What About Those People?

Several groups of progressive Christians, most notably Sojourners, spend a lot of time and money talking about how the U.S. spends an exorbitant amount on military hardware and a mere pittance on social programs.  And, they’re right; we’re bankrupting this country by occupying two other countries all because we want what they’ve got: oil.  Congress has finally decided to address this problem and what do they do?  Attempt to cut the social programs that are a lifeline for many in the country while leaving defense spending untouched and the wealthy paying the lowest tax rates in years.  If you think that’s fucked up, you’re right.  Especially when you consider that the people wanting to cut these programs call themselves Christians.  I ask you, what’s Christian about spending trillions to kill people and practically nothing to feed, house and care for others? 

Here’s the thing, though; if we slash defense spending what’s going to happen to all the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines?  What about the people who build all the hardware our military uses?  Or the people involved in research and developement?  Deep cuts in military spending will put these people on the street in what’s the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.  You think jobs are scarce now?  Wait until all these folks are thrown into the job market; that situation will make the current day look like a boom bigger than the 80’s.  And, that could be a crash from which America will never recover.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should continue spending money on defense at the expense of helping those in need.  What I am saying is that just changing our spending habits isn’t enough.  I hear a lot of people complaining about how much we spend on the military and wanting to change that, but I don’t hear anyone offering any solutions about what to do with all those who will be out of work if that happens.  It’s similar to the global/local argument I’ve discussed with Hugh Hollowell.  Hugh runs a ministry called Love Wins and works with the poor and homeless in Raleigh, NC.  To say it’s a local ministry is understating it a bit.  In Hugh’s words, it’s “hyper-local” as almost all his interactions are within 5 miles of where he lives.  In assisting these folks, he shops at Wal-Mart…, a lot.  Now, for a lot of us progressives, Wal-Mart is the Devil.  But, in our conversations, I’ve come to see another side of that coin.  As he’s told me, for a hundred bucks, he can buy one pair of work boots that were made in a union factory here in the States by workers who receive fair compensation and good working conditions and help one person get a job.  Or, he can go to Wal-Mart where that same hundred dollars will buy 4 pairs of boots and 4 people are working.  Unfortunately, the boots at Wal-Mart are usually made in Indonesia or China by exploited workers (sometimes children) in terrible conditions for dismal pay.  The question we keep asking ourselves is the same one I’m asking myself over cutting military spending and putting people out of work:  how do you choose who to help and who to screw?   

I hate that I have to make a choice, whether it be over boots or bombs.  I hate that we’re mired in a shitty world that causes me to hurt one person while I help another.  I really hate that I don’t see a way out of this mess.  I also hate that the people who might be able to offer some solutions probably won’t ever see this and will keep right on saying and doing the same old shit.  To quote a line from a song by the Supersuckers, it’s “Pretty Fucked Up”.