Category Archives: Uncategorized

That Which Divides Us

That we are a divided people is not breaking news.

Our divisions are reflected back to us every day. We are consistently presented with the forced-choice of our social, political and religious identities. One belongs to a particular social class and not others. One is either a “conservative” or a “liberal”. One is a “Christian” or a “Jew” or a “Muslim” or a “Hindu” or a “Buddhist” or some other religious label. These are just a few of the ways we identify ourselves. Somehow it became very important to label ourselves and each other. Perhaps this helps us stay with the illusion of “knowing” who we are.

There is another form of division that transcends the “usual suspects” of the various labels already described. This is the division between the opposing agendas of materialism and spirituality. One of the central features of these differing agendas is the question of whether or not violence is deemed acceptable as a means of solving problems. This question also correlates with the contrasting views of separation and connection. Materialism emphasizes the separateness between each of us while realistic spirituality focuses on the connections we share with each other and our world.

The materialistic perspective attributes the highest priority to creating, selling and acquiring Things. This view asserts that the centrality of Things is what life is really all about. In this framework, people are a means to an end. This is sometimes known as “productivity”. If one is “productive” in the proper way then one is recognized as a valuable person. One is considered an “asset”.

The spiritual perspective embraces a very different orientation. It holds to the belief that it is not things that have significant value but rather it is Love and Life itself that is truly valuable. People are to be loved and things are to be used. This perspective is grounded in the belief that all life is inter-connected and inter-related rather than separate and in a state of competition.

This division becomes most apparent in terms of those who are willing to use violence to get what they want and those who refuse to resort to violence to achieve their goals. When a person, when life itself, is seen as a means to an end it becomes acceptable, even laudable, to control, exploit or destroy if that’s what it takes to reach a goal. Domination and destruction are contradictory to the goals of healthy spirituality.
When life is considered sacred it can no longer be objectified as simply a means to an end but instead is known and related to as part of the infinite manifestation of Love.

We can belong to the World of Things or the World of Love. We cannot avoid this choice.

Why focus on the contrast between violence and nonviolence? This framing points to the question of how human problems are to be solved. It is the desire to solve our problems that unites us while it is the methods for achieving those solutions that causes us to diverge into the contrasting problem-solving forms of violence (materialistic power) and nonviolence (spiritual power).

The exercising of Materialistic Power essentially says: “Comply or die.” This “death” may be quite literal or it may be metaphorical in terms of deprivation of needed resources or basic freedoms. It is the straightforward imposing of physical force or intimidation on a person or group to induce their obedience.

The exercising of Spiritual Power, on the other hand, presents a perplexing set of refusals and active responses. When operating from a sense Spiritual Power a person refuses to “fight fire with fire” with the oppressor, refuses to run away from threatened harm, refuses to disengage from the oppressor and refuses to comply with the oppression process. Essentially a person acting from this orientation says: “I won’t fight with you on your level. I won’t run away from you. I won’t end my relationship with you and I won’t obey your unethical manipulations.” The active response is at least as perplexing. While under siege from the oppression of Materialistic Power the active response from one grounded in Spiritual Power is an unwavering “I love you.”

Violence exists as a broad spectrum of attitudes and actions. Its trademark is in its seeking to dominate and diminish the Other who is always regarded as quite separate from the perpetrator of the violence. It seeks victory by destroying or controlling the Other who is defined as a threat of some sort. Its manifestation may take the form of a physical attack with weapons designed to amplify the intended destructive power of the attacker. It may also take the form of a more subtle, non-physical attack (e.g. character assassination) that can nevertheless produce devastating results.

Violence as a process can also be understood as a projection of a person’s pain and/or fear. If one has not dealt constructively with these experiences the temptation to disown them becomes very powerful: “I will hurt you so that you will have to deal with my pain and I won’t. It will become your pain. I will scare you so that you will have to deal with my fear and I won’t. It will become your fear.”

There are those who believe in the use of violence as the method of choice to solve a broad range of human problems. If the end result is sufficiently valued then the means are considered justified. Counted among these believers are women and men, young people and old people, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, liberals and conservatives and the full spectrum of religious labels. Those who accept this kind of problem-solving are represented across a wide range of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. There are law-makers and law-breakers, from the local level to the international stage, who subscribe to the idea that the end justifies the means and that this is how problems get solved.

