A Carnival of Militarism and the Enucleation of San Francisco

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam

The annual Fleet Week event took place in San Francisco last weekend.  For this event six U.S Navy ships (a guided-missile destroyer, frigate, and cruiser, a Coast Guard Cutter, and two amphibious assault ships, whose collective costs exceeds $4 billion) were docked along the Embarcadero piers for civilians to climb aboard and tour the vessels which were constructed at tax-payer expense and presumably for their defense, while six Blue Angels fighter jets ($21 million apiece, unweaponized) tore through the skies above San Francisco.  Flying at over 650 miles per hour, the jets screamed over the city, setting off car alarms as they performed their synchronistic aerial acrobatics before soaring away over the Pacific Ocean only to curve back around toward the city and execute their maneuvers and stunts yet again.  (The planes fly in such close proximity to structures of the city that one is forced to imagine the disastrous scenario of a jet losing control and crashing through Financial District skyscrapers and bursting into flames and wreckage.)  The jets are a testament to the brilliance of human engineering and a demonstration of the incredible technological progress scientists have made in the in the fields of aviation, aeronautics, and rocketry since the Wright Brothers flew the first plane in Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903.

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Thousands of people came to San Francisco to watch the Blue Angels.  They were blown away by the amazing feats and superlative horsepower and speed exhibited by the jets wheeling overhead, but for tens of thousands of people in distant lands, the tremendous roar of U.S fighter jets means something totally different, something much less entertaining and auspicious, and much more terrifying.  We live in a country that is using its military aircraft and armed services not for defensive purposes, but aggressively in multiple theaters of war, bombing places we have no moral justification for bombing, places that most of our citizens are unable find on a map.   We are killing men who have never lifted a hand against us; sinfully, we are killing infants and children and mothers who should never had have died by the blast of a bomb or a missile strike launched by our fighter jets or naval ships (yet the horrible irony ((and quite possibly the plan from the very beginning of the War of Terror)) is that we have created true enemies throughout this ongoing war in which greed, arrogance, and lies have continually trumped diplomacy, negotiation, and compassion.  And so we have turned against each other as brothers and sisters in an accusatory realm of hatred, death, and suicide; the global commoners divided against each other ((even though we may have never met)) and willing to kill one another for actions the other supposedly has committed or ideologies they supposedly advocate or represent).  Currently, the immediate theaters of war that the United States is directly involved in include Iraq, Afghanistan (countries which we invaded and have occupied with ground troops), and Syria, where innocent men, women, and children residing in villages and townships are being killed by the same types of jets that we in America are so entertained by.  The scale and intensity of violence that the United States government and military have inflicted upon innocent people abroad is beyond anything that ISIS has ever dared to reach.  Since World War II, the CIA has been directly involved in overthrowing numerous democratically-elected foreign governments, and the United States has consistently offered military and financial support to authoritarian governments or regimes that have murdered their fellow citizens, often on mass scales (such as in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, Iraq, Iran, the Congo, Ethiopia, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc.).  We have blood on our hands.

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So what does it mean when crowds gather in San Francisco to genuflect beneath the rise of the Blue Angels while hospitals in Afghanistan have been attacked by U.S gunships?  What does it say about our culture (we are the third most populous nation on Earth) if it is ardently obsessed about Sunday Night Football on the same day that massive explosions rip through a peace rally in Ankara?  What does it say about America (our government, our media, ourselves) if we care more about football and airplane stunts than about the fact that the anniversary of the longest running war in U.S history has just passed without protest?  What does it say about a city that cares more about hosting a carnival of militarism than about helping out its own homeless residents who are going hungry on the streets?  A substantial amount of double-think, ignorance, and nationalism (a notion much different from that of patriotism, for patriots have the courage to speak up when their government is doing something wrong) is required for us to arrive at this mental space of obliviousness and apathy where a mature adult can enjoy the thrills of the Blue Angels without feeling that there is something horribly bizarre, twisted, and backwards about being entertained by fighter jets at home while very similar fighter jets, armed with the most expensive and technologically advanced weapons in history, are at that very moment thousands of miles away launching airstrikes against people in the towns and villages of some the poorest countries on Earth.

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Meanwhile, we have turned a blind eye to those in desperate need of clinical help here in our own backyard.  Enormous penthouse apartment complexes are springing up throughout the Mission Bay and South Beach neighborhoods of San Francisco, and living in the shadows of these urban gated-community skyscrapers are thousands of homeless people who have pitched their tents on sidewalks and sleep in the streets.  Many are drug addicts and alcoholics that are not offered proactive care from the city, which is the richest in the country.  San Francisco, like many other cities, is home to extremely wealthy families and young adults whom are isolating themselves from those unable to afford to live or emulate their dangerously internet-dependent and “fashionable” lifestyles.  The economy is largely based on tourism and consumerism, and in the social race to consume the poor are being left behind to dig through the remnants of consumption discarded and regurgitated by the rich.  And although they walk and beg on the very same streets as the rich, the poor have become invisible, yet it is not they who have gone blind.  Immersed in both an interface-induced state of narcissistic delirium and an instant-gratification wonderland of texts and likes, compounded by televised touchdowns and fighter jet shows, our society has become enucleated (a surgical term referring to the removal of an eye).  And it is due to this enucleation that we are being driven apart as individuals and communities, and that our military is allowed to get away with murder.  So think about that next time the Blue Angels come to town.

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