Two images of American exceptionalism to mull over today. The first shows how exceptional the U.S. is with its military spending:
Of course, U.S. military spending is projected to rise in FY 2023 to $840 billion or so. Note how most of the countries that spend significant sums on their military are U.S. allies, such as Germany, the U.K., Japan, and South Korea. Russia is weakening due to its war with Ukraine, yet U.S. military spending continues to soar because of alleged threats from Russia and China.
The second image is a spoof sent by a friend, but it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if it did become the official seal of the Department of Education:
Jesus riding a dinosaur: Why not? We have serious museums for creationists in the U.S., where dinosaurs wear saddles and Adam and Eve are depicted as cavorting with creatures dating to the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. I’m not sure how they all fit on Noah’s ark, but the Lord does work in mysterious ways.
Given the emphasis on gun rights, babies, and Jesus in America, perhaps the bald eagle isn’t our best national symbol. Perhaps it should be the Baby Jesus holding an assault rifle. It certainly would give new meaning to “love God” and “love thy neighbor.”
I have a brother who’s mentally ill. When you deal with mental illness in your family, you come to realize that local, state, and federal resources are limited. Funding is iffy. Expertise is dodgy. Facilities are often disappointing. And systems and bureaucracies can seem heartless.
I take nothing away from the dedicated doctors, nurses, and other staff I’ve met who’ve helped care for my brother. Considering the resources available to them, they often do a fantastic job.
It soon appears my brother will be assigned to a nursing home, though he does not yet require that level of care. The system, however, has virtually no other options available between a halfway-house-like setting, where a nurse isn’t available 24/7, and a nursing home, which does have nurses 24/7.
My brother was in a smaller group home where he had his own room, but a series of minor medical issues caused him to be “re-leveled” beyond the care provided by that home. He was rather unceremoniously dumped into a private, for-profit, nursing home, where he remains as he awaits a much-delayed court date. Indeed, his “temporary” assignment to the nursing home expired last December, with various agencies finger-pointing and blaming each other for the delay in reviewing my brother’s case.
Mental illness is such a devastating thing. It can be far worse than physical illness. When my brother had his first serious breakdown in 1973, we certainly didn’t understand what was happening. Back then, there was far more stigma attached to mental illness, and few people talked about it. It’s a shattering experience, and my brother had the worst of it, including ECT or electroshock treatments and powerful drugs like Stelazine and similar anti-psychotic drugs.
I was writing to a sympathetic attorney about my brother’s case today, and I thought maybe I’d share a little of what I wrote. My brother’s situation, I wrote,
speaks to a larger point about how our government cares for the mentally ill, the lack of funding and so forth, something that’s not going to be fixed by an email by me.
Still, it’s a system that tends to see my brother as just another client, just another case file, just another court date, even just another billable moment.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have asylums in the true sense of that word for those among us who needed them? But our government chooses to fund more F-35 jet fighters, more nuclear missiles, more police forces, and so forth.
The poor and mentally ill have no power because they have no lobbyists and very few advocates.
It’s a sign of the sickness of our society that we care so little for the sick.
That poor attorney got more than she bargained for. But I truly believe a society can be judged by how it treats the poor, the sick, the unhoused, the desperate. Our society tends to treat them like dirt, like losers, like a nuisance, even as the government gushes money for more police, more weapons, and more wars, whether internally or externally.
This is ultimately why our society is so sick. Because we care so little for the neediest among us.
I’m sorry this is so depressing, and I plead guilty as well for not caring enough, for not acting instead of just blogging away about it.
Jesus healed the sick and dying and attracted society’s outcasts. He praised the poor and railed against the rich. Is it any wonder He was crucified? So, we Americans invented our own Jesus, one who showers money on his believers, one who rewards them with happiness and health, a Santa Claus Jesus who gives out gifts to good little girls and boys.
And if you’re not “good”? I guess you get to be homeless or dumped in a nursing home. Next time, pray harder, loser.
