Monday, December 21, 2009

More on Nonviolence

This is part of a diary entry from June 22, 2009:

It is June 22, 2009 and I can’t escape the grip of a haunting and disorienting anger brought on by this country’s economic and global troubles. I am upset that elected representatives in this country have done so little to manage our deteriorating economy, but I am especially angry that people who have enjoyed outrageous salaries and bonuses during the so-called boom years expect to continue receiving such sums as some kind of entitlement. Their fourteen-hour days and Ivy League degrees alone seem to make them worthy, despite the fact that most of their clients have lost millions and many of their actions actually led to the current economic freefall. I am distraught that everyday young men and women continue to risk their lives to fight senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which accomplish nothing, other than to destroy their prospects for a worthwhile future and further damage America’s standing in the world. Even more I am mad that bankers and financial managers have shown no sign of patriotism, no desire to make a sacrifice for their country in one of the greatest crises of the past century. It seems so natural to forgo a bonus or accept a reduction in pay. But somehow this has become un-American, because the first priority, at least for the wealthy, is to receive payment that is worthy of one’s talents and training. How often have we heard that if you reduce bonuses or salaries, you will be unable to recruit the best and the brightest. On the one hand, I am unimpressed with this so-called aristocracy of talent. They are the products of some of the greatest universities in the world, and yet their thinking has been deeply flawed, their judgments hopelessly misguided and their decisions have further undermined the welfare of those least able to meet hardship. Virtually none of these geniuses can even explain the toxic financial products they have inflicted on the American economy. But I am also fed up with the idea that money is the only way to attract talent, that the promise of a still bigger paycheck is the sole way to enlist capable managers. Perhaps we should begin to consider the possibility that those who are willing to accept lower pay are the kind of people we want, who are excited, not by a fatter pot of gold, but by the challenge of doing good work with worthy purposes. Most of all, I am outraged by the bitter contrast between the soldiers who are called on to die for their country in some distant conflict in which they have no stake and the big money people who get us bogged down in these wars to protect their investments but don’t lift a finger to shoulder the inevitable burdens.

I feel somehow brutalized by a country that favors profits over people. I am disgusted by leaders who demand the waging of wars for some unexplained, trumped-up purpose, but who also strategize endlessly to conceal the pain, the suffering, the horrible waste that accompanies such madness. I am appalled by the desire to continue fighting wars that destroy our youth and only make the world more dangerous. My patience has run out with the media commentators who profess inside knowledge and yet whose shrill predictions and prognostications show that they lack the most basic understanding of the underlying structures of our economy and society as a whole. I despise the increasingly mean spirited and spiteful rhetoric that can be found everywhere on the public airwaves and I am sick of the leaders who lecture to us so piously about how we should conduct our lives and yet are themselves hypocrites who again and again betray the public trust.

I am, too, ashamed of a country that has done so little to protect and support its veterans of these destructive, usually meaningless conflicts. Too often, these sacrificing, innocent warriors, who have only tried to do their duty for their country, have suffered the brutalization of a government that has turned its back on their needs by cutting off medical care or suspending essential disability payments. Recently, I learned that veterans of the Bataan “Death March” lost their benefits for decades without explanation, though the author of a recent book about Bataan is quoted as saying that her research indicates that the United States has never adequately supported its veterans. How can this happen in a country that professes to be so proud of its boys in battle? How can this be in a country that claims to want to do all it can to support our troops? The truth is this country has given frequent lipservice to supporting its men and women in war, but more often than not turns its back on these people because it is easier to look away, to go on with one’s life without concern for the young people whose lives are destroyed by war. But if this is so, it is still another reason for avoiding war at all costs, for making war an unacceptable alternative.

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