Russian and U.S. politicians seem to be hurtling towards war, while the rest of us feel powerless. But are we?
In this piece I examine:
- How far the Democrats have fallen from the ‘progressive’ ideas they used to claim.
- How the Democrats are helping fuel a dangerous narrative that could lead the world into a massive war. And,
- What, if anything those of us in the general public can do about any of it.
Part I: Democrats, What Happened To You?
Imagine if someone had told you 2, 3, 5 or 10 years ago that a major political party in the US is championing a pro-corporate, pro-war candidate for a President. Or that this party is blaming Russia and communists (wrongly conflated) for conspiring against them. That this party’s ruling administration is increasing the military budget, arming the most violent regimes that are committing war crimes, bombing the poorest countries, and deporting & detaining more people than ever before. That this party has spread via media revealed to be working with it, a narrative that anyone challenging them is conspiring with foreign agents against them. You would have probably thought in 2006, 2001, or 1996, that we were talking about Republicans. You might not have believed that we would be talking about Democrats in 2016. I know I would not have.
After September 11, 2001, I saw how many Democrats were as gung-ho as Republicans about the so-called “War on Terror”. The war was unleashed on Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries and people who had nothing to do with the tragic events of 9/11. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens. There have been revelations like the 28 pages declassified in July 2016 tying Saudi government officials and the 9/11 hijackers. But the “War on Terror” has never affected Saudis, who are ‘allies’ of the US. Instead, the “War on Terror” has been waged and continues to be waged on countries that had nothing to do with 9/11.
Still, I had thought, living through the George W. Bush years, that Democrats were different than Republicans; that Democrats were more about diplomacy, avoiding war, and aspiring for things like democracy, peace, human rights, and due process, instead of tyranny, violence, and extrajudicial killings.
But I was wrong.
Max Papeschi – Alea iacta est (“The die is cast”)
Part 2: D.A.R.N. (Democrats Are Republicans Now)?
2016 has revealed that a lot of Democrats were Republicans in sheep’s clothing; and they couldn’t wait to get neo-conservatives on board, including praising the endorsements of Dick Cheney, George H.W. Bush, and Colin Powell, among other Republicans. Many Democrats, are not ‘progressive’ – in the sense of being, y’know, actually progressive. Many Democrats are just as much into expanding wars, arming terrorists to fight indigenous leaders, forcing regime change, and pandering to wealthy elites as we always knew Republicans were.
Democrats (and other neoliberals, like Justin Trudeau) just know how to talk pretty. They use words in ways to fool us into thinking they’re different from Republicans (or conservatives). In reality, there are very few if any differences in how they actually operate, and the policies they pursue once in power.
Today, due to the fear of Trump’s racist, sexist, xenophobic rants, Democrats are not held accountable for the racist, sexist, and xenophobic things they and their candidates (Clinton/Kaine) have actually supported.
Today, Democrats can act like Republicans and expect to get away with it, because the other guy says nasty things in public. It’s okay if you believe the same kinds of things and say the same kinds of things in private and do the same kinds of things Trump wants to do, as long as you keep a thin layer of respectable liberal costuming on you while you do them.
It seems more and more apparent to me that we have reached an era where the Republican base has gone off the deep end, and Democrats are (indistinguishable from) Republicans now.
“March of War” from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
(1999 Comedy Central Films)
Part 3: War-Mongers Inc.
In 2016, the world sits on the brink of another world war. Russia and the US hold over 15,000 nuclear bombs between them; the two countries with the biggest stockpiles of nuclear (and other) weapons, the United States and Russia, are both amping their nuclear and other heavy weapons arsenals using trillions of dollars they are slashing from their own people’s social services, while NATO is conducting ‘exercises’ near Russia’s Eastern border. Even peaceful little brother Canada and its neoliberal government are taking part in war-mongering, instead of the peacekeeping that defined Canada for decades.
The U.S. has around 14 submarines roaming undetected under the world’s oceans each carrying 96 nuclear warheads. Each of those warheads is thousands of times more destructive than the bombs the US exploded on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia and other nuclear-armed states have their own nuclear-armed submarines.
And if you’re telling yourself, that the humans in charge of Russia’s & US’s nuclear arsenals are not that stupid, that these governments and the oligarchs in power in each country only want to have enough destruction to appear mighty & still make a profit and so they won’t use nukes, ask yourself: Would it be less bad if US or Russia used other weapons on a mass scale? Are weapons of mass destruction like chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster bombs that both Russia and US possess negligible?
