hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of
– The Declaration of Independence, 4 July, 1776
At the very same time the founding fathers declared that “all men are created equal,” they continued to allow slavery and many of them, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington included, owned slaves and continued to own slaves past writing this historic document and past writing the Constitution which counted a slave as 3/5 of a person but, of course, allowed them to be property rather than people and passed this judgment on to their children and grandchildren. This wasn’t done easily, I admit, but it was done and, once done, it became easy for those following them to ignore these inconsistencies. Furthermore, these same men, touting God’s support for equality and freedom, continued to exterminate this country’s original inhabitants or herd them onto its least-desirable land and maintain them there like cattle.
At the start of the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Having just freed the slaves, he failed to see the hypocrisy in his statement. But his denial doesn’t end here. He finishes with “ … and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” By completely ignoring half the population, he imagined that our government was “of the people” and “by the people” even though all women were excluded.
Another blind spot showed up later. The Pledge of Allegiance had no “under God” for 50 years. When we added it after World War II, it felt right – to our religious minds. There was actually a reason it wasn’t originally included. The “under God” that we all are supposed to say together implies that our nation works for God, that our nation is subservient to the Almighty. This isn’t and hasn’t been true. I suppose it might be nice if it were true and if God happened to be just and kind, but almost every “under God” throughout history was a lie. I think it is pretty obvious that there wasn’t much holy about the “Holy Roman Empire” – or any empire for that matter – including the Israelite empires and today’s American Empire. Even the Crusades (Christian and Islamic both) were not in the service of a loving and inclusive God.
Furthermore, it is perfectly legal and proper for a United States citizen to be a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Communist, an agnostic or an atheist. We are supposed to be allowed our own beliefs without discrimination or judgment. The “under God” was designed to economically, emotionally and socially shun non-Christians; Communists and Socialists in particular. Its appearance coincided with witch hunts by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s denunciations of various “traitors” including the sitting President. It isn’t only a lie, it is a perpetration. By including both the “under God” and the “indivisible,” the crowd is saying to certain Americans, “you don’t belong here because you don’t believe in what we believe in.” Furthermore, for most of them, it is a particular God who is represented in The Holy Bible. Finally, this addition further cements a wall of misunderstanding between “believers” and “non-believers.” While we no longer support the Catholic Church’s Inquisition, some of its self-righteousness persists here.
These oversights are called denial. It is a way we humans ignore certain inconvenient facts in order to band together into families, tribes, religions, nations, alliances, and empires. It is both a strength and a weakness. On a personal level, denial is used to make excuses for addictive behavior. On a national level, we see something which looks, feels and acts like addiction.
Denial allowed us to bully Native Americans, steal their land, blame them for reacting, and then wipe out any who resisted this injustice. This, at least, was rational even though it wasn’t fair or ethical.
More recently, denial helped us spend billions of tax dollars defending a series of dictators in the sham and temporary country of South Vietnam when any free election would have likely reunited this ancient country and elected our enemies who morphed into allies as soon as we left them alone. In other words, we conducted an entire brutal war which spent massive amounts of money we didn’t have to kill three million people and create massive suffering for no good reason at all! Well, there were reasons: profit for the war machine and self-aggrandizement and excessive debt for the rest of us. When we finally left their country to rule itself, the people we had chosen to be “enemies” immediately and unambiguously fought on our side of the Cold War against Communists in Cambodia and China.
We didn’t learn either! Just about 30 years later, we did something even dumber; we invaded Iraq! Again, we ruined the country and stopped all economic and political growth in the region. No democracy was created or sustained. Stability, cohesiveness and the rule of law evaporated. Their fairly modern infrastructure and economy collapsed. The middle class, the most progressive element in the country and among the most progressive in the region, eventually was forced to flee: over a million refugees flooding an already overcrowded Arab world. This, in turn, was the direct cause of more disastrous and ongoing violence.
Clearly we’re making stupid decisions and we’re not learning from our mistakes. If nothing else, we’re going broke financing all this unnecessary and unwarranted death and destruction.