A quick Google search reveals that, “According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would cost $20 billion to end homelessness in the United States.” That’s roughly the cost of a few dozen ICBM interceptor missiles (estimated cost: $18 billion) that are unlikely to work and which may encourage potential adversaries to build more nuclear missiles to overcome them (assuming they do work, but hitting a bullet with a bullet is truly a long shot). Another cost comparison: ending homelessness in America could be done for the cost of roughly 150 F-35 jet fighters. Another: ending homelessness in America could be done for less than half the yearly cost of America’s Afghan War. Yet we’d rather build interceptors, fighter jets, and continue wars than house the homeless.
I’m seeing predictions by America’s generals that Afghan national forces will likely collapse if U.S. combat troops are withdrawn by 9/11. Yet the U.S. military has been training those same Afghan forces for nearly twenty years, all the while making “progress” according to those same generals. What gives? If after two decades Afghan forces don’t have the wherewithal to defend themselves despite untold billions in U.S. assistance and aid, isn’t it logical to assume they will never have the wherewithal?
Of course, it’s an effective strategy for U.S. generals to warn of an impending collapse after Biden’s troop withdrawal. For when it comes, they can say “we told you so” and shift the blame for the loss to Biden and the politicians. Sorry, folks, Afghanistan was never ours to win to begin with. It wasn’t even ours to lose, because we never “had” it. Never mind that: Whenever the U.S. military loses anywhere (including Vietnam), there is always someone else to blame.
The NFL draft concluded this past weekend, and once again I was astonished by the media coverage: the sheer amount of resources dedicated to it. Just go to ESPN, for example, which has “draft cards” on every player with all their vitals, including video highlights. If only the media devoted a tenth of the resources to covering America’s various wars across the globe! With verifiable metrics and video highlights (or lowlights). It’s good to know that sports are much more important to our nation than the military’s global presence and actions.
And now to return to the beginning: Why not act to end homelessness? WWJD: What would Jesus do? I always remember from Catholic mass how Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and helped the poor. Where’s that Jesus nowadays? He seems to have been replaced, at least in America, by Prosperity Gospel Jesus, who shares good news and money only with the richest and most fortunate of Americans.
Can I please have “old” Jesus back? The one who helped lame people to walk and blind people to see?
I grew up in the Catholic Church, where I professed my faith weekly at every mass I attended. I also grew up a fan of the U.S. military, even as I read many books critical of its performance in the Vietnam War. Thankfully, I didn’t have to profess my faith in that military, but if I had, what would such a “profession” have looked like? This is the subject of my latest article at TomDispatch.com, which you can read about here.
Here’s what I believe America’s profession of faith would look like at this moment in our militarized history:
* We believe in wars. We may no longer believe in formal declarations of war (not since December 1941 has Congress made one in our name), but that sure hasn’t stopped us from waging them. From Korea to Vietnam, Afghanistan to Iraq, the Cold War to the War on Terror, and so many military interventions in between, including Grenada, Panama, and Somalia, Americans are always fighting somewhere as if we saw great utility in thumbing our noses at the Prince of Peace. (That’s Jesus Christ, if I remember my Catholic catechism correctly.)
* We believe in weaponry, the more expensive the better. The underperforming F-35 stealth fighter may cost $1.45 trillion over its lifetime. An updated nuclear triad (land-based missiles, nuclear submarines, and strategic bombers) may cost that already mentioned $1.7 trillion. New (and malfunctioning) aircraft carriers cost us more than $10 billion each. And all such weaponry requests get funded, with few questions asked, despite a history of their redundancy, ridiculously high price, regular cost overruns, and mediocre performance. Meanwhile, Americans squabble bitterly over a few hundred million dollars for the arts and humanities.
* We believe in weapons of mass destruction. We believe in them so strongly that we’re jealous of anyone nibbling at our near monopoly. As a result, we work overtime to ensure that infidels and atheists (that is, the Iranians and North Koreans, among others) don’t get them. In historical terms, no country has devoted more research or money to deadly nuclear, biological, and chemical weaponry than the United States. In that sense, we’ve truly put our money where our mouths are (and where a devastating future might be).
