America, so built upon the cloud of the era of the Enlightenment, having as its pillars those virtues of liberty, and justice, and opportunity, though often has it shrunk from its form, never has it so more lacked in its participation as it does now. Though one could make the point, and rather astutely, that laws for three-fifths of men are more incorrigible than sound. So rather than talk about decay, as if this country were something once alive, and now only through dewy-eyes do we think it something corrupted and lesser, and mourn its old way, maybe we should say that, yes, from its onset has it been unsettling, and like something unnatural, or undead, giving off a fetid but unsure odor. But the point remains either way – America is morally bankrupt. And, though I could qualify every statement I make into obscurity, please allow just one more. This is not to single out America, and to say here is the fount and cause of all the world’s woes, for what I say here holds for many if not all of the world’s societies. It is to say that a society that holds the perpetuity of war as a thing common, that looks upon the corruption of its republic and does not think of the evil of empire, that uplifts the material and the corporeal and is abashed by the poor and the meek, no longer thinks of the welfare of its soul, or the thousand glimmering souls that form its whole. A society such as this is morally decayed. And here is the point: the only concern for you is the state of your soul. Everything else exists as a trifle. Soon you – and soon everything – will cease to exist. Then while we still have working hands and thinking minds, let us have ultimate concern for what is good, and for things that are not good, to make them so. We must then undertake a careful inquiry into the current state of our society.
The only moral society I have ever had the ability to think of is the liberal one. In such a society, each and every rational agent is assigned to them maximal liberty. This liberty stems simply from their very nature as rational beings. In a universe devoid of all things but myself, consisting simply of rivers, and fields, and trees, what is there to speak of of morality? Of rights? In such a universe I am absolutely free, of course, within the parameters of physics. Then let us add you to my universe. But it is no longer my universe, but ours. If we define a good action as one that gives you or I some benefit, and a bad action as one that does you or I some harm, though these definitions are simplistic, here we have some anterior morality. If to be moral is to do good acts, and if I wish to be moral, then certainly I should do good acts. And certainly if we were then to populate our universe with a thousand more, a few billion more even, then not much would change in what would make me moral, assuming the people who populate our world are reasonably similar to us. How then should we have our dealings with each other if we wish to be moral? To infringe upon the liberty of another is to cause them great grievance, and certainly causes them harm. For this fact, we should not infringe upon the innate rights of other rational beings. We must take liberty as our principle. This is because liberty is necessary for self-determination, for our choosing of our ends, and happiness is contingent upon our choosing of these ends. The addition of you and others to my universe, in conjunction with my wanting to be moral, has indeed limited my liberty. I have fewer choices of action than I did previously. But certainly the actions that I have lost are diminutive in the face of the things I have gained, namely, an understanding of mutual respect. This understanding of mutual respect allows me, and you as well, to seek our ends in relative peace, and this allows us a greater chance and variety of happiness. This sounds well, and necessary for any coexistence, but if we wish more than mere existence, it is hardly sufficient. If we wish to form a society, a cooperation among us, something that occurs naturally and fluidly, we need more.
It is both good and natural that we have a basis of equality. Do I, from the muck and ooze, suppose myself the better of my neighbor? I think not. Equality is justified by our participation in some form of rationality, and we could amend, in our shared capacity for suffering. Thus we must be equal – but in what way? Should all cobblers be judges then, and all dishwashers doctors? To think so is certainly absurd, and could be argued as unfair, not taking into account individual effort, and merit. It is not the equality of ends that we should seek then, but the equality of opportunity. If I were born a dishwasher, I should, by equality, have the same opportunity as a person born to doctors to become a doctor. Any society that does not work to this end acts antagonistic to reason, for why should a person born of the right class, or skin, or sex, or religion, be more likely to affirm their ends than I? Simply, they should not. But work as we may, even in a great society there exists the unfortunate, the sick, the poor, and the ostracized. Is the moral society to look upon the tides of the downtrodden then, and do nothing? Some people think this way the most moral solution. They say, some with heavy hearts (though I contend how many), that yes, though I pity these poor souls and bid them happiness, I cannot, in all good conscience, think our society as a whole the responsible avenue to mend their misfortune. To do so would be to trample the liberty of the other members of our society, by stealing from them, and appropriating their labor to the disadvantaged. But as Rawls would ask us – how should we form our society? If we were to start our society from scratch, not knowing what role we would play in it, would any reasonable being bring form to such a chaos and sharpness? Would I, as a being expressing reason, form a feudal society, or an egalitarian one? Certainly the latter, because even if I am selfish, if I were dropped into one of the two at random (because as we hopefully agreed earlier, the attributes of class, sex, etc., are at their essence random, and thus should not determine my opportunity), I see that my chance of being happy in medieval England is certainly much lower than in modern-day Denmark. Thus any reasonable being must conclude that a society that maximizes liberty, that treats human welfare, that ameliorates the human condition, and seeks equality, is superior to the one that does not.
