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NUMBER ONE AND NUMBER 12:

New York Times, August 30, 2005, Page 8 Article Headline: “Weapons Sales Worldwide Rise to Highest Level Since 2000.” Quote from the article: “The United States once again dominated global weapons sales, signing deals worth $12.4 billion in 2004, or 33.5 percent of all contracts worldwide.”

Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2005, Page 3 Article Headline (with its obvious spin): “U.S. Grows More Generous Towards World’s Poor” and note the subtitle – in smaller print – “But the nation still ranks twelfth among the twenty-one richest countries.”

New York Times, August 31, 2005, Front Page Article Headline: “U.S. Poverty Rate was Up Last Year