overthrowing President Roosevelt to install a fascist dictatorship. Many people would have, but thankfully Butler didn’t have a price tag.
In 1935, General Butler wrote the book “War Is a Racket” in which he explains how businesses benefit from war:
“I spent 33 years and four months in Active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies. In China I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
Had Smedley Butler been born just a few years earlier, Hawaii would have been on his list as well.
Fast forward to 2018. Genie Energy is an American energy company based in Newark, New Jersey. As blood continues to soak into the Syrian (and surrounding) soil, quite a few people who had a hand in spilling that blood, in one way or another, are now sitting on the board of Genie Energy, offering their advice on how to best turn that blood into dollar bills. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, former UN Ambassador, US Energy Secretary, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Former CIA director James Woolsey, former Treasury Secretary, President of Harvard, and President Obama’s director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers, Former US Senator from Louisiana Mary Landrieu, as well as the head of FOX News Rupert Murdoch.
There are endless examples of this same old same old since General Butler wrote his book, but Genie Energy is a pretty good one. They needed instability in the region to provide cover for regime change, and free up access to boat loads of oil. It’s hard to imagine them not loving ISIS, not loving terror. They need it to keep shareholders happy.
It’s also interesting to think that one company, Lockheed Martin, is getting nearly as much money as the state department. $35 billion of Lockheed Martin’s $50 billion dollars in sales last year came from the American taxpayer, and 2018 is going to be even better for them, but with nearly 3/4 of a trillion dollars going to the pentagon this year, theres enough to go around. Boeing, for instance, is getting $26.5 billion US tax dollars.
So, if you are interested in investing in the stock market and you’re a sociopath (but I repeat myself), look no further than Lockheed Martin. Raytheon is pretty good as well. Halliburton has been a sure-bet for a long time now. Of course there are other high rollers like Northrup Grumman, and General Dynamics, but heck, even Motorola is getting a piece of the pie.
Lets not forget Monsanto, thats a great stock. Though they no longer drop chemicals on Vietnamese, or other peasant farmers, they sell them chemicals to use in their already-contaminated fields. Though no longer a ‘defense’ stock, they are certainly still making a buck in Vietnam.
These companies don’t only profit from the US tax payer, they also take foreign currency. They sell these weapons of war to places like Saudi Arabia, who use them to kill civilians in places like Yemen.
I was tear-gassed once by the Israeli military, along side a lot of Palestinians, and quite a few Jewish peace activists, during a peaceful demonstration in what remained of an old Palestinian farmers olive orchard (the rest had already been seized by the Israeli government to make way for more illegal settlements). I found out that the tear gas was made in the United States. I’m not sure exactly where the rubber bullets they were firing into the crowd were made, but somebody made a buck off of those as well, and thats only the ‘less-than-lethal’ weapons
War has always been a racket. As long as there has been war, there have been businessmen looking to profit. As long as there have been weapons, there have been people making and selling the weapons.
This isn’t unique to the current president. The percent of the federal budget he hands over to the pentagon is only slightly higher than his predecessor. 61 cents on the dollar under Trump is only a 7 cent increase over President Obama’s 54 cents on the dollar. That means that even when we had a Nobel Peace prize reciepiant in the oval office, 54 cents out of every single dollar that we obediently payed the IRS was sent to the Pentagon.
Thankfully, Molokai is not a microcosm of America. Here, guns are are for hunting. In America, only a fraction of gun owners hunt. In America, for the most part, guns are about power and control. The desire for that sense of power and control comes from a place of fear.
It is America’s culture of violence and easy access to guns that led to the latest mass shooting, and all of the ones that preceded it. This young man in Florida was born in the wake of the Columbine massacre, and since he was two years old, America has been at war. Since he was two years old, America has been using violence to ‘solve’ its problems. This young man was certainly very troubled, but rather than compassion and help, he was expelled. He was a ticking time bomb, let loose in a country filled with guns. What he didn’t already know about guns and violence, he certainly learned as a member of JROTC.
The NRA is right, guns aren’t the problem. America is the problem. This culture of fear, this culture of revenge, this culture of violence, this American culture is the problem. As Dr. King said, violence begets violence. Violence hasn’t worked in the fight against ‘terrorism’, it has only amplified the violence. Seventeen years after 9/11, we’re no longer afraid, we’re paranoid. We’ve lost track of all the countries we’re bombing due to this paranoia. It was violent foreign policy that led to the terrorism of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and it was the violent response to that terrorism that has led to the chaos in the world we see today.
This young man should never breathe free air again. This is a horrific thing he has done. But people will be calling for his blood, calling for the state of Florida to kill him, calling for revenge. Calling for violence as a response yet again, to violence. And the circle will remain unbroken.
The only difference between people all over the world is that some live their lives with aloha, and some don’t. Most people can change, but if we expect them to change, if we expect the lost sheep to rejoin the flock, we have to have genuine, unconditional love and aloha. We have to learn to live without fear, to forgive rather than seek revenge. We have to be the change.
