Whether or not my job necessitates me to constantly pay attention to the brokenness of our society, I’d do so anyway. There was a turning point in high school Morality class when we were discussing the morality of war. A fellow student who claimed to be the most faithful to Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior, said that the invasion of Iraq was well-justified in our hunt for terrorists. Moreover, that the lives that were lost were unfortunate, but unimportant in the scheme of things because we had to win the War on Terror and bring justice to the lives lost on 9/11. National security must be restored, she said.
At that point I lost it. Without a word, I shoved everything off my desk, threw my chair backward, and stormed out of the classroom to find a place to cry. I ended up in a fire escape, where I promised myself I’d fight against such ignorant callousness in any way that I could. As that girl continued to spew neoconservative garbage throughout that semester, what stuck to haunt me ever since was the concept of “national security.”
Really though, what the fuck is “national security”? I may not know exactly what it is, but I do know where it isn’t.
It isn’t in a society that allows millions of people to fall through the cracks of the broken educational system and throws them aside into poverty because it recognizes no use for bodies no longer capable for manual labor.
It won’t be found in a system wherein billions of dollars of value is held by a few thousand individuals who can buy their way through democracy and rig the rules in their favor.
It isn’t in a world where discrimination based on gender, race, sexual preference, religion, ethnicity or any other characteristic is exacerbated by violent and savage rhetoric that is perpetuated out of unsubstantiated cowardly fear.
And it definitely won’t be found in a state that uses technology to intimidate, surveil, and kill innocent individuals for the sake of state-defined interests.
The U.S. has become a crumbling fortress from which we coerce our neighbors and shoot at our illusory foes. We bully others through the manipulation of international law, and cultivate enemies through state-sanctioned violence.
We have an entire agency committed to this thing “national security.” We throw billions of dollars at it, and all it does is undermine the exact values necessary for people to feel secure: trust and good will.
I just finished listening to this week’s episode of This American Life and it made me furious.
“Trends With Benefits” is about the U.S. federal disability program where 14 million Americans receive monthly payments because they’re unable to work. In theory, because they are too “disabled” to have a job. They step you through the statistics, peppered with interviews with individuals who are part of the system to personalize the cold numbers. As the number of people on welfare has declined, the number of those on the disability program has about tripled in the last 30 years. Private sector groups benefit from the situation, as do states and counties across the nation who can relieve their ailing budgets of the thousands of individuals on welfare, by shoving them over to the federal disability system where they tend to receive better benefits overall.
You just have to read this piece or listen to the story. It’s nasty.