Volume 11 Nr. 5, Issue 126
The last page of the December, 2003 issue of the Catholic Worker newspaper published an excerpt from the writings of the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. First published in October, 1963, in "The Root of War", Merton writes,
The Council for a Livable World, an arms control organization that focuses on halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, reports that in fiscal year 2003, The United States spent a total outlay of $379,000,000,000, ($379B) on its military budget. In its quest to purchase an illusory security through military might, the United States spent $172B more on weapons of death and destruction than the combined military budgets of the next 18 countries (United Kingdom $38.4B, Russia $29B, France $27B, Germany $23.1B, Saudi Arabia $18.7B, India $15.9B, China $14.5B, South Korea $12.8B, Taiwan $12.8B, Iran $7.5B, Pakistan $3.3B, Syria $1.8B, Iraq $1.4B, North Korea $1.2B, Yugoslavia $1.3B, Libya $1.2B, Sudan $425M, Cuba $31M). The Council calculates that for the 5 year period between 1999 through 2005, the U.S. will have spent a minimum of $1,600,000,000,000 which is one-trillion-six-hundred-billion dollars. This is equivalent to winning the one-million dollars lottery prize a total of one-million-six-hundred thousand times!
Thomas Merton notes, "This in a nation that claims to be fighting for religious truth along with freedom and other values of the spirit." How then does what we do as a nation stack up against what we as a nation profess? The vast majority of UStatesians consider themselves part of the professed Christian bedrock upon which this nation was built. The U.S. Census Bureau for the year 2000 reports that 76.5% of the United States population identifies as being Christian. Yet, it is highly unlikely that most who call themselves Christians could name more than half of them. In 2003, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore a granite monument block carved with the Ten Commandments into the main entrance of the Alabama State Department of Justice building. In the end, Moore was forced to remove them by a unanimous vote of a nine-member Court of the Judiciary who cited their placement as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The Americans United for Separations of Church and State website is http://www.au.org.
This issue of Metaphoria examines United States' government and national behavior vis-à-vis the Ten Commandments. It confronts the disparity between profession and behavior. At least five different versions of the Ten Commandments confine the tablets to a confusion of translation and meaning. This issue uses modern contemporary wording.
The Commandments and The Record1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me, nor carve idols for yourselves, nor bow down before them or worship them.
The idol of greatest worship in the United States is money. Some say that money is God in action; others contend that this commandment does not allow having two masters, money and God. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Matthew 6:24.
Christmas we make claim to the Jesus message of peace, but we revel in an
orgy of spending constantly being reminded that it is
"un-American" not to spend money. We are incessantly urged
in these troubled times to go out and buy something, anything. We
spend and spend even if that means going into debt to pay for all the
material things we place under the tree. If we placed as much
emphasis on the Jesus message of nonviolence than we do on making the
holidays a national economic success, perhaps, we might then move closer
to peace on Earth and goodwill to all. While our coins and paper
money may say, "In God We Trust", what we really mean is,
"In Legal Tender We Trust". We invest so heavily in the
carved idols of acquisition that we have even changed our foreign policy.
The United States now condones, and commits, first strike military action
and pre-emptive war. We love the profit of war. We love the
Lord, Money. We love that which produces even more money above all
else. War is big business. It requires great sacrifice to
continuously guarantee profit. Those who sacrifice the most are
those that benefit the least.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
"There are no atheists in foxholes". This claim is made by believers about combatants who when entering into battle often pray to God for victory. On the other side of the war fence, there is very likely a similarly frightened human being, often another adherent of the Ten Commandments (or similar precepts) praying for the death of their enemy. How is God, the same God of both believers, to respond? Praying to God for victory or survival through the death of another is taking the name of the Lord in vain, is it not?. The presupposition is, of course, that there is a god, a Lord, whose name can be taken in vain. The contradiction of such prayer for victory should suffice in causing a re-examination and questioning of the untenable position of the combatants. Perhaps, walking away from war is the ultimate in taking the name of the Lord, God, that is, money, in vain. War almost always involves material gain on the part of those orchestrating it. Perhaps, refusing to die for the greed of the ruling elite is the saving grace from any belief in the higher power of money.
