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We Can’t Bomb Our Way to Better Schools

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” ~ Dr. King

From the left and the right, policy proposals are flying fast and furious. It is an election year, after all.  But one topic is completely off the agenda from both sides of the party line: decreasing military spending.

Today’s political candidates are universally unwilling to discuss the military budget, overseas aggression, nuclear weapons, militarism, or imperialism – except to recommend more of it.

The problem is, we can’t bomb our way into better schools.

Year after year, we continue to pour our tax dollars into the war budget at the expense of other social programs. And, even as we overfund the military contractors, we also fail to care for our veterans and renege on our recruitment promises of education and jobs for the youth. Neither of the two major-party presidential candidates will discuss ending the endless war, bringing our troops home, or investing in improving the infrastructure, education, and opportunities here at home.

Those who study the rise and fall of empires know that the obsession with military expansion, and the pouring of a nation’s resources into militarism at the expense of other programs leads to collapse. The fall of many powerful empires throughout human history has been preceded by such a cycle. Regardless of one’s views on whether or not the United States should be pursuing the goal of imperialism, the obvious truth is that we are, in fact, a heavily militarized empire, with five colonial territories, and nearly 700 military bases in countries around the world.

We’re operating on increasingly shaky ground. As we head into the elections, where are the candidates who will frankly acknowledge this danger?  Who will commit to investing in our youth, our communities, and our people?  Will we continue to obsessively and aggressively try to demonstrate our greatness through military might or will we find ways to humbly and compassionately strive for basic goodness – not even greatness – in the way we treat one another here at home?

We may be modern people with smartphones, airplanes, and entrenched beliefs in our political divisions, but at the end of the day, human values haven’t changed much. We’re still hoping and longing for the same things. We all want our kids to be healthy. We want our schools to be engaging and empowering. We want our communities to be safe. We want to have enough. We don’t want to be hungry or homeless. We don’t want bombs dropping on our heads. We want meaningful opportunities for our young people (and ourselves). We want a world for our great, great grandchildren.

The question is: how do we get those things? Although the policies, platforms, and proposals abound, one thing is clear: continuing to overfund the military at the expense of programs of social uplift is not going to improve the situation of the average American.  As Dr. King adroitly pointed out so many years ago, we are approaching spiritual death by continuing on this path. At the end of our endless wars, what are we defending? As we gut our schools, incarcerate our populace, over-police our poor communities, let roads and infrastructure crumble, what exactly are we sending our sons and daughters overseas to protect? We cannot bomb our way into better schools. Instead, we must beat the swords of our bombers into plowshares, study war no more, and rebuild the spiritual, moral, and cultural integrity of our nation.

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Rivera Sun is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection and other books, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network.

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