We have now seen, in the most fundamental and abbreviated way, what a society should be and do. It should maximize liberty, strive for equality, and have the upmost concern for the welfare of people. All justification for such properties stem from our reason and experience, and our wanting to be moral and good. And to this point, there is another question I shall deal with briefly, though it deserves to be examined at length in its own way, and this is, why should I want to be moral? After all, being immoral has great opportunity to bring me happiness in the form of some ill-gotten pleasures or riches. I would look to the great moral philosophers for greater reasoning against this thought, especially Plato in the Republic. But let it suffice to say for our purposes that since it seems to me that morality is based on a rational principle, this implies that whatever is good is also rational, and since rationality tells me what I should do, then I should always seek to be good. But let us now, like Plato, comparing the things of this world to the Forms of the other, take our society of today and hold it to the ideal. And if I should err in anyway, please do not accept it, but question me, and think for yourself.
Let us begin with what is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of our society, that is, its blatant disregard for human welfare. If humans are things to be valued by our wills, as Kant might say, that gleam like brilliant jewels, then it is the greatest tragedy to treat anyone as a means to an end, rather than as an end in themselves, or perhaps even as less, as refuse and a thing discarded. The good society then must always seek to promote human welfare. If we wish to look after human welfare, we should require that people do not have need of want. The want, of course, of the necessary resources for survival. Want is an unnecessary construct of the immoral society. Its persistence is a failure of reason and arises when confusion comes to the intuitive truth of equality. Let us then examine want, and make a proof of sorts, first of its presence, then of its evilness, and finally of its non-essentialness.
45 million Americans live in poverty – 15 million being children, or 20% of all children in the United States. Poverty being defined as an annual income threshold of ~$25,000 for a family of four. Most of these people – including 13 million children – do not have reliable access to a sufficient amount of food. 70% of Americans have less than a $1,000 in savings. Half of Americans make $30,000 or less. How could it be possible, in the richest country to ever grace the earth, that even a single child would have want? And how can it be, in the midst of amazing medical advancement, that tens of millions of Americans live without health care? 45,000 of which die every year because of their lack of coverage. And if they do receive help, then they shall live in the chains of debt. Why should it be that in a place with the greatest institutions of learning, there is in place a de facto and crippling penalty to seek education, and a collective trillion dollars placed on the backs of those who have desire to better themselves? And of those without homes, now numbering greater than half a million, is there not shelter enough in our towering lofts that touch the sky, and our homes so finely equipped? This is not a question of self-reliance, or of personal responsibility – for how should a child be self-reliant? And shall we assume that only those with means should be able to undergo surgery, or receive medicine? What of the rest then, the least of these – shall they live with sickness though they need not? Shall human beings live in rain and cold, and go hungry – though they need not? A society that allows children to go hungry and the sick to rot is no society at all; it is a wretched thing, a sad cadaver already past, an abomination that either need be mended or exorcised. To dress it up, and perhaps only mention its misdeeds in passing is to do your fellow man and woman a great disservice. For the patriots are long dead, their revolution ended. The tyranny of today exists not across an ocean, but in ourselves, who oppress the weak, and tax the poor, and seek to make tyrants of ourselves, who enjoy the complacency of lands born on those underfoot. The patriot of today then, does not wave a flag, in conceit and vainglory, but seeks to instruct, and make better those things which she finds to be tyrannical to her fellow man and woman. It is our duty, as citizens and as human beings, to mend the sick, and feed the poor, and help the less fortunate. This is not affectation, but virtue. And if these are virtues in a human, as they certainly are, then are they not too virtues in the society as a whole? Point to me then where these virtues are lost in the translation from the one to the whole, and I will give up my preaching. But if you cannot, we must continue, and it seems to me very quite manifest that these are the duties of our society, namely, taking care for the upholding of human welfare.