3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
War does not stop on the Sabbath day. It continues in Iraq on the "holy" day, fought by those who proclaim it holy. Subservience to a higher power and the worship thereof, routinely takes second place in the order of priorities when it comes to doing battle for the merchants of death. Not only is "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day" ignored, the contradiction is compounded by ignoring, "You shall not kill" on that day. Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness, once again spent Christmas 2003 in Baghdad. In a communiqué published on the Common Dreams website on December 26, 2003, entitled, "From Baghdad: A Better World", Kathy writes,
Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi credited Jesus for being the source of the principles of non-violence that guided his life. Gandhi often quoted the Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes) believing in a Peace Force that could, through non-cooperation with violence, transform the world. On Christmas, a very important day in Christian mythology, the war and bombing continued. It mattered not that the participants consider themselves to be followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Perhaps, the people whom we are trying to convince in Iraq through the exercise of our might recognize the inherent contradiction in our actions? Gandhi said "Christianity is the best religion. I would have become a Christian myself but I have not found one true Christian." We as a nation often do not practice what we preach, not on the Sabbath, nor on the day of the birth of the one many say is the way to peace. It is good for us to remember, as Ira Chernus writes in "Pick Your Favorite Jesus", that Jesus was "The first nonviolent revolutionary, teaching us how to use love as a political tool to overthrow the system." And, so was Gandhi.
Human beings have a biological father and mother. To honor them is to cherish their roles as parents and first teachers, and as responsible parties for bringing forth new human beings. War creates orphans and as such, dishonors parents. War destroys and damages parents. Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was an overriding belief and policy that international disagreements and disputes could be settled through war only as a last resort. With the war in Iraq, that has ended. Fathers, mothers, and children are, just behind the truth, the first casualties of war. Conflict resolution through violence casts dishonor upon the violent. Describing his development and practice called ahimsa, Gandhi writes in "Non-Violence",
What attitudes and values are taken up by
the children whose parents are killed in a pre-emptive war? What conclusions do orphans
come to when their fathers and mothers die in a war that they
and most of the world see as immoral and unnecessary? Violence begets
violence. As the people of planet Earth
usher in the year 2004, we find ourselves as if in front of the monolith
that appears in the opening scenes of Arthur C. Clarke's classic, 2001 A Space Odyssey. We
strike at each other with cruise missiles and precision guided ordinance,
tanks and cluster bombs rather than with bones and rocks. We protect not
only the watering hole, but our precious oil. Perhaps, in 2004, we
will find a monolith of the heart that leads to peace, one that replaces
the phalli of projectiles that diminish so much of who we as humans are and
what we can be.
5. You shall not kill.
(1) Department of Teaching and Learning Virginia Tech. All other stats from Council of a Livable World. Includes only "major" wars, excludes the hundreds of thousands of deaths by proxy through U.S. policy and actions in Central and South America.
The total killed in human conflict for the 20th century according to Rudolph J. Rummel, Death By Government, is 258,327,000. The 21st century follows in the footsteps of the 20th. How is it that we in the United States do not see how we are being misled by a Superpower ruling elite that desires and believes in nothing less than an ever-expanding empire through never-ending war.
Country singer Willie Nelson, in his newly release peace and protest songs, called, What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth, sings,
6. You shall not commit adultery.
Spiritual adultery is the worship of false gods. Just what does the worship of weapons of war do to the national conscience and psyche? In an Agence France Presse article published on August 8, 2003 and entitled "Hiroshima Mayor Lashes Out at Bush on Atomic Bombing Anniversary", mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said that the United States "appears to worship nuclear weapons as God." The Bush regime institutionalizes spiritual adultery when it makes acceptable the use of nuclear weapons. The unthinkable has become the acceptable. 140,000 people died in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, mostly civilians. 174,000 died in Nagasaki. Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, in this the 58th August 6 anniversary, in his Peace Declaration, further stated,
Francis Boyle, a Human Rights lawyer and a professor of law at the University of Illinois, writing in an article entitled, "Bush Nuclear Policy Violates International Law. Again" and published on April 2, 2002 on The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, writes,
adultery abounds. As, atomic scientist, Robert
Oppenheimer states in 1956 regarding his tenure as director of the
first US nuclear tests, "We did the Devil's work."
7. You shall not steal.
What can one say? The land that is the United States is not indigenous territory to the Europeans who "discovered" it. The African slave trade was a theft of human beings. Sweat shops today steal life from the oppressed workers. The socio-economic system that gravitates wealth upward while destroying the illusion of a middle class is a theft perpetrated on the masses. It is the worker who creates the wealth of the richest nation on Earth,. This wealth is so great that the United States can annihilate any country within hours, yet, it cannot provide heath care to 40-million of its own people. 12-million of its citizens go to bed hungry every day. This in the land of Adelphia Communications, AOL Time Warner, Arthur Andersen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CMS Energy, Duke Energy, Dynergy, Global Crossing, Homestore.com, Kmart, Merck, Mirant, Nicor Energy, Peregrine Systems, Qwest Communications, Reliant Energy, Tyco, WorldCom, Xerox, etc. This list of corporations comes from the Forbes.com "The Corporate Scandal Sheet" which stopped updating it on August 26, 2002. Perhaps, the task was so daunting that no-one could keep up with the ever-growing list of thou-shall-not stealers. The war in Iraq is yet another theft.
