Worshipping at the Altar of Mars
The greatest country on Earth has a bloody and gruesome history, from our very beginning. We had no sooner become a nation when we began the genocide of the Native Americans, which continues to this day. At the same time we kidnapped and sold into slavery millions of Africans. How better to build a wealthy economy than with free labor?
In the 1850s we wanted to open trade with Japan. There were pearls, silk, and all kinds of goodies we wanted access to. The Japanese, though, weren’t interested; they preferred isolation. So in 1854 Commodore Matthew C. Perry went over there with a load of warships. He pretty much told them, nice country ya got here, be a shame if anything happened to it. We had invented gunboat diplomacy.
In the late 19th Century came our Age of Conquest, beginning with Hawaii and the Philippines. You should read Mark Twain’s dispatches from the Philippines. He tells how we tested our new invention, the Gatling gun, on hundreds if not thousands of peaceful people whose only crime was wanting to be independent of the U.S.
The 20th Century is saturated with the blood of indigenous people throughout Central and South America, as we overthrew one after another democratically elected governments and installed ruthless dictators. It was good for business, big business. A CIA-backed coup in Guatemala in 1954, at the behest of United Fruit Company. A CIA-backed coup in Chile on September 11th, 1973. That’s right – – that was our FIRST 9/11. The CIA assassinated Salvador Allende and installed Agosto Pinochet. And over in the Middle East, after their democratically elected government nationalized their oil, we helped the British overthrow it and install the Shah, in 1953. The list goes on; Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Panama, Honduras (that was just a year or so ago). Now it’s Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like the Roman garrisons that protected their empire, we have over 700 military bases in over 150 countries. That’s empire – – there’s no better word for it. We prefer to call it protecting America’s interests, but let’s not kid ourselves. Theft is what it is, looting and pillaging like some Goddamned Huns, is what it is. The single biggest user of petroleum in the world is the U.S. military. We spend more on our military budget than all the other countries of the world, combined. The military is suffused throughout our thinking. TV sports events – – which are really ritualized combat – – always have commercials for one of the armed forces. That audience is where they get new meat for the death machine. They’re all expendable, of course, and when they come home wounded in body and spirit, they’re ignored.
When President Eisenhower left office in 1961, he gave a now famous speech in which he warned us about what he called the military/industrial complex, but we didn’t listen. After 9/11 the military/corporate/security state got everything they ever dreamed of, at the cost of our freedoms and Constitutional rights. They run the whole show, now.
Is there something in the American DNA that makes us so warlike? Well, the country was first settled in large part by Puritans. These people were a bunch of tight-assed religious fundamentalists, so extreme they were kicked out of Europe. There’s an old definition of puritan: the idea that somewhere, someone might be having fun. “Is that buckle firm enough around thy cap, brother?” “Yea, verily.” With the Westward expansion grew a certain perspective, what came to be called Manifest Destiny. It’s the idea that because we are the (self-named) greatest country in the world – – that somehow entitles us to take anything anywhere from anyone we feel like. If people rise up to protect their own land and resources, we feel entitled to murder as many of them as it takes until they give in. Early in our history it was called Manifest Destiny; today it’s known as American Exceptionalism. I still call it theft, and it’s creating a black hole of bad karma.
Something in our DNA, something in the primordial memory of Western culture. It goes back thousands of years, I think, to Genesis 1:28 – – “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Subdue it. I would have preferred a God who wished us to be Stewards of the earth, rather than abusers. So this is our real DNA – – the need for force in order to control, and that desire comes out of fear. We see nature as adversary rather than partner. We are apart from the world, not a part of it. The military is only the most visible means of control, of the war against everything. The corporate/capitalist element is fused with the military element – – Eisenhower’s military industrial complex. This is nihilism, a death culture, and it’s where we are now. Unless we change that perspective – – or remove from power those who persist in this attitude – – the prognosis isn’t rosy.
Meanwhile, the greatest country in the world is racking up a monstrous debt in the currency of hate and resentment. Someday the bill is going to come due, and with compound interest.