September 3, 2019

This is America.

Last month, after the El Paso Walmart shootings, I poured my heart out to Elephant Journal readers about the need for us to abandon thoughts and prayers in favor of taking action.

We don’t need prayers, I wrote. We need action.

Nothing changed.

I write this on Labor Day, and yesterday it happened again, in Midland and Odessa. Nothing ever changes. Nobody does anything about gun violence.

More dead, innocent people—some of them, again, children.

What is wrong with my country? Why can’t anyone do anything to stop the insanity? I understand that there will always be unstable people out there with guns, but we have to at least try. I don’t think we are trying. Do we not care enough to try?

I fear we have accepted this as the new normal.

Just writing that sentence is depressing. This can’t be the new normal, can it? What if it is? What if it is?

I respect the people of my country too much to accept that. I think nothing changes for one big reason: most of us feel powerless. Why? It isn’t just about guns and mass shootings

Our country is degenerating into a hopeless funk. It wasn’t always like this. I remember growing up proud of my country. We put a man on the moon when I was nine years old. We cured smallpox, polio, and measles. We slowed down the ravages of HIV/AIDS. We fed the world. Mister Gorbachev tore down the wall.

Then something happened. We started to self-destruct. All of it was our own making. We won the space race because it was a race. We had to beat the Soviets to the moon, and we did. When the cold war was over and the USSR was gone, we had nobody to push us, and so we stopped pushing back. We collapsed into ourselves and stopped caring. We gave rich people more and poor people less.

Addiction and gun violence and global destruction are up. Personal connection is down. The rain forest is burning. The planet is crying, and people in charge don’t listen. What happened? How did we allow this to happen on our watch?

Today is a national holiday, but what do we celebrate? Unions are fighting to survive against corporate greed. The federal minimum wage hasn’t grown in years. People need to hold several jobs just to survive. Rents are up, real income is down. People literally can’t afford to live here anymore.

Our government will spend over half a trillion dollars more this year than it collects. The national debt is exploding. Our spending is not sustainable. How long until the economy crashes and burns? Remember when we at least pretended to care about the national debt? Nobody cares, now. We are destroying our economy and burdening our future generations. The destruction of our planet through global warming continues unabated. We pulled out of Paris. We’re making it worse. 

We spend trillions of dollars on guns and planes and bombs and implements of war and destruction instead of rebuilding our highways and water systems and parks, but when a candidate for president says she wants to establish a Department of Peace, she is laughed out of the house. Why is it okay to have a war department but not a peace department? Why is it okay to spend trillions on war and a pittance on peace? Why is it funny when someone suggests we could do the opposite?

Even our national anthem is about war. Bombs bursting in air. Can we, please, for once, start thinking peace? Change the national anthem to “America the Beautiful.” Crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. I believe Americans are a peace-loving people, but we have a government that thrives on being in a state of war. President Eisenhower’s 1961 warning was prophetic. Almost 60 years later, the military-industrial complex has won. We need a second American revolution. We need a revolution of peace.

Marianne Williamson points out that the Air Force says it needs “at least” 100 B-21 Raiders, at a cost of $550 million each, and they are scheduled to be delivered by 2021. Each B-21 Raider would have the nuclear capability to destroy the world. How fantastic! We will be able to destroy the world 100 times over. How many times do we really need to destroy the world? Even when God told Noah to build an ark, He destroyed the world only once.

What if we took the money we spent on one bomber and fixed the water systems of Flint and other cities that are close to catastrophe? We could still destroy the world 99 times. What if we took away a second bomber and funded most of the backlog of work needed to restore our National Park system? We could still destroy the world 98 times. What if we took away a third bomber and established a national system that fully treats mental health? We could still destroy the world 97 times. The arctic is melting and the Amazon is burning. What if we took away a fourth bomber, researched the hell out of the causes of climate change, and then implemented policies that would forestall further global warming? We could still destroy the world 96 times.

You get the idea.

Here’s another one: What if we don’t build 50 of those bombers and then we pay down the national debt so that our grandchildren are not left holding the bag? We could still destroy the world 46 times. That should be good enough, right?

Maybe if we were drinking healthy water, enjoying the natural beauty of our land, treating mental illness, honoring peace and not war, and living in a sustainable economy, then young men with guns would feel a connection to our country and wouldn’t feel a need to go shoot a bunch of innocent people.

Anyone have any better ideas?


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