“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.
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.