A cautionary message for the United States…
I know this is going to come across as preachy* and I apologize in advance. I’ve been saddened over the past two days at various news reports from our American neighbours, and I just can’t help but respond (rant warning)… It’s incomprehensible to me how such an allegedly “developed” nation as the U.S. can be so blind to basic rules of nature and the truisms of history—state it in whatever terms you like, but “you end up sleeping in the bed you make.” Three troubling traits, to wit…
The U.S. (Wall Street et al at the helm) has recently precipitated a global financial melt-down—we’re told that nearly half of the world’s wealth has disappeared within the past 18 months—affecting both its own hapless citizens as well as the rest of the globalized world. I’ve posted on greed before, so no need to blather on here… though my heart goes out to the auto workers being laid off in droves, to the tens of thousands who have been forced out of homes they can no longer afford, and to the would-be retirees who have lost their life savings and dreams for relaxation in their pensioned September years.
News out this week that Obama will be doubling the number of U.S. troops waging war in Afghanistan (big disappointment there, but I guess I was being naive in thinking that Bush’s departure would bring about a change in Washington’s long-standing, hegemonic approach to war-faring), and that he will be “fighting to prevent the release of photographs documenting abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by United States military personnel, thereby reversing his earlier position on the issue” after commanders warned that the images “could set off a deadly backlash against American troops.” Duh! The Russians have a great saying that applies here methinks: “Lies have short legs.”—I’d suggest that the only way for the U.S. to purge itself of the scourge and hatred it has brought upon itself through the practice of illegal torture and degradation of its opponents is to finally come clean, rather than to continue with a policy of obfuscation and cover-up at the expense of transparency and accountability. (Just imagine the redemptive and conflict-healing effect that a contrite apology and change of ways from Washington could have on potential young jihadists).
Particularly troubling was the story I chanced across yesterday (here) regarding the Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, now training thousands of young people “in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence,” with a focus on weapon use—essentially educating impressionable teenagers to be armed vigilantes. Is this not akin to training child soldiers? Are there not more positive alternatives than teaching militarism? Perhaps learning about organic gardening, for example, or conflict resolution, or bicycle repair, or learning another language, or acquiring sustainable living skills?
Another big disappointment today was hearing that the promised shut-down of Guantanamo Bay and the end of the military commission system (tribunals) that the Bush administration created to try “suspected terrorists” is also being forestalled by Obama. But perhaps this also shouldn’t come as a surprise—the U.S. imprisons more of its citizens by far than any other nation on earth (with only 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. boasts 25% of the world’s incarcerated population—very profibable business for the likes of Halliburton, mind you, see comments re: “Greed” above). A look at the U.N.’s statistics on national incarceration rates is telling—the U.S. locks up nearly 7 times as many folks per capita as Canada does, more than 10 times as many as Denmark, and over 20 times as many as India. Home of the brave, land of the free?
*My father was a pacifist pulpiter, so I come by this naturally—is that a valid excuse? He taught me things like “if you live by the sword, expect to die by the sword,” and “you can tell a tree by its fruit…”
Above images: U.S. Explorers (a Boy Scouts of America affiliate) being trained in militarism; see more here.