Thursday, June 14, 2012

The American Spirit - A Culture of War or a Habitat of Peace?

In a new report published on Tuesday by the Institute of Economics and Peace, the United States is profiled at a paltry 88th in the annual global peace index rankings. The rankings are made through the combination of 23 indicators ranging from military expenditures, respect for human rights, and political stability. The most peaceful nations according to the report are Iceland, Denmark, and New Zealand.1

While the poor scores received in the United States for its large jailed populations, use of political terror, high levels of weapons exports, and world leading rankings in military capability and external death from conflict should be something you take note of, the fact that the United States is actively involved in either funding or participating in the fighting in at least seven of the ten least peaceful places on earth (Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Central African Republic, Israel, and Pakistan) is to me much more troublesome. Couple this with bipartisan support for American Exceptionalism and a budget in which 60% of discretionary spending is given to military measures and you have a recipe for something that is far from the intentions of the founding fathers.2

"The spirit of this country is totally adverse to a large military force."
-Thomas Jefferson3

Obviously no one informed the current American government of this; a government which produces a budget that contains 50% of global military spending. It is easy to get all up in arms about how our money is spent (because if you pay taxes in the United States that is your money), but really is the United States role as proverbial global policeman and quintessential hard power hegemon antithesis to the spirit of our nation? Let’s take a look at the results of one sample piece of the recent US military force and compare it to the alternative in order to see which is closer to the spirit of Americana.4

One Day of the Iraq War = 12,478 Elementary School Teachers for One Year
One Day of the Iraq War = 163,525 People with Health Care for One Year
One Day of the Iraq War = 1,274,336 Homes with Renewable Energy5

Which of these options sounds more like America to you? Is your America one of war or one of peace, sustainability, and an abundant compassion which cares for those who are the most vulnerable? We have all heard the famous line from the poem ‘The New Colossus’ which reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and is firmly situated at the base of the statue of liberty. What most of us have not heard is the line before it, "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”6

The storied pomp of all the ancient lands was their military; the great phalanx of the Greeks and the storied empire of the Romans all the way to the colonial dominions of the so called ‘great age’. I hope that soon the false reliance in American military force falls to the wayside of a future that leads to peace. I hope that each and every reader here takes a stand wherever they live to be a leader for peace by organizing and working to change our cultures of war into habitats of peace. Certainly not least of all though, I hope that the storied pomp which has been used to justify the continued spending on the proliferation and modernization of nuclear weapons in America, $61.3 billion in 2011 alone, comes to an end.7

Either we stand up to militarism in our society and our world in order to wage peace and bring about systems of equitable justice, or we let the spirit of America leave our country for good.

1 “2012 Global Peace Index,” Institute for Economics and Peace. June 12, 2012.
2 “One Minute for Peace,” American Friends Service Committee. 2012.
3 “Thomas Jefferson Quotes,” Search Quotes.
4 Thompson, Loren, “QDR Can’t Solve Three Biggest Defense Challenges,” Lexington Institute. January 28, 2010.
5 Stiglitz, Joseph, “The Economic Costs of the Iraq War,” Social Science Research Network. January 2006.
6 Lazarus, Emma, “The New Colossus.” 1883.
7 “Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. March 2012.

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