A Matter of Life and Death: The Military or the Green New Deal? by Carol P. Christ


“I have set before you life and death . . .  Choose life.” (Deut. 30:19)

Scientists tell us that an environmental catastrophe which has already begun threatens every aspect of life as we know it on planet earth. The choice could not be clearer. Will we choose life? Or will we choose death?

On March 6, 2019, William Barber and Phyllis Bennis published an opinion piece titled: “If America can find $716 bn for the military, it can fund the Green New Deal.” In it, they note that politicians in both parties are rushing to dismiss the Green New Deal as an unrealistic pipe dream, stating that there simply is no money to fund it. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s response is characteristic of the Democratic Party’s so-called moderate and pro-military wing. As Barber and Bennis report:

When young organizers from the Sunrise Movement recently challenged Senator Dianne Feinstein to support a Green New Deal, she told them “there’s no money to pay for it”. She probably didn’t expect those eight- and 10- and 11-year-old kids to respond immediately: “Yes, there is, there’s tons of money going to the military.”

Feinstein responded condescendingly that the military does “important things” with that money.

In 2018 Feinstein voted along with a 93-7 majority of the Senate to approve a national budget that included $675 billion for the Department of Defense.

Barber and Bennis reject the conventional wisdom. They note that the military budget is 53% of the US government’s “discretionary” budget (which refers to appropriated funds and excludes entitlement funding). In 2018 alone the “immediate cost” of the Afghan war was about 45 billion, not including caring for the wounded, training soldiers, and the overall budget of the Pentagon. The US has spent close to 5 trillion war dollars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan since 2001.

Barber and Bennis conclude:

. . . paying trillions for war isn’t an investment – it’s just a loss. It’s loss at a scale that, if it were reversed, would make a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and all the rest perfectly realistic.

The woefully inflated military budget of the United States and the enormous human and environmental costs of its “endless wars,” should be front and center in all of the debates within the Democratic Party about its priorities. Will it be? In voting to approve the military budget, Senator Feinstein was joined by Democratic Presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillebrand, Amy Klobuchar, Corey Booker, and Bernie Sanders.

Yes, the military budget was part of a larger appropriations bill. Yes, there were compromises to be made. But this is always the case. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have released position papers criticizing US military priorities and expenditures. Will they make these issues central in their campaigns? Will any of the Senators who voted for a woefully inflated military budget have the courage to stand up to the military-industrial complex?

Will any presidential candidate them make it her or his mission to explain to the American public that our choice really is between life and death: endless war or funding for programs that save lives–human lives and all of life–in both the short and long term?

Witness to and victim of the endless wars of ancient Greece, the poet Sappho wrote:

 Some say a cavalry corps,

some infantry, some, again,

will maintain that the swift oars

 

of our fleet are the finest

sight on dark earth; but I say

that whatever one loves, is. (Sappho: A New Translation by Mary Barnard)

What do we love? Do we love war? Or do we love life? The choice is ours to make.

 

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator living in Lasithi, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Activism, Earth-based spirituality, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, War and Peace

Tags: , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Carol, thank you for this thoughtful post. You are right, we should challenge all the presidential candidates as to whether our national policy is to favor life or death. This has given me much to think about.

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  2. Amen, sister!

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  3. How someone could look a child in the eye (or maybe eye contact was avoided?) and say there is no money for a Green New Deal, ie no money for your future, for your life, for life itself is mind-boggling, heartbreaking, and enraging. Thank you for this list of presidential hopefuls who voted for this bloated military budget. I am writing my candidate today and will copy the others.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think there should be any military budget at all. In any nation. I don’t think there should be any armies at all. Anywhere. Of course that is “unrealistic.” But does it have to be? I hope I’m not around when humanity kills our Mother Planet.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post and for your research for it. I won’t vote for a candidate who supports that bloated military budget.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks, Carol, nice to find Sappho, that great and delightful nature poet, make an appearance here at FAR today —

    I saw a headline this morning that said: “Climate change 2020: can the Democrats make it an election issue?” Yes, I hope so, and it’s not only climate, but also respect for and love of nature we need to uphold and remember and watch over always…

    Sappho says:
    “As the wind in the mountains
    assaults an oak,
    Love shook my breast.”

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  6. Carol – what can I say? Superb essay. The choice is that THAT clear – Death or Life.

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  7. Evocative essay and I truly wish it were that simple: life or death. But that puts everything at the extreme opposite ends – again – and honestly, I’m weary of the polarization on both sides. I’m a moderate (leaning liberal) and, no, I don’t *support* war or the military machine, and I do totally support environmental protection, but I’m also a realist and there are no easy answers or simple choices.

    My older brother and I have had numerous deep, respectful conversations on this topic (he spent his life in the military); he agrees we go overboard with military spending and intervention sometimes. I mentioned to him that I once read that war is the result of *impatience* – the restless decision to no longer seek conversation toward resolution, from one side or the other. At first, he objected but the more he thought about it, he kind of agreed but then asked “so what do we do when it’s the other side that reaches that point first and refuses to continue a dialogue and strikes out militarily?” We continued our discussion – without resolution but with both of us open to new insights.

    Terry Tempest Williams says that: “The erosion of speech is the build-up of war. Silence no longer supports prayers, but lives inside the open mouths of the dead.” (from her book _The Open Space of Democracy_)

    Big topic. Thank you for bringing it in your usual compassionate way to FAR.

    Like

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