Excerpt from an article By Column Lynch, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, May 9, 2003. Former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower commented on the theft perpetuated on the people when he said,
The United States regime under George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and friends redefines bearing false witness. From weapons of mass destruction used as an excuse to go to war in Iraq which after a year are nowhere to be found, to the fabrication of the Jessica Lynch story, and the orchestration of the Kurds capture of Saddam Hussein as a U.S. forces fait accompli, through lies spoken by the Resident of the White House in contempt of Congress during the State of the Union Speech in January 2003, the standards for bearing false witness have been institutionalized. The ridiculously misconstrued so-called "liberal media" spews and repeats Pentagon and administration propaganda and spin without abandon. Military censorship and Pentagon approved reportage become necessary to insure that the truth becomes the truth as they see it. An endless parade of colonels and generals are brought before the television cameras under the guise that they can somehow be trusted with telling the truth, this after officially embedding reporters with troops. All war is a crime against humanity with lying a big and necessary component in making it palatable to the public. How else would people be willing to send their sons and daughters in harms way for the greed and power of others? How else would the people readily accept that almost no-on in Congress has a relative in the military dying under the guise of patriotism for the "cause". War in the 21st century USA is sanitized. It is scrubbed clean by the bleach of pentagon industrial war machine. The blood guts and stench are removed in the glorification of war. Perhaps, this is the worst bearing false witness of all.
The above, a partial list taken from a BuzzFlash Commentary, published July 2003 at http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/03/07/22_lies.html. Many more lies have since been told. The top 30 Bush lies on Iraq, A Reference for Seekers of the Truth can be found at: http://www.politicalstrategy.org/2003_03_10_weblog_archive.htm.
Another verse from Willie Nelson's What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth,
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
In some versions, this commandment reads: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc. defines covet as "To have or indulge inordinate desire". During the founding days of the United States, Thomas Jefferson said,
At the end of the war with Mexico (1848), two-thirds of Mexico was annexed. Texas was annexed from Mexico in 1845. The U.S. also annexed more than 525,000 square miles of land which became the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and part of Wyoming. Hawaii which was annexed as a territory in violation of treaties in place at the end of the 19th century. The illegal overthrow of Hawaii's government on Jan. 17, 1893 was in major part, a consequence of coveting sugar. Come to think of it, all of what today is the United States and its territories, was annexed from someone else, almost completely in violation of, "You shall not kill". Covet, we continue. From bananas and a canal in Central America, to rubber in Southeast Asia, to oil anywhere that it can be found, coveting your neighbors house seems to be a national obsession. Personally, we covet possessions, jobs, wealth, personal appearance, status, glamour, power, oil, etc. But, it is never enough. We covet more, and then more again. As a consequence of instilling competition as a virtue over cooperation, we individually and as a nation hanker for victory in the material arena never being satisfied. Meanwhile, over the decades we have made many enemies through our greed. The obsession with coveting our neighbor's house goes back to the founding of the republic. Perhaps, it is time to find a better way.
O.T. Ford on "The Stewardship" website (the-stewardsip.org), calls the machination by the wealthy as "an imperialism by kleptocracy". Ford states,
While the kleptocracy continues to accumulate wealth, humanity is no closer to being able, as Ford puts it,
The Bush regime seems to have adopted parts of the playbook from the infamous and dreadful Nazi, Dr. Joseph M. Goebbels, who said,
Imperialism cheats. Capitalist hegemony consolidates imperialism. Globalization and neo-liberalism are the latest incantations of imperialism. Within the belly of the Superpower, the populace goes on under the false impression that they and their nation are adherents of the Christian ethic. I cannot see the Christian Jesus as accepting the behavior of the world's lone superpower. I sense that Jesus would be more apt to throw them out of the temple of Wall Street than to advocate for more diverse stock portfolios and the leveraging of war investment in order to maximize profits. Neither would Jesus advocate for pre-emptive war, nuclear weapons, bunker busters, cruise missiles, aircraft careers, the weaponization of space, cluster bombs, Shock and Awe, etc. Quite the contrary.
Quotes to End
"A tyrant...is always
stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a
announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are
to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and
servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
© 2003 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD