“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.” Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Not much has changed since the sixties.
Annually, this nation continues to spend on defense more than the next six most militarized nations, combined. Congress has allocated $1.5 trillion for the F-35, alone. This fighter jet may never be safe to fly and its gunnery may not be fired prior to 2019 while awaiting software fixes, but the merchants-of-death-from-above are doing quite well, thank you!
We could likely end world hunger by allocating $1.5 trillion to that effort.
Which program would generate more good will and likely promote world peace?
In the meantime, too many of our own veterans end up sleeping on vents and under bridges; too many of our families can be bankrupted by one health crisis; too many of our workers toil too hard for too little reward; too many of our children still attend schools that are poorly resourced.
How can this happen in the country that, overall, boasts the “highest” quality of life ever attained?
The answer is simple: too many of the powerful and privileged have chosen personal profit over the public welfare, and we, caught up in our daily struggle to thrive, have allowed acquired wealth to consolidate tremendous political power in the hands of a far too greedy few.
In his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos, or Community? Dr. King offered us a different vision when he wrote, “The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the means to seek self-improvement.”
What is the first step toward achieving dignity for all and ending intergenerational inequity? We must ensure the effective education of all our children lest another generation becomes grist for the mill.
[This commentary originally appeared in the now defunct Prince George’s Gazette in January 2015. The graphic for “worldwide defense spending” is available on line.]