“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake,” said Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress.
Decades of invasions, airstrikes, occupations, and conflict have left Americans staring at a disastrous rubble of our own making. War is an earthquake – a violent, destructive force unleashed. The aftershocks bring our veterans and communities to their knees as 20 veterans commit suicide each day, and PTSD cripples veterans and their families. Our tax dollars are sucked into the bottomless pit of military contractors’ pockets and we witness greedy oligarchs and politicians manipulating the nation into yet another war while the unhealed scars and wounds from past conflicts grow increasingly deeper.
The annual cycle of military holidays sets off flurries of sentimental speeches about supporting our troops. But, between the bouts of patriotic fanfare, few politicians care enough about those women and men in uniform to end the wars and bring them home, to de-escalate growing conflicts, or to demonstrate real commitment to dealing with the veterans with respect by providing adequate services, preventing homelessness, and treating PTSD and other health challenges.
In this election cycle, the citizens – left and right – need to question the militarized rhetoric of the candidates. Who is campaigning on “bringing American sons and daughters home?” Which candidates want to end wars? Who dares to stand up to the greed of the military industrial complex and call out warmongers who are just hungry for a new multibillion-dollar military contract? Blood money. Which candidates will defy the profiteering racket that takes our nation’s youth and sends them into the jaws of death in order to rake in trillions of our tax dollars that should have been spent on education and infrastructure—both of which produce far more good jobs per $billion spent than the military sector?
Who challenges inflammatory lies that drive us into conflicts around the globe? Who will publicly say that hate speech is endangering – not saving – our young people? Our men and women in the military know firsthand the vast difference between the lies and propaganda we are told versus the realities on the ground in the countries our troops are fighting in.
Which candidates will decry the rising militarism of our society, and especially in our police? Many of our veterans are deeply disturbed by these trends. For them, militarized police are a violation of the ethics they were taught. To view citizens as “potential enemy combatants” – as many police trainings currently teach – is an affront to the deep principles of loyalty and protection they believe in. Seeing tanks and assault rifles on the streets at home triggers PTSD, invokes the horrors of what they experienced, and makes them wonder what were they fighting for if war is now a reality in our streets, waged by our own police forces against our own citizens. The very freedoms they were trained to defend are constantly being violated by the actions of the police – as well as by the NSA, by legislation passed by politicians, and by the failure of corporate-controlled courts to uphold the rights of citizens.
This election cycle, pay attention to which candidates speak about ending wars, not escalating them and about smarter ways to ensure our security. Who stands up for the rights of all citizens, equally? Congressional seats are up in the air this election cycle. Beyond the presidential race, who embodies the values we wish to see put into legislation in our nation? These are the questions we need to ask as we rapidly approach Election Day. These are the questions that determine whether politicians will continue to send our young men and women into endless wars . . . or whether politicians will find the backbone to honor our troops by respecting – and radically reducing – the role militarism is expected to play within the broader context of our nation.