There are also people from all of the groups just named who completely reject the notion that violence is an acceptable method for solving human problems. They maintain that the means to the desired end cannot be contrary in nature of that end: War cannot create Peace, Oppression cannot create Freedom, Hatred cannot create Love. This group holds that the Means and the End are inseparable.

Nonviolence can be best understood as the active expression and demonstration of love and not as the mere absence of destructive attitudes and actions. When we speak of love it is easy to go off on some wild goose chase as to what this really means. The love conveyed in active nonviolence is a kind of sacrificial love. This is the kind of love that consciously chooses to accept and endure real suffering for the sake of another, specifically for the sake of healing the perpetrator. This kind of love does not define the perpetrator as the “enemy” who must be destroyed or defeated. Instead, Sacrificial Love seeks to help the perpetrator become aware of the truth of his or her real inter-relatedness to the person or people he or she is hurting. In traditional language, it is the deep truth that we are all brothers and sisters to each other.

No less an intellect than Albert Einstein stated: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

If we give credence to Einstein’s claim about the nature of problem-solving it becomes logically impossible to believe that the problem of violence, whether this is a problem between nations, between individuals or within ourselves, can be solved through violent methods. The time has come to free ourselves from the mental prison that holds us in the insane belief that declares: “We have to kill people who kill people to show them that killing people is wrong.”

It becomes necessary to change our way of thinking and understanding in order to solve our problems. It is necessary to shift our awareness and our perspective in order to successfully solve our problems. We cannot solve our problems with the same low-level thinking that got us into trouble in the first place. If our house is burning down we cannot save it with a flame-thrower!

The problem of violence within ourselves is a crucial one. As previously stated, if one does not successfully heal his or her inner violence and the injuries from it then one will be very likely to project this destructiveness onto someone else. It is necessary to establish this internal healing as the foundation to solving human problems on an interpersonal level as well as between various social groups.

No less a wisdom teacher than Jesus of Nazareth explained metaphorically that one must first take the wooden beam out of one’s own eye before attempting to remove the splinter out of another’s eye. (Luke 7:5)

If we are to take him at his word, this means that we need to start healing our own impairment and suffering in order to stop perpetuating violence against ourselves which is often invisible to the rest of the world but the individual (who, in this case, is both perpetrator and victim) is acutely aware of his or her own internal self-torture process (e.g. “I’m such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be good enough!”, “No one would want to be with me if they knew what I was really like.”, etc.). We need to attend to our own healing and make peace within ourselves before we start telling, coercing and demanding that the other person (or group or nation) act a certain way to put their house in order.

What divides us is a faulty perception of how separate we are from each other. This misperception supports the belief in the “win-lose” form of problem-solving in our lives. When all we see is our disconnectedness is becomes easy to assume that competition in the only way to achieve needed solutions.

We move from division to unity when we start to see that the truth of our existence is one of connection and belonging. What were once seen as major differences between one another can now be recognized as largely superficial. We begin to love more and more inclusively as we realize that any injuries we do to others we do to our selves and that the compassion we extend to others is also the compassion that we receive.

Modern Money Mechanics

Thanks to Tom Ness for his thoughtful email on the relationship between money and war, and for these links he has provided for those who are interested in learning more.


For anyone who wishes to explore “modern money mechanics” (as the Federal Reserve has called it) there has never been a better time in history to do so, with a wealth of information in books and documentaries readily available, much of it free online. A person can make a significant advance in their knowledge of this subject in as little as 45 minutes. I will put links below to some good sources:

“Money as Debt” a 47 minute documentary, an animated primer on money mechanics

“The Hidden Secrets of Money” a seven-part series by Mike Maloney, approximately 25 minutes per segment. Episode 1:

“The Money Masters” Bill Still’s 3 1/2 hour documentary masterpiece explaining the history of money:

“The Secret of Oz” Another Bill Still documentary which goes over much of the same history as Money Masters, but does it in under two hours:

“The Crash Course” Chris Martenson’s 26-segment tutorial on money mechanics, plus how this relates to energy and environment. Segments are from 3 minutes to 25 minutes, 4 hours and 36 minutes total:

All of these are accessible to persons of any educational level, although occasionally the truth of money mechanics is so bizarre and counter-intuitive as to repel even the most intelligent mind.