* We believe with missionary zeal in our military and seek to establish our “faith” everywhere. Hence, our global network of perhaps 800 overseas military bases. We don’t hesitate to deploy our elite missionaries, our equivalent to the Jesuits, the Special Operations forces to more than 130 countries annually. Similarly, the foundation for what we like to call foreign assistance is often military training and foreign military sales. Our present supreme leader, Pope Trump I, boasts of military sales across the globe, most notably to the infidel Saudis. Even when Congress makes what, until recently, was the rarest of attempts to rein in this deadly trade in arms, Pope Trump vetoes it. His rationale: weapons and profits should rule all.
* We believe in our college of cardinals, otherwise known as America’s generals and admirals. We sometimes appoint them (or anoint them?) to the highest positions in the land. While Trump’s generals — Michael Flynn, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly — have fallen from grace at the White House, America’s generals and admirals continue to rule globally. They inhabit proconsul-like positions in sweeping geographical commands that (at least theoretically) cover the planet and similarly lead commands aimed at dominating the digital-computer realm and special operations. One of them will head a new force meant to dominate space through time eternal. A “strategic” command (the successor to the Strategic Air Command, or SAC, so memorably satirized in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove) continues to ensure that, at some future moment, the U.S. will be able to commit mass genocide by quite literally destroying the world with nuclear weapons. Indeed, Pope Trump recently boasted that he could end America’s Afghan War in a week, apparently through the mass nuclear genocide of (his figure) 10 million Afghans. Even as he then blandly dismissed the idea of wiping that country “off the face of the earth,” he openly reflected the more private megalomania of those military professionals funded by the rest of us to think about “the unthinkable.” In sum, everything is — theoretically at least — under the thumbs of our unelected college of cardinals. Their overblown term for it is “full-spectrum dominance,” which, in translation, means they grant themselves god-like powers over our lives and that of our planet (though the largely undefeated enemies in their various wars don’t seem to have acknowledged this reality).
* We believe that freedom comes through obedience. Those who break ranks from our militarized church and protest, like Chelsea Manning, are treated as heretics and literally tortured.
* We believe military spending brings wealth and jobs galore, even when it measurably doesn’t. Military production is both increasingly automated and increasingly outsourced, leading to far fewer good-paying American jobs compared to spending on education, infrastructure repairs of and improvements in roads, bridges, levees, and the like, or just about anything else for that matter.
* We believe, and our most senior leaders profess to believe, that our military represents the very best of us, that we have the “finest” one in human history.
* We believe in planning for a future marked by endless wars, whether against terrorism or “godless” states like China and Russia, which means our military church must be forever strengthened in the cause of winning ultimate victory.
* Finally, we believe our religion is the one true faith. (Just as I used to be taught that the Catholic Church was the one true church and that salvation outside it was unattainable.) More pacific “religions” are dismissed as weak, misguided, and exploitative. Consider, for example, the denunciation of NATO countries that refuse to spend more money on their militaries. Such a path to the future is heretical; therefore, they must be punished.
Please read the rest of my article here at TomDispatch.com. And please comment. Did I miss anything in my version of America’s militarized profession of faith?
Did Jesus have a wife? Or, if not a wife, did his mention of “wife” symbolize a greater role for women as disciples? I’ve always wondered about the proudly patriarchal Catholic church and its marginalization of women. WWJD? Would would Jesus do about a church that is so male-dominated? So proud of its prejudices and biases vis-a-vis women and their reputed weaknesses? I’m thinking Jesus would not have approved of official church teachings on women.
The papyrus in which Jesus mentions a wife is suggestive but not conclusive. Nevertheless, it should spur the church to reexamine its teachings on the proper roles for women within the church.
Women should not be segregated in separate and unequal communities. They should be incorporated in the church as disciples every bit as equal and whole as male disciples. They should be able to become priests and to administer the sacraments. No more Adam’s rib and weaker vessel nonsense, Catholics.
It seems a radical concept to a church burdened with two thousand years of woman-marginalizing tradition. But Jesus came to forge a new covenant, a new world order. It’s time for the church, at least partially, to fulfill His vision.
Open your hearts, Catholics, to the equality of women within the church. By doing so, you’ll be following Jesus more nearly. Or so I believe.