I grew up in a family of hunters. My grandfather killed an incredible number of deer during his lifetime, and he never needed more than a shot gun. He often used a bow. If I ever hunt again, it will only be with a bow. I gave up my license to carry when I left Massachusetts, and left the guns I had behind with family members. I liked the idea of the license to carry, I liked the idea of guns. So much power. To hold death in your hands is very powerful. I was raised in America, so of course I was full of fear. That fear is long gone. When I got home from Iraq, I no longer feared the boogeyman and I no longer wanted to have a gun, for ‘self-defense’ or otherwise. Unless you are hunting to put food on the table, shooting is about power. Owning guns is about power. The reason so many people fall in love with guns is the sense of power and control it gives them that many of them lack in other aspects of their lives. But the reason we want guns, if not to hunt, is fear. The desire for that sense of power and control comes from a place of great fear.
After my grandfather died and my uncle took his guns away, my grandmother said she wanted to get a handgun “just in case”. We convinced her she was perfectly safe without it and that if an intruder were to break into her house, they would probably grab it out of her hands and hit her over the head with it. If someone breaks in, just offer to make them a sandwich. Treat them like family, show them the love that they are obviously lacking, and maybe they won’t rob you. We also reminded her about the lessons of Jesus that she taught us as kids, about turning the other cheek and all that.
Most gun owners want their guns for the same reason my grandmother wanted one; fear. Fear of the boogeyman. Of course there are so many guns in America, we are more afraid than any other country (and some of these countries have good reason to be afraid). Fear is used to control us, and we are certainly controlled by fear. Fear of the boogeyman, fear of the ‘other’.
A lot of people support building a wall for the same reason a lot of people support the war, which is the same reason a lot of people own guns. We are afraid of what we don’t know, what we don’t understand. We can’t relate to those who have been dehumanized to us our entire lives. We’ve been socialized not to care when those who have been dehumanized are killed one by one, or by the dozen. Whether they are killed by a soldier in Afghanistan, a drone in Somalia, or a cop in Baltimore, we don’t see our neighbor when we look at them. We certainly don’t see our family. We don’t help them, we don’t mourn them, we ignore them and continue along the road to Jericho. We fear them. We fear the idea of them. We fear everything they represent. They are the enemy. They’re all around us and they’re closing in, that’s why we need a wall, that’s why we need to keep the bombs dropping, that’s why we need guns; to protect ourselves from the boogeyman.
If it’s not fear of the dehumanized masses, it is a fear of the government driving the desire to own guns. Many people who own guns not to hunt and not to shoot the boogeyman, own them because they think the founding fathers are depending on them to overthrow the criminal, corrupt, awful government. They think (apparently) that a shotgun, a rifle, heck, even an AR-15 will stand a chance against an MRAP, a drone, heck, even a ballistic missile. The American government is certainly criminal, corrupt, and awful, but it always has been. Genocide, slavery, and imperialism are encoded in our DNA. America is nothing if not violent. Violence will not stop it. The only possible way to make America a bearable, more humane country is to take a lesson from Dr. King, or take a lesson from Jesus. Non-violent civil disobedience. If you don’t like the government and the terrible things it is doing then stop paying for it.
Guns cannot stop the government. Guns cannot stop the boogeyman. Guns cannot stop fear. As long as we live our lives in fear of boogeymen, scarecrows, and shadows, we will accept violence as an answer to our problems. It never works. As Dr. King said, violence begets violence. Violence hasn’t worked in the fight against ‘terrorism’, it has only amplified the violence and the terrorism. Seventeen years after 9/11, we are no longer afraid, we’re paranoid. We have lost track of all the countries we’re bombing due to this paranoia. It was violent foreign policy that led to the terrorism of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and it was the violent response to that terrorism that has led to the chaos in the world we see today.
It is America’s culture of violence and easy access to guns that led to this most recent mass shooting, and all of the ones that preceded it. This young man in Florida was born in the wake of the Columbine massacre, and since he was two years old, America has been at war. Since he was two years old, America has been using violence to ‘solve’ its problems. This young man was certainly very troubled, but rather than compassionate health care, he was expelled. He was a ticking time bomb, let loose in a country filled with guns. If he didn’t already know about guns, he certainly learned as a member of the air rifle team and of JROTC. With a little more guidance, who knows, he might have wound up in the military, he might have wound up in Afghanistan, he might have killed Afghan school children instead of American school children, and then he might have went to college on the GI Bill instead of to prison or death row. He might have wound up being labeled a hero rather than a monster.
There are perhaps a few other countries that could have created such a young man as this, but in these countries he would have never been able to get his hands on a gun, certainly not a high powered assault rifle. Guns aren’t the problem, the problem is a country that produces so many citizens who want to own guns, and so many citizens who think, perhaps from studying their own government, that violence will solve their problems. The NRA is right that guns aren’t the problem. America is the problem. This culture of fear, this culture of revenge, this culture of violence, this American culture is the problem.
This young man should never breathe free air again in his life. This is a horrific, terrible thing he has done. But people will be calling for his blood, calling for the state of Florida to kill him, calling for revenge. Calling for violence as a response, yet again, to this terrible violence. And we will be right back where we started.