Thank you,

Tom Ness

Burkini Bans and Sit-Down Stands

What is going on here?

This past summer, on a beach in France, a Muslim woman was confronted by police and required to remove part of her burkini in accordance with a prohibition on such religious swimwear. Meanwhile, on the west coast of the United States, a professional football player remained seated for the playing of the national anthem before a pre-season game. He was quickly vilified in the media.

What do these apparently disconnected events have to do with each other?

They represent different forms of systemic discrimination: racism, sexism, and religious prejudice.

Some have argued that the reason for the burkini ban is actually to legally reject the religiously-based objectification of women. If true, this may have some merit but the problem here is the government’s stance of “it’s for your own good that we enforce your compliance”. In other words: We have to strip you of your freedom in order to protect your freedom. This is also problematic in that it does not take into account that at least some women may want to wear the burkini of their own free will.

There is also reason to suspect general anti-Muslim sentiments within the population. France has experienced a number of terrorist attacks in recent years that have been associated with Islam. It is understandable that some people could come to fear and suspect a Muslim person of being a potential terrorist in light of this recent history.

There is also something rather sexist about the burkini ban: It aims to specifically regulate women and how they may present themselves in public. There does not seem to be a corresponding regulation concerning how a Muslim man may or may not be attired at the beach. Consider for a moment how you would feel if the Muslim woman on the beach happened to be your sister or your mother or your wife or your daughter being forced by male police officers to remove any article of her clothing.

Halfway around the world we have a well-known professional football player who decided that he will not stand up for the national anthem of the United States of America. This has shifted from sitting to a more symbolically powerful kneeling posture. He has stated that this is in protest of the racial injustices in the United States. His actual statement is as follows:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

He expresses recognition that there may be painful consequences that he will have to face as a result:

“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people who are oppressed….If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Refusing to stand for the national anthem is not the first time someone in America has taken a stand by sitting down. The individual’s body language quite clearly expresses: “I won’t stand for the status quo of injustice and oppression.” It was true when Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on the bus decades ago and it is true now.

While some have expressed support for this protest, the backlash has been considerable. Many have referred to this person as a “traitor” and expressed outrage that this professional athlete would show such disrespect to the men and women of the armed forces and domestic law enforcement. He has also reportedly received death threats for his actions.

Some expressions of public outrage are variations of the following:

“How dare he refuse to stand for the national anthem!”

“The real heroes of this country sacrifice their lives so this guy can make millions playing a game once a week.”

There is, of course, this inevitable expression of indignant anger:

“If he doesn’t like it here he should go live somewhere else!”

We want our celebrities, our star athletes, our popular entertainers to know their place! We get angry when they cross the line and go beyond their assigned roles in our society. We don’t want anyone who might be a role-model to rock the boat and make existing social power structures unstable (and the people who maintain them and benefit from them uncomfortable). We want Muhammed Ali to shut up and box. We want Marlon Brando to accept his Oscar and thank everyone instead of refusing it in protest. We want the Dixie Chicks to shut up and play their music. We don’t want well-known, well-liked public figures to challenge The System. It makes us uncomfortable to consider that, in our apathy, we may be complicit with some injustice. We want our discomfort to go away and so we want the reminders to go away.

The clear implication here is that a wealthy celebrity is ineligible to express thoughtful dissent by virtue of the fact that he or she is rich and famous. The logical extension of this formula is that only people who are relatively poor and unknown have the right to voice their opposition to any social injustice. Of course, relatively poor and unknown people are much easier to ignore and control. The paparazzi do not hound them for pictures, videos or sound bites so they are not much of a threat.

“Bad apples.”

When the status quo of society-as-a-whole is threatened by accusations of unethical behavior it has become almost obligatory for representatives of the social order move into “damage control” mode. One way that this is done is by conceding that there is some validity to the accusations but that this is because of a “few bad apples.” This means that the problem only exists on an individual level. The “game” itself, it’s rules and goals are maintained as right and worthy of continuation. The point of this kind of diversion is to sacrifice a few pawns to save the King and the Queen and the “monarchy” as a whole. The System, the Established Order, is to be preserved at any cost. If this means throwing a few individuals under the bus, so be it.

