What Price Security?

[The Bloomington Herald-Times published a slightly adulterated version of this essay.]

“Where your treasure is,” cautioned Jesus of Nazareth, “there will your heart be also.” What did he mean? Something like this: Your security will be the object of your devotion. Or, that which you most value will require the most of you.

I was recently reminded of this saying of Jesus while reading about U.S. federal budget expenditures. Something like $2 out of every $3 of our federal taxes are currently devoted to military-related spending, including interest on the federal debt attributable to former military expenditures. What price security!

The end of the Cold War, sadly, did next to nothing to alter U.S. government spending priorities. Most Americans are simply unaware of the full extent of federal military spending. But many also seem to believe that security actually can be bought by such humongous military expenditures. Do you feel safer today than you did before 9-11-2001? Do you think you will feel safer after our government spends over $3 million per mile for several hundred miles of “fence” along our southern border with Mexico, and puts the National Guard on patrol?

This is not the place to spend 400 words bewailing the gross stupidity of the present administration, the U.S. Congress, and everybody else who thinks that the way to make the world safe for democracy is to turn it into a bunker or an armed camp. It is the place to ask about the shriveled state of our souls, and the pervasive fearfulness, that makes us acquiescent in the face of such atrocities as our government now perpetrates in the name of freedom.

Some have called the latest rush to wall out illegal immigrants a case of xenophobia. Others have called it outright racism. There’s more than a bit of such xenophobia and racism in U.S. policies toward the Islamic world as well. The so-called “war on terror” is largely a ruse. Follow the money, if you really want to know what’s going on. We’ve created more terrorists than we’ve put away, and we’ve sacrificed fundamental principles of justice, due process, and international law in the process. Blind devotion to national security, fueled by fear, bigotry, arrogance, and greed, must be seen for what it is–an obsessive-compulsive disorder, a spiritual sickness in the body politic. We are a people desperately in need of a return to reason, and to faith in a Goodness not our own.

Copyright 2006 by Byron C. Bangert