Maybe it’s time to really look long and hard at the invalid assumptions which allow us a pretense of being good; which underwrite policies which result in frequent and ineffective interventions; which help us believe that our troops are “fighting for democracy” when they aren’t and haven’t been; and, even though this hasn’t worked and isn’t working, more violence or threats of violence will somehow fix things.
I think being more honest with ourselves is long overdue. Think of the suffering we could have avoided if only we had been informed well enough to know that anti-colonialists can also be anti-communists and that a stable dictatorship is preferable to locals than foreign invasion and lawlessness.
By looking at things as “good” and “evil” and by painting ourselves as “good,” we miss most of the pertinent information about a supposed “enemy.” The 9/11 terrorists, for example, were moderate and generally well-educated people and did what they did, not because of their religious views but in reaction to our active and biased military presence in the Middle East since the First World War. We hand-picked their “leaders” with people who bought our weapons and cooperated with our agendas. We spent billions on supporting despotism in the region, not democracy or freedom.
Perhaps you have thanked our troops for their work overseas. Can you actually recount any good that has come of it? Can you point to some freedom we actually defended either there or here? What benefit did you as a taxpayer receive from the billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and untold suffering that this foolish and unwarranted military activity caused?
How about “fighting terrorism” by doing the one thing, the only thing, that causes terrorism? How can that be rational?
There is one and only one country on the planet to have used a nuclear weapon against a civilian population. This rogue nation is the United States of America.
Furthermore, we used chemical weaponry against rice farmers 8,000 miles from our borders who could not pose a credible threat to our citizenry if they tried. They had no naval forces, no infrastructure, and were fighting a civil war against each other. Furthermore, the leadership we supported were the profiteers that had colluded with a succession of invaders: Chinese, French, Japanese, French and American. We contrived reasons for us to invade – and we believed them and continue to believe these ridiculous justifications for slaughtering people in their own homes in their own country based on biased, inaccurate information as well as faulty thinking.
We’ve been doing this for some time now: using war to gain economic advantages and to launder money through unnecessary war expenditures.
When April Glaspie, the US Ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam Hussein that we were neutral in their squabble with Kuwait (a piece of land containing massive oil reserves and a natural deep water port on the Persian Gulf carved out of Iraq after World War I and made into a British colony), we, the voters, were unaware of the lie. We were unaware of the hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells slant-drilled under Iraq and stealing her oil. We were told, instead, that Hussein was a madman obsessed with power and that poor, defenseless Kuwait was the victim. We sent a half million troops to northern Saudi Arabia to defend her. And our biased news sources never told us why the Iraqi troops set oil wells on fire as they retreated.
False accusations against Iraq by the United States continued. We, a country with massive nuclear firepower, pretended that Iraq was attempting to build one or two nuclear weapons. Again, it was a lie. We said they had ties to al Quida and other terrorist organizations, another boldfaced lie. And we unilaterally invaded without United Nations sanction based on these false rumors and incendiary rhetoric.
Our desire to attack relatively defenseless people goes back to our origins when we wrested this land from its original inhabitants and claimed it for our own. We decry bullying by others but somehow manage to see ourselves as “good.”
Between the First World War and the Second, a retired three-star Marine Corps general twice awarded the nation’s highest military honor, Smedley Darlington Butler, wrote a small book entitled War Is a Racket wherein he elucidates the reason why many of our corporations support ongoing wars: they are highly profitable.
Since most corporations exist with one and only goal: to make profit, it isn’t all that surprising that a country run by corporations with unlimited political clout finds or manufactures excuses to go to war.
But we still have a supposedly “free” population which is supposed to set this country’s agenda by voting for the candidate that most closely supports their own values. So far, the winning slogans all have the word “great” describing our country. We equate destructive power with greatness. It seems to be embedded deeply in our thinking. We worship a destructive God. We play virtually destructive games. And we, regularly and with clear consciences, send our troops on destructive errands all over the Earth pretending that we’re “defending freedom” and “protecting our families,” when it is abundantly clear that staying home would be a far more effective strategy.
©David N. Dodson, September, 2015, Phoenix, AZ