When injustice is institutionalized it becomes part of The System. It becomes the social norm. When systemic injustice is operational (e.g. apartheid, the Abu Ghraib prison) it automatically emboldens individuals who represent The System to go beyond the limits of decency when it comes to their interaction with any minority group. A minority group is viewed as the fictional “them” contrasted to the “us” of the majority faction. “They” are categorized as the source of the Problem so the Solution is to control “them” or maybe even get rid of “them”. Unfortunately, history provides us with many examples of this kind of “Problem Solving.”

Why do we prefer to blame a few individuals (e.g. criminals) and remain functionally blind to the structural flaws (e.g. consumerism, militarism, racism, poverty, etc.) in our social system?

Maybe it’s just easier to blame individuals and make them the villains as opposed to solving social problems on a systemic level. That way “they” have to be responsible for the problems and “we” are off the hook. Owning personal responsibility takes much more work than blaming someone else. In addition, we may have a strong reluctance to accepting that, as individuals, we are significantly influenced by group dynamics (pressure to conform to social norms). We want to believe that we make up our own minds and choose our own actions in life. This, however, is only part of the truth. The other part of the truth is that, as human beings, we are social animals and we are greatly influenced by our environment and the social dynamics within it.

Not only is it easier to address the symptoms of a problem rather than to deal with its root causes but it also allows those who benefit the most from the inequities of the existing social structure to keep enjoying those benefits. The King and Queen know full well how important it is for them to keep the game going. That’s how they maintain their “royal” status.

If the structural inequities of society are addressed on a systemic level it would lead to a significant shift in how economic and political power are actually distributed. That is the crux of the problem. The individuals and groups who currently hold and wield such power are very reluctant to voluntarily relinquish their power for the common good. The truth is that the existing social, economic, and political power structures cannot hold if the level of noncooperation starts approaching 10% of the general population. That’s the tenuousness of the established social structure.

When The System gets greedy and goes too far and pushes people too much, it inspires resistance and rebellion. People become aware that they have little left to lose and potentially a lot to gain. Refusing to cooperate, refusing to keep playing the game becomes the most reasonable course of action. Noncooperation becomes a direct assault on the legitimacy of the Established Order. I suspect that’s why dictators cannot tolerate being ridiculed. The message within the ridicule says:

“The game you’re running is a joke. I won’t take it seriously anymore. I won’t play your game anymore. I won’t take you seriously as long as you try to keep the game going.”

The ego of the authoritarian is so inflated that it becomes quite fragile and vulnerable to humiliation. They find being laughed at more threatening than any Weapon of Mass Destruction.

So, what is going on here?

People are getting very tired of being pushed around and mistreated. While the “game” can be seen as a joke, the suffering of those caught up in the game is no joke at all. They are looking for, and finding, different ways to respond to injustice and oppression. They know that they cannot match the materialistic power of the King and Queen. They cannot fight fire with fire and hope to actually change anything. The fires of injustice and oppression need to be put out with water of a very different caliber. This is the water that heals rather than hurts the perpetrator, that reconciles us with each other instead of dividing us against each other. It is the water of sacrificial love and genuine compassion directed relentlessly at the arsonists. The purpose is not to drown the oppressors but rather to wake them up from the old fairy tales of “survival of the fittest” and “us vs. them”. This is the water that wakes the dreamer from the obsolete nightmare.

Syrian priest captured by ISIS calls for nonviolence

“What is the solution?

The solution cannot be simply eliminating those who persecute us. The only way of stopping the extremists is to enter into a dialogue with Islam. That has been my personal experience. We – all the Christians of my old parish – decided not to resort to violence, even despite the danger. That is why we are still alive. An ISIS leader told us exactly that: “You ‘People of the Book,’ [the term used for Jews and Christians in the Koran] do not even use violence against us.”

Thus, non-violence and dialogue are what Christians can and should contribute?

Last spring, I had the following inspiration during Mass: our world needs a revolution against violence. Only then will it be able to find peace. We want to be instruments of peace. This is how we did it in Mar Elian – we provided aid to the local people without considering any distinctions of religion.”

See the full article here:

Way to go, nuncio!

” ‘Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security and the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion.” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio heading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations, said Oct. 17.

“Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be established on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation. Lasting peace cannot be guaranteed by the maintenance of a balance of terror,” he added.

Instead, peace must be based on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, human rights, and building trust between peoples, the archbishop told a session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City.

