A takeover has occurred in this Country; it started during the early 1980’s. At that time we had journeyed through the peace movements of the 60’s, through the rather stale 1970’s during which the rock music remained amazing–though less meaningful, then came Reagan. On a personal level Reagan was likeable enough and I’m not here to judge the man, but the movement; with Reagan both the Nation and the world moved towards militarism.
The first time I noticed the change was about eleven months prior to Reagan taking office. I was in a rock bar in a working class suburb of Detroit. It was February 22, 1980. The U.S. was playing the Russian hockey team in a medal round of the International Olympics. The young U.S. team defeated the overwhelmingly favored Russian team in a victory which stunned the world and made the rest of the tournament an anticlimactic event. During the game young 20-somethings gathered around the T.V. which competed against a rock band, a former symbol of rebellion, not 15 yards away. As the U.S. closed-in on victory the young 20-somethings, who a decade earlier might have been protesting the Vietnam war, broke into a chant: USA, USA, USA . . . . rock n’ roll, in my mind, died that evening.
The brazen nationalism was horrifying and it portended the dark path we have subsequently journeyed. It is a moment I will never forget. Eleven months later, Ronald Reagan was sworn into office and the Nation completed the about-face. The U.S. military budget which stood just shy of $144 billion during 1980 by 1986 had more than doubled to $295.5 billion. By 1988, Reagan’s final year in office, the military budget had risen to nearly $310 billion. The march towards militarism began and young people traded daily wardrobes of faded jeans and peace signs for military fatigues and running shoes. The Nation has not looked back.
The takeover has been by those who believe war, the force of arms, domination, are all necessary to survive in this world, and if not for survival, then an acceptable means to attain a political end. This, unsurprisingly, coincided with the transition to the neoliberal economic agenda, a purer form of the capitalist order which has at its foundation a belief in competition and self-interests as the driving forces of progress. The emphasis on competition and self-interest released the restraint on violence and enabled our spiral into the dark worlds of torture, collateral damage, and war. For 40 years, we’ve watched the National Rifle Association (NRA), competitive sports and violent entertainments grow in influence and increasingly fill our pastimes. Violence saturates our entertainment, our recreation, our psyches, our souls. Now we stand in preparation for a major war with nuclear armed opponents, projected likely to occur within the next five to ten years, and we seem resigned to this fate.
The belief in force and violence has overwhelmed our social consciousness and we barely acknowledge the possibility of peace. We fail to give audience to the peace message, yet there are those among us who see the wrongness of this path, who see the contradiction to our humanitarian and religious traditions, who believe in the possibility of peace. Peace is a choice.
War is inevitable only to the extent those who resign themselves to war remain the dominant force within our society. The peacemakers, along with the libertarians who generally oppose war, must rise, give hope to others, and increase the numbers of those who will oppose war, in order to prevent our otherwise inevitable fate–we must speak out for peace. To be clear, this is not an attack on the soldier, or soldiers, most of whom likely joined the war movement out of an authentic commitment to an ideal, this is an attack on the ideology of war. There are others whose lives are so saturated in thoughts of violence, they can only see solutions through the lens of war. This is an attack on that state of consciousness.
We should be strengthened in the knowledge that there are those in other nations: China, Russia, Iran, Syria, and elsewhere, who also desire peace, and who see the folly of the world’s current path. A strengthened anti-war movement within this Nation will provide space for anti-war movements in other nations. It is time for the peacemakers, the libertarians, and others, to undo the merger between violence and our collective consciousness and to point the world in a different direction.
Do it for humanity, do it for the soldier.