Despite all this, I am holding out hope that cooler heads will prevail. Even Hillary Clinton is on record for saying that it’s important for Russia and the U.S. to work together. Maybe she and others in the administration will listen to the voices of children in the US and Russia who will suffer the most if a full out war broke out, and who do not want war.
Part 4: Okay, Politicians are Being Politicians… So What Can I Do?
This information can all be very overwhelming. It can make us feel helpless, scared, depressed. We should realize, though, that we are the lucky ones. We have knowledge that we can use to actually do something good with if we take the responsibility to move beyond our fears. We can commit to doing our own small part to help heal the world in which we live.
Those who are powerful, rich, elitist and greedy for war want to make people like you and me feel helpless.
Making us feel powerless is the goal of those who are addicted to power. Making us feel worthless is the goal of those who are addicted to greed. Making us feel voiceless is the goal of those who want to stifle dissent.
But if we care about the world, we can turn this around in our everyday lives.
How? By using what you have.
You have a voice. I have a voice. Each of us has a voice. Each of us is connected to other people. You have families, friends, coworkers, neighbors, communities to which you belong, and those who follow and listen to you online.
Wikimedia – protester at a Hands Off Syria march in Manhattan
The first thing we must realize is that we have the right to use our voice to speak out against war, violence, hatred, greed, injustice.
We must realize that we not only have the right but we have the responsibility to speak out whenever injustice and war are being promoted. We have a responsibility to our loved ones, to our children, to our communities, and to ourselves to do good, and to promote good in this world.
We have a voice; we have each other; we have the numbers. We have to speak from a place of truth and empathy, and we have to stop being afraid. We have to take our power back from those who want us to feel powerless.
Part 5: Challenge the Chickenhawks
Those of us who don’t want more war must actively and regularly question, challenge, and reject those who want to send us and our loved ones to kill other people’s loved ones, so that the warmongers and their funders can rake in profits from weapons sales, oil trade, gas pipelines, and looting the resources of the planet.
Those who are addicted to power, greed, and who want to stifle dissent are almost always people who do not have to fight on the frontlines. I say, let’s do what we can to make them have the kinds of stakes the rest of us have.
This must be a global effort as war propagandists always use nationalism as an excuse; politicians everywhere use fear of outsiders to rally support, consolidate power, and silence dissent. The more we allow fear of ‘the other’ to pervade around us, the more we are complicit in the rotten fruits of that fear: xenophobia and war.
Wikimedia-Anti-Iraq War Protest, March 19, 2006, Portland, Oregon
We have to loudly and clearly tell the people who try to make a case for war that if you promote war you must enlist yourself, your children, and everyone you love to go fight on the front lines first. If you want only other people’s children, family, loved ones to go fight wars you promote, you are nothing but a coward.
Some more ideas for what you can do:
- Call, email, tweet, tell the politicians in your community & country to stand and vote against war. Tell them their political careers depend on it.
- Talk to people in your family, friends circle, workplace (to the extent you can while staying safe yourself) about the issues raised here; convince them to spread the word to people they talk to and to support anti-war efforts.
- Organize, support and participate in drives, campaigns, events, activities that spread promote anti-war efforts.
- Meet people in real life who are working towards peace and sustainability and collaborate with them.
- If you write or create music or art, commit to using your craft to raise awareness and promote peace and justice.
- Donate to organizations like Reaching Critical Will, Code Pink, Campaign Against Arms Trade, and other organizations, people, and political parties that have a record of supporting pro-peace initiatives locally and globally.
- Stop supporting companies, media, people, politicians, and anyone who promotes war, profits from war, or spreads propaganda that could promote hatred, inequality, or war
War will not end until those who promote wars are made to put themselves, and all their loved ones, on the line.
Don’t give up your power to the power hungry. Don’t let anyone silence your voice as it speaks for justice and peace. Support others and seek out support when you need it. We are what makes up the world. We can each do our part to make it a little bit better. We may only be able to do a little on our own, like drops of water, but together we can be a tsunami of change.
Featured image via Wikimedia: Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. Lithograph by David Allen & Sons Ld., Harrow, Middlesex 1915