“The indefinite possession of nuclear weapons is morally wrong,” he added, deeming this an affront to the “entire framework of the United Nations” and a contradiction to its vocation of service to humanity and the global common good’.”

Filling in the Blanks

Let’s just dive right in.  In Hillary Clinton we have a visible and proven political track record of egregious abuses against virtually every manifestation of human dignity, from conception to death.  In Hillary, we know the evil we face because it has not been hidden.  We know enough of what she has done politically to be able to assert with confidence that, barring a profound repentance, we can certainly expect to see more of the same should she ascend to the office of President of the United States.  I believe we can even rightly surmise that what we have seen from her thus far is of a lesser magnitude than what we will see should she become President.  No matter what she may say to the contrary, no amount of bluster can hide the contents of her political life.  To some degree, we know what we’d be getting, and it will be a dark day should this possibility obtain.

However, in the case of Donald Trump, there is no such history of political decisions; he has never been in politics.  He has the advantage on Clinton in this regard because he can make statements about domestic and foreign policy and we have no political paper trail that can help to affirm or debunk his claims.  If we are to have any kind of basis for confidence in Trump’s claims as to what he would do in office, we must look elsewhere.  The only “elsewhere” we have are those facts and details concerning his business and personal life that help inform us of his character.  Taking into account that American media seem to largely be in favor of Hillary and thus feed us that which casts Trump in the worst of lights, what we can glean from the clear information we have in no way inspires confidence.  From what I can understand, his business dealings reveal a fair amount of corruption and malfeasance.  What we can see of his personal life reveals a string of divorces, the objectification and denigration of women, disdain for the poor and minorities, and the unabashed pursuit of greed and power.  At the very least, we can say with some confidence that his character is not one to be recommended for imitation.  But is the evidence of character sufficient for making an informed decision about a potential president?

Before continuing my train of thought I need to make an important digression, and let me be clear:  we must be careful not to condemn the persons of either Clinton or Trump.  There is only One who can wield such authority, and that One happens to love both of them with a love so intense that He willingly offered Himself up to a torturous death on their behalf.  Though it is possible that Clinton and Trump have given themselves over to evil, they are not essentially evil and never can be so we would be wise to avoid referring to their persons as evil.  To do so would be to commit grave sin and is in direct violation of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 7:1-5).  If we are going to uphold Gospel nonviolence with any kind of integrity, then Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 cannot be ignored or cast aside.  We are called to love them as He loves them, plain and simple.  Back to the point, reading a little further in chapter 7 of St. Matthew’s Gospel we find an assurance on which we can hang our hats:

“So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.  A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, you will know them by their fruits.”  (Mt. 7:17-20)

Christ Himself thus gives us a basis for assessment.  You will know them by their fruits.  Dis-integrated beings that we are, our words do not necessarily reveal our hearts.  Jesus reiterates his point in Matthew 21:29-31, for it is the son who at first said “no” but then eventually did what was asked that is worthy of praise.  Whether it is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ that is verbalized, it is what is spoken through actions either immediate or delayed that reveals the trajectory of the heart.  That said, we are wise to look not to Trump’s words but to the visible fruits of his life in order to make a reasonable judgment as to whether or not he would make a good president.

Contrary to Clinton’s case, we cannot know the particular political decisions Trump would make regarding wars and abortion and euthanasia; we can only look at what is revealed of his character through his visible fruits and humbly and lovingly make the best call.  If his words and actions devalue the poor and place great if not ultimate value on money and power, what incentive is there to keep him from championing something like euthanasia?  The invalid, the developmentally disabled, and the dying seen in terms of dollars or worldly influence are generally of negative value, and others with money and power are pushing for euthanasia, so what fruits do we see that give us reason to believe he would not be swayed toward favoring such a policy?  On to abortion, it is already the law of the land, so we have to look to what the fruits of his life suggest about his character in order to make an educated guess at what he might do to oppose legislation in favor of further entrenching and normalizing abortion.  As with the candidates for euthanasia, the unborn are not financially productive, abortion clinics bring in revenue, and the wealthiest and most powerful forces are pushing for pro-abortion policies.  Finally, there is war.  We have Trump saying something to the effect of, “we have nukes, why can’t we use them?” on one hand and an expressed desire for a non-interventionist foreign policy on the other.  What are we to believe?  To make the argument that because he’s wealthy and powerful he is therefore above the influence of the enormous wealth and power of the military-industrial complex is suspect.  If his character reveals a celebration of greed and a thirst for power, isn’t the most logically sound conclusion here that he would choose war if that is what would bring him the greatest increase of money and power?  But blowing up the world is bad business, one might argue.  True, it probably makes more financial sense to continue doing what the US is already doing, producing weapons in order to sell them to other nations and shadow groups and conducting proxy wars across the globe.  But what if Trump could be convinced by the military-industrial powers-that-be that he could kill two birds with one nuclear stone, both overtaking the competitors AND harnessing their economies for America’s benefit by just dropping a few nukes exponentially more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The arguments in this paragraph are admittedly overly simplistic.  What I’ve written is not worth reading for its incisive political analysis if it’s worth reading at all.  It is meant only to shed light on the fact that, as far as I know, the only basis we have for evaluating whether or not to take Trump at his word is found in his character as revealed in his deeds.  Regardless of his words, what do his actions reveal about his guiding principles?

I am in no way competent to offer recommendations as to how one should vote; I will not be voting for president.  I cannot in good conscience choose either option, and even if I was a proponent of the “lesser of two evils” argument, I do not see which of the two evils is lesser here.  The only recommendation I could offer anyone in this time is to trust, to truly and profoundly trust that God is indeed who He says He is and that His will is what will be done.  I am not advocating escapism or quietism or anything of the like.  I am championing an active, willed trust in God.  And trusting that God’s will is what will be done in no way means that the winner has any grounds for claiming “divine mandate” in any positive sense.  What I believe is that whoever is elected is who in fact will be best suited to achieve the implementation of God’s will, and I firmly believe that God will bring about His will not through the new president’s cooperation but precisely in spite of his or her designs.  Just look to the Crucifixion if you need an example of His ability to bring good from what was intended as evil.  In what appeared to be the world’s darkest hour was realized its greatest hope.

“the greatest cataclysm in human history”

Dorothy Day was right on WW1.  Cardinal Gibbons was wrong, shamefully wrong.

From The Foul Tornado by the eloquent, conservative Anglican Peter Hitchens:

“The loss cannot be measured in cash because it was paid in the more elusive coin of faith, morals, trust, hope, and civility. The war is the reason why Europe is no longer a Christian continent, because too many churches supported it. Pointing to the poverty and scientific backwardness of the pre-1914 world is a false comparison. Who is to say that we could not have grown just as rich as we are now, and made just as many technological and medical advances, had we not slain the flower of Europe’s young men before they could win Nobel Prizes, or even beget and raise children?

The astonishing thing is that so many conservative, Christian, and patriotic people have yet to understand the damage this event did to their causes. It is at least partly because we can barely begin to imagine the world that we lost…

The Russian revolution would never have happened had there been no war in 1914. The great Christian and conservative empires of the world would probably all still exist. War also brought about the sexual, social, and cultural revolutions that are still convulsing what used to be Christendom.”

Conservative American Catholics who reflexively support American militarism should read Mr. Hitchens’ article. Read it and weep. And for good measure and to bring us up to date, I also recommend this:

Communism is dead and The Cold War is Over.


Who Owns Our Children?

The United States of America has quietly declared that its citizens’ children are Government Property.

The U.S. Senate recently passed a Bill (2017 NDAA) which seeks to establish, as law, several items pertinent to U.S. military operations. Among those provisions is the elimination of the exemption for women from Selective Service registration (a.k.a. draft registration). Since 1980, young men, upon turning 18, have been required to register with the Selective Service. Failure to do so carries various penalties: no driver’s license, no student loans, and no government employment. As a special bonus: non-compliance brings the possibility of being arrested and incarcerated for up to 5 years as well as possible fines up to $250,000.00.

If this Bill is fully approved, young women will also need to register with Selective Service when they turn 18. They will presumably face the same penalties if they choose not to comply.

“Selective Service” is one of many government-speak euphemisms that is essentially a fresh coat of paint on a condemned building. The old term for this euphemism is conscription. The dictionary definition of conscription is: “compulsory enrollment of persons especially for military service: draft”. The modern qualifier “selective” misleadingly implies that one is making a choice to serve. In truth the individual has no choice. Government does all the selecting.

