June 27, 2019

No Honorable Frays




I’m no stranger to violence. As I’ve written before, my brother was violently mentally ill. I saw him repeatedly fight with cops until it reached the point where if he were reported jaywalking, four squad cars would arrive, two-men to a car. I saw him fight with my other brother repeatedly; once when my mother tried to break it up, he threw her through the closet doors. I saw him break my father’s nose and ribs with a one-two combination. I saw him strangle our other brother’s friend to the point where his face started changing colors (my mom broke that up to).

I’m not a pacifist. In middle school, a high school kid wouldn’t stop hitting me in the back of the head so I stood up and punched him in the mouth—got kicked off the bus for three days (but the high school kid never bothered me after that). In high school, I got barred from Arby’s when, again, an older kid wouldn’t leave me alone so I pelted him in the face with my philly beef n’ swiss and then tossed him over a table. When Maria and I were on our way to our rehearsal dinner, I nearly got in a fist fight with a crazy dude in the parking lot who was convinced I’d given him the finger. When Maria and I were first married and we were at our absolute poorest, I would occasionally act as security for a girl we knew who worked as an escort and ended up having to yank a frat boy out of the back of a limo once.

I once wrote an article about the little discussed role of violence in the Civil Rights movement.

Even Buddhism encourages you to take action IF your action will prevent greater suffering.

If you’ve met me in real life and if you know me in real life, you might not know these things. You probably have a certain perception of me. My aura of calm has been cultivated. My ability to deal with difficult people in difficult situations comes from experience. I say these things not to brag. I say these things even knowing that I have been fortunate enough to escape the sorts of violent abuse others I know have endured. I say these things knowing that I have never been to war (the military was never for me—I generally don’t do well being told what to do, especially if I don’t respect the person doing the telling). I say these things to hopefully show that I’m speaking from a place of experience and understanding. You can know something intellectually, but it’s entirely different to know something from experience, to know something in your gut.

All too often, most conversations now, I think, are lead by people with no experience, no skin in the game, and, frankly, who I don’t think really care but are more interested in what they can get out of it or how it makes them look.

Violence is sometimes necessary. War is sometimes necessary. But to borrow a line from Steve Earle: "There are no honorable frays to join, only mean death dealt out in dibs and dabs, Or horror unleashed from across oceans."

Violence and war come with a price. A very very high price. The problem is these men sending our troops off to war are the type of men who never pay that price. The problem is these men who’ve set our disastrous foreign policy, who’ve gleefully and proudly pursued nonstop warfare (I barely remember a time when we were not at war somewhere, do you?) have been sending our troops around the globe to die to make a bunch of rich men richer.

As Major-General Smedley Butler (one of the most decorated Marines in US history, a man who served in military actions and wars they don’t talk about in history class) wrote:


“How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?"

Dwight Eisenhower presided over the single largest land invasion in history. What did he do when he took office? Believing the military should be small, quick, and mobile, believing you can maintain security without bankrupting the country, he slashed the the military budget he inherited from Truman.

Our current military budget is $700 billion. The estimated cost of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan? $5.6 trillion. That's right, trillion with a tee. All while most people I know barely make it from paycheck to paycheck, and then only if nothing unplanned happens and they manage to stay healthy.

We can and we should do better.

As Eisenhower said:


“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

There is one, count her one candidate, opposing our current policy of endless warfare. And that’s Tulsi Gabbard, a combat vet. If you watched her put the clueless Tim Ryan in his place last night, you saw that she knows what she’s talking about. She's where your loyalty should lie. And let's make sure she makes it to the rest of the debates.
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