We have shown, hopefully, that want is certainly present, and since it is a detriment to human welfare, it is most certainly evil, but if it is necessary, meaning it would arise in every society no matter how we went about building it, then we must admit defeat, and accept want and all of its consequences, however much we would lament to do so. But it is my contention that want is, for a good part, avoidable. And allow me to clarify one point before we go about a proof. By want, I mean a want arising against one’s will. A society can do nothing (and indeed has no business doing anything) for someone who would choose to want, no matter how absurd that may sound. So let us forget this version and focus on the important one.
Let us imagine a society in which wheat, trees, and rivers were plentiful, so plentiful in fact, that no one could even find their natural end. If I live alone in such a universe, then want, by any means, does not exist for me. If I can reap the field, wield an axe, and carry a bucket, my needs as an animal are certainly satiated. And if I go about adding more people to my universe, a few billion more let’s say, we would see that want is still no where to be found, since anyone can garner resources (assuming all people have the ability to do so). Want of the most basic sort, it seems, is a function of scarcity then. Let us take as an example another universe consisting you and I and one single wheat field. Let us say that this wheat field only has the potential to feed one of us. In such a universe, want is an inherent feature of reality, because try as we may, there is only enough resources for one of us. To figure out if want is necessary then, we must figure out which sort of universe we inhabit. If resources are such that every individual person could meet their need, then it would seem that want is non-essential, and thus, with a directed aim, could be seriously mitigated. Of course, this is an empirical question. I would argue that there are in fact enough resources for many more people to meet their basic needs than actually happens today. By this I mean if we were to assign to each person (all 7 billion of them) one “bundle of resource,” then we could, with effort and patience, steadily increase our ratio toward one. In fact, it has been argued that there is currently enough food produced to feed anywhere from 7 to 10 billion people. But this point should not be construed to mean that such a fact will hold for all time. Indeed, a very Malthusian future awaits us if we allow the population to grow unchecked, allow technology to stagnate, and allow our limited resources to wither. Water, of course, is a different question. Water is a much more variable resource and it is difficult to tell in which of the two universes it consists. Potable water, I believe, is only about 1% of the total water on earth. But, even if we assume that certain resources, water among them, are indeed limited, we should no longer go about pretending that want is a function solely of scarcity. It is emphatically not. Want comes about, too, and perhaps primarily, as a consequence of poverty. Let us return to our bountiful universe with never-ending fields. Let me now become a tyrant to my brothers and sisters, and let me claim the fields and rivers and trees as belonging solely to me. If I prevent others from obtaining these resources, then what I have done is no different in consequence than what scarcity does in actuality. And in our world, poverty is often the tyrant which impedes the fields, and rivers, and trees. As Bernie Sanders has been no stranger to remind us, the top tenth of 1% own as much wealth as the bottom 90%. 62 people own more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion. This half of the world lives on 3 dollars a day. The divide between the haves and have-nots is a great gulf indeed. Want deriving from poverty, regardless of scarcity, is something that can be mitigated, simply, by treating the poverty, by lessening the inequality. Look now to what you have, friend. Look at the conceit and waste that consumes our society. We who live as kings and gods are nothing more than usurpers and tyrants to our fellow man. No moral justification can be made to explain away the starvation and enslavement of entire peoples as we waste and consume like debauchers. This is not to say that we are to blame for just eating and drinking and living. I would never blame anyone for that. But since I can easily imagine a universe in which you and I are just – or very nearly just – as happy as we are today, and at the same time want has been seriously diminished for those who exist wretchedly now, then certainly our inaction to engender such a universe leaves us with a moral culpability. The normalization of death, slavery, and poverty is the most serious illusion to be cast upon us. Such a society cannot persist and lay claim to any form of morality. To progress then, to a more noble state, we must work to dethrone want. True, we may never be able to erase all evil from this world. But we can certainly try – and do good where it is possible. Nothing prevents our attempt, besides perhaps our own moral cowardice. And to this end, want is avoided by reducing scarcity (through science, I suppose), and by reducing poverty (through politics or some other avenue, I would gather). If we wish to be good, we must work to conspire against want, and as a result, against scarcity and poverty, because want is antagonistic to human welfare, and as we have shown, the promotion of human welfare is essential to the good society.
Of course, even if every person on the earth were able to meet their most basic needs – of food, and water – we could still not qualify ours as the good society, and as such, I am not yet satisfied. As I mentioned earlier, there exists hundreds of thousands of people (just in the US) that do not have access to shelter. 50,000 of these homeless people are veterans. 1/4 are mentally ill. The amount of money spent on the US military’s (still behind schedule and failing) F-35 jet program could have housed every homeless person in America with a $600,000 home. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been funneled into this – one of untold many – superfluous and incompetent weapons program, filling the pockets of the weapons manufacturers, when it could have very seriously and easily improved the American society in a dramatic and unprecedented way. These are hundreds of billions of dollars that could have saved and altered hundreds of thousands of lives, by being spent on housing, medical and mental health, and drug programs. Instead they are aimed to further our decline.
But yet another serious deficiency requires our attention. This is the state of education in the United States. The United States ranks 17th out of 40 countries in educational performance. We rank 24th in literacy. We rank 2nd out of 14 in ignorance. And so on. Some may say that there is nothing we can do about it. There simply are not enough resources and avenues to improve its current state. Not surprisingly, this sentiment stems from ignorance. The stench of defeatism lingers long on those who cannot seek even bronze. Hundreds of billions of dollars squandered on a jet hardly known and barely functional should make us suspicious of what else we supposedly cannot do; and when we have sent a man to the moon, probed the atom, and seen creation in its infancy, I’ll hear nothing yet of what can and cannot be done. For $80 billion we could make college tuition-free. This could easily be funded by a diminutive tax on Wall St. speculation, a cut in military spending, a cut in corporate welfare, releasing nonviolent inmates, or any number of other black pits. The point is that our efforts need not be as futile as the mass bureaucracy of empire often instills in us. We can learn and make change if we direct and extend our effort. Goodness need not come at some hefty price. And if we wish to learn, we should see how our betters have overcome us, and accomplished so much. Finland ranks first in education, even though the United States and Finland spend the same amount of GDP on education. Why then do they sprint to the finish line (no pun intended) while we dally behind and barely manage to complete the task at hand? I won’t seek to solve all of education here, but I will give you this to think on. Finland places value on childhood – they understand that a child is not a machine, and thus do not perform tests on them until they are brainless oblivions. They place value in education as an institution, understanding its true merit as a proper investment, and as a moral imperative, and see clearly that it is not a thing to be bought and sold, but to be looked after by those with its best interest in mind. And they value the educator herself, as a professional deserving respect and rigor. Do we suppose that the education of the youth is something less vital than some menial task? Why then, should the teacher be valued less (and compensated severely less) than many another profession? The teacher deserves as much deference, indeed even more, than the banker, or the politician, or the doctor. Because although the doctor looks over the health of the body, the educator looks after the health of the soul, and this is a duty more sacred than the former. The responsibility of the teacher is great indeed. We must then ensure that the position of teacher be more rigorous, respected, and defined than even that of the doctor. The teacher of youth should be the most wise and good among us. So much in fact, that I would hope that not even I could have a place among them.
Having dealt with a few ways in which we could promote human welfare, let us turn to another failing in our society. Here now we should be unequivocal: the prime cause of our woeful state is, besides our own indifference, the evil influence that money has wrought over our republic. America is corrupt – let there be no murmuring to the contrary. To see evidence for this claim, look acutely at the political machinations that take place in America today so brazenly, and openly, and without even thought to shame or reproach. Please, I really do implore you, look to what Washington has become, and I ask you not as a demagogue, but as a fellow citizen who is concerned with the state of our republic. Look at the festering legions of lobbyists, who hover about Washington, and with bloated pockets whisper so intently into the huddled ears of lawmakers, spending 2 billion dollars a year in Washington. And what shall we say of Super PACs, and the financing of our elections? Can there be any serious man upon the earth who can look at the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling and say, with integrity and all seriousness, that allowing the wealthiest people and the largest corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns is a good and healthy act of democracy? Or can anyone view Buckley v. Valeo, and accept the fact that money is a form of speech, and not see the immediate consequence that the richest people have the largest say in things? Money has no place in a free republic. Look to every failed society and notice that if it failed from within, it is because the powerful grew corrupt, and let the sun of all public servants – the common good – be blocked out by multifarious desire.
Let us take one thought experiment to see the effects of money in the political system. Imagine me to be a lawmaker running for office; it’s not too important which office, only that I have an influence on which laws will be written. Let us imagine also that the society that I inhabit is similar to ours. A corporation that manufactures chemicals for cleaning solutions, let’s say, runs a factory by a river, and as it stands now, it is illegal for them to dump runoff into this river. A lobbyist of theirs expresses to me their distaste for such restrictive regulations. If me and this lobbyist happen to get along, perhaps over lunch (maybe he finds my jokes amusing), he is willing to donate to my campaign, or offer me a position after my term, or some other reward. The egregious nature of such a system should be clear. This is the nature of our society today. It does not matter if it is a chemical manufacturer, or a bank, or a maker of cheese. It does not matter if what is sought is the loosening of regulation, the lowering of taxes, or some other benefit. Perverse incentive will ultimately engender perverse outcomes. As we have shown, the good society should always seek to benefit human welfare. Thus, the lawmaker should seek always to benefit the public good, or generally, human welfare, but: Ye cannot serve God and mammon. The way our laws have been slowly manufactured in the last century have created a clear conflict of interest between what is right and what is lucrative. This contradictory structure has steadily tilted our republic away from serving the common good. Now the structure is so twisted that it is near to snap. The corruption is curdling.
People spend money in order to acquire something they desire, or at least think they desire. The meticulous nature of corporations make them particularly partial to such a truth. It follows then that people spend money in the political system in order that the person whom they elect (the financiers do in fact appoint our lawmakers, broadly assuming causation – 90% of elections are won by the candidate who has the most money) will later favor them in some manner. This is bribery. No other word exists to more clearly define such an act. This is bribery by the unfathomable influence of billions of dollars. Examples exist in nearly every so-called public servant. Look at former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Corbett who took millions of dollars from energy giants, and yet denies that this had anything to do with his pro-fracking stance. Look at the entirety of the Republican Party, as it denies climate change and just so happens to take millions from oil companies. Look at President Donald Trump (truly, we are doomed) who openly admits of his own part in the system of corruption, and has appointed the likes of former Exxon Mobile and Goldman Sachs titans to his administration. Look at how many politicians have received “donations” from Goldman Sachs, highest among them being Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and a litany of others. Dianne Feinstein takes money from PG&E. Tom Cotton from Koch Industries. Paul Ryan from Pfizer. Et cetera, et cetera. Truly, I could go on all day. The corruption is systemic and pervasive. It encourages the perverse incentive to betray the common good. It encourages the growing participation and influence of the wealthy few, and the apathy of the disillusioned many, furthering our decline into a state of oligarchy.
But who sits in our jails today? Is it the corrupt, and the sellouts, and the sophists? Is it the rich and those who have trampled the law in order to better themselves? Is it the bankers who caused the 2008 crash, or the torturers and war criminals of the neo-conservative era? No, it is not. It is the poor and the meek, and those who cannot defend themselves. It is the black person, whose cells of today now outnumber the chains of slaves in 1850. It is the Native American, who is most likely to be killed by police, and imprisoned up to six times more than the average American. It is the Latino, who consistently faces harsher sentences for the same crime committed by white people. What a peculiar institution this is – this new Jim Crow! Two million men and women, two million human beings exist as our prisoners. Look here then, and I shall show you at least a million depressions which could be a million dreams, and a million cells which could be a million rooms of learning. How many thousands are filled unjustly. How many chains are the burdens of tyranny. In truth, 40% of these prisoners could be released as they pose no serious threat to public safety. In doing so we would save tens of billions of dollars – and hundreds of thousands of lives. But, says the the warden, these walls and towers and bars are built with the common good in mind, in the defense of peace. To this end, releasing the addicted, and the poor, and the savages of all kinds is a threat to our common stability and calmness.
But certainly no reasonable person denies the need for prisons generally. What I emphatically do deny is the need for prisons as the solution to all criminal behavior. Or in the case of drugs, non-criminal behavior. Not all problems can be solved by throwing them away, because nothing is born from the void. If we do not treat the root of the problem, then we have been as a fool, seeing effect as cause, treating what is symptomatic as the disease. Indeed, the war on drugs is a war on minorities and all people of poverty. Even though whites and minorities use and sell drugs at similar rates, drug sentencing disproportionately affects poor people and people of color. But to a larger point – over 20 million Americans have an addiction to drugs or alcohol. If you take into view that more people die of overdose than car accidents, homicide, or suicide, it becomes clear that this is an issue of public health, of purpose and meaning, of poverty, not criminality. A drug addict is a victim, a victim of herself and of our moral failing as a thinking and compassionate society. And often, she is a victim of a lacking purpose. But let us not assume that the drug user is always a victim. Sometimes they are simply human beings expressing their bodily autonomy, to do with their body as they so choose. To deny them this right is to become a tyrant, to unjustly exercise power over them for personal gain. And so in the criminalization of drugs we see quite clearly the effect that corruption has on our society. When perverse circumstance is designed in the entrapment and oppression of people – the impoverished and all those abandoned by the larger society – when the redressing of grievances is no longer an ability, the oppressed are often to seek distraction in their addiction or pleasure, or to seek rebellion against their condition in some fashion of crime. When the society then uses the things distilled from this unnatural sieve to further the disparity, we see one of the most inhuman webs spun by man. Instead of criminal reform, we pursue the draconian. Instead of helping the addicted, we condemn them. Instead of sympathizing with the impoverished, we ignore and aggravate. The prison of today is an industry, a factory whose product is human life, whose consequence is perverse law, and whose ultimate result is neo-slavery. The private prison, the lawmaker, the policeman, the weapons manufacturer, and the pharmaceutical giant, in their gross assembly, show vain disregard for liberty and human welfare, by valuing profit more than man – mammon more than God.
The corruption of our Senate now exceeds even that of Rome, and to this we may say our Caesar is the corporation, whose treachery knows no bound. But it is not say that capitalism is inherently evil. It stems, after all, from liberty, and free association. What is evil though, is the commingling of private and public interests. What is evil, and let us not think of another word, because it certainly is evil, is the fact that lobbyists and corporations and special interests of all manner dump money by the billions into our political system, and buy it out, as if it were for sale. And should we assume it out of good will? Do we suppose these towering prisons are built in the name of the common good, and our thunderous bombs are dropped in the promotion of world peace? Only a fool could think such things. The moneyed interests have infected our society like maggots, or snakes, and seek to feed upon its ribs until they have ran it dry, and will then run onto the next host. This fate, as true patriots, we must defend against.
Having dealt so harshly with so many aspects of our American society, you may think nothing left to criticize. You may say, Ant, you’ve done enough, go away, and bother someone else with your nonsense. But as long as justice need be defended, it is my duty, and yours as well, to defend her, no matter what anyone else says. So before I leave you alone, there is something blatant that we have yet to deal with, that has become so engrained in our society that most people think nothing of it at all. That is war.
War is an egregious effort exerted in the destruction of human beings. That is what it is – simply. It is often the full impetus of existence guided toward a ruinous and excited end. It is often glorified, and proud. But when empires commit war, they do so with the detached and thoughtless mind of mandate. A border then is a trifle, violence a pick, or a shovel, human excellence a squeal drowned out by the gears and rotors of a mobilized machine. The wars of empires are fought in distant lands, for the claim of wealth that couldn’t make a difference to the already amassed pile. This is not to say that I do not believe in the idea of a just war, for, sometimes, wars will certainly be necessary. But even here we find war as a terrible thing that brings suffering to the world. And as we have already concluded, the good society must work against this end.
America is engaged in perpetual and meaningless war. The US-led invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, although officially ended, are in truth, far from it. And this new perceived threat in ISIS will work to further our entrapment. The US maintains thousands (the true number being undisclosed) of soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and sent some form of military dispatchment to 70% of all countries on the face of the earth in 2015, including Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. The original intent of the Afghanistan war was to destroy Al-Qaeda and disrupt the Taliban. But Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011. And he was not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, and was killed by a small team, not a massive army. And how big was Al-Qaeda in the first place, to demand such an earth-trembling response? A few hundred people, perhaps a few thousand? Does a small terrorist organization warrant ourselves terrorizing an entire landmass? The United States military spends more than the next top eight nations combined, most of which are our allies. The original reasoning behind the 2003 Iraq war was that Saddam Hussein may have had connections to 9/11, and also to free his grasp from the supposed weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was toppled within the year – he had no involvement in 9/11 and never possessed any weapons of mass destruction. The consequences of these massive obfuscations are untold. Conservative estimates of civilian deaths lie in the hundreds of thousands. Thousands of allied troops lie dead, and tens of thousands wounded and maimed. And when all is said and done, these wars will have cost the United States trillions of dollars. Not to mention that our continued involvement lent to the creation and empowerment of a larger threat – ISIS. The gross incompetence – rather, criminality – displayed by the military and oligarchy is astounding, but what truly disturbs me is the silent ignorance expressed by us, and our fellow brothers and sisters. The peculiarity of war must never become familiar to us, because it is then that we have grown deaf to the most violent pangs of a tortured humanity. And I cannot know how deafness arose to these wars, with their explosions and dismemberments, with their gnashing teeth and burnt flesh, but we have slumbered in the complacency of our amenities and distractions for too long. Never let war and suffering become far away objects in your mind – you must think of them often. Not to torture or blame yourself, but to keep the action in your arm, and the fight for liberty ever watered and renewed. As we speak there are American bombs being dropped in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia – the poorest places on the face of the earth. But if we perceived our enemies, say some other rag-tag militia numbering in the few thousands, to exist in Paris, or London, or New York, in a sleepy hamlet in Italy, or a rural town in Iowa, how many bombs would we drop in these places? How many innocents would we allow to die so callously? Few, if any, I imagine. Such an act would be labeled an atrocity. There would be no talk of necessary evil. We would find other means to defeat them, because there are certainly much more sane and effective methods. Is there a difference in moral value then, between your mother or brother in California and someone else’s in Iraq? No? Then let us not make a special plea. As rational beings we cannot treat similar cases in a dissimilar manner without reason.
But back to the question, what sense is there in the continuation of senseless war? As we have seen, the original objectives of the war have been met or were entirely fabricated to begin with. The United States has spent decades exploiting the Americas and Africa, destabilizing the Middle East, and thinks to solve the problems we caused by dropping a few more 100,000 bombs, as if the last few 100,000 haven’t done enough. Give me just one reason why we should have thousands of American lives sacrificed and trillions of dollars squandered in a faraway land – I am certain you cannot. No lover of liberty is a supporter of the Taliban or ISIS. No true patriot supports Saddam, or Gaddafi, or now, Assad. But a foreign agent invading and bombing is not the road to liberty – it is the road to further political disaster and strife. It is the road, in truth, that excites terrorism. It is the road to corruption and human suffering. If nothing else, this is what the last few decades should have revealed to us so very clearly. Then why do we continue down this path? The answer is, of course, obvious, if we take into consideration the empire that the United States has become. These wars are undertaken so that the arms manufacturers may profit, and the war profiteers, and the private military companies, and the private health industry, and so the corrupt lawmakers may profit, and let us not forget the fossil fuel industry. An industry of war is the last act of barbarism from the so-called civilized world. A society that does not know how many wars it is engaged in, how many people it is killing, is beyond reproach. It is a grand evil – and let us not call it anything different. America has always carried a big stick, but she no longer walks softly, but dumbly. Of course, America is a nation founded in revolution and violence. It is in our DNA. America is a nation that systematically eliminated, oppressed, or enslaved tens of millions of people based on the stratification of class and skin. Violent, warmongering, uncaring, certainly, are not traits of the good society. We must always work to end unjust war, and to remember that violence is a tremendous evil. Our lack of exposure to its terrible nature is no excuse; our ignorance itself is culpable. We must acknowledge the fact that war is undertaken with our silence as consent.
I have yet to mention the fact that the United States has been engaged in torture. We have broken the Geneva Convention, and habeas corpus, stealing the rights of human beings. We have unlawfully and indiscriminately spied on our citizens and the world at large. We have stockpiled tens of thousands of nuclear arms. We have allowed for the consolidation and pacification of the press. We have allowed for the mass proliferation of guns in service to the fear-mongers and weapon manufacturers. And perhaps of the most paramount concern, we have done nothing to prevent the largest existential crisis that we have ever faced – climate change. No treasure upon the earth is worth what we have done to our souls. No amount of material can mend the suffering our apathy has wrought. And it is certainly we, for our silence speaks itself.
After such an attack on almost every facet of our American society, you may think me some disloyal ingrate, a gibbering malcontent, taking no notice of the mother who suckled me. But nothing could be further from the truth. Love is expressed not in control, or agreement, or even nearness, but in wanting what is good for those you love, and seeking to bring them closer to it. The truth is you may never find such a loyal servant to the Union than I. The demagogues and politicians and false patriots, the imposters and thieves and traitors, have left America ashamed, unclothed, and near death. It is our duty, not to restore her stars, not paint again her stripes, but make her anew, as the tempered glory seen in flame. Thus, here is my appeal to heaven. Let us no longer be inert and complicit. Let us no longer sit idly by in the face of oligarchy. But let us go forward, with free minds and open hands, and seek everyday to become closer to what is good and true.