Selective Service registration is unnecessary, coercive and dehumanizing.

Some have argued that registration is really not a big deal. We have not had an actual draft since 1973 when U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended and draft registration was discontinued for the remainder of that decade. Since then the U.S.military has maintained itself quite adequately with an all-volunteer force. It can be argued that registration is nothing than more than a bureaucratic dance between young Americans and the federal government. Kids fill out the paperwork at the Post Office or online and then forget about it. The sales pitch proclaims: “Men…You can handle this.” The implication here is that this task will not put too much physical or mental strain on them. The other parts of the marketing campaign appeal to the young person’s sense of morality (“It’s the right thing to do.”) and need for obedience to State Authority (“It’s the law.”).

If it is not really such a big deal, if it is really nothing more than filling out a simple form then why make an issue of it? Why not just comply with the law and not worry about it? On the other hand, if the actual draft is really a thing of the past, why not just get rid of it? Why not let it be a thing of the past?

The argument has been put forth that if the United States were ever attacked, the government and military would need a system in place to have efficient access to young Americans to be placed into military service. The premise, theoretically, is that not enough young people would volunteer to fight if our nation was threatened. This makes drafting the non-volunteers a necessity. It’s a matter of National Security.

Please notice how all such discussions are expected to be settled simply by declaring that one’s position is vital to National Security!

This argument in favor of maintaining draft registration is somewhat plausible except for the fact that it is wrong! It is wrong because the United States was attacked (we efficiently remember it as 9-11) and we subsequently went to war (and have stayed at war) in the Middle East. As a nation, we have remained actively engaged in warfare in multiple countries for well over a decade. Under these conditions, there has been no need whatsoever to return to an active military draft to recruit additional young people to wear the uniform and “fight for their country.” In fact, the number of young Americans volunteering for military service increased after 9-11 (just as it did after Pearl Harbor).
The U.S. Armed Services recruitment has come a long way from “Uncle Sam wants you!” to the sophisticated marketing techniques currently used to enlist new volunteers. Today’s military advertising is very slick, very Madison Avenue and very effective.

So with the failure of this rationale for maintaining draft registration, what are we left with to explain not only the requirement for young men to register but now also to include young women in this process? What remains is the subtle assertion (if you don’t look too closely or think about it too much) that our children are Government Property. This claim is the result of a highly coercive arrangement by which young people must “voluntarily” sign a government contract in which they agree to serve in the military should the time ever come when they are told to do so:

“In exchange for the State Privileges of driving a car and getting student loans (that I will have to pay back at an obscenely high interest rate when I get out of school and start working at my entry-level job), I_______________ , agree that, whenever I may be called upon to do so, I will serve as cannon fodder for the American Empire. I agree to go where I’m told, do what I’m told to do, kill whoever I’m told to kill, and willingly die painfully and prematurely as may be required.”

As a parent, I am obviously biased on this issue. I do not want my children risking their lives while they try to kill other parents’ children while those other parents’ kids are trying to kill my kids. The mouthpieces of government policy and their corporate media partners euphemistically refer to soldiers as “boots on the ground” as if they are chess pieces to be strategically manipulated to win “the game.” Those “boots” are filled with the barely-grown-up children of mothers and fathers everywhere. These young people are our children and yet we do not own them. They are not our property.

This system has very little to do with patriotism. It has a great deal to do with government exercising control over what it sees as its property. When the government of any nation treats its citizens as property to be managed and utilized it dehumanizes and commodifies the very people without whom there would be no nation. When people are dehumanized in this way it reduces the nation to the status of a mere machine. Citizens are reduced to consumers.

Any system, any corporate entity, that acts to reduce human beings to objects is wrong and deserves a response of nonviolent, noncooperation. Rather than including young women in the mandatory draft registration process as some expression of phony equality, the entire system should be eliminated for all American citizens.

As a society and as parents we bear the responsibility for our children until they are ready to bear that weight themselves. That is the cost of personal freedom. This freedom is not a privilege that our “adult” society bestows upon each new generation but rather it is the repayment of our debt to the generations that came before us and sacrificed for us. It is not the current generation of young people that owe something to the current generation of adults in this world but rather it is the current generation of adults that owe something to the generations of parents who preceded us. Their grandchildren and great grandchildren are our responsibility and not the property of any person or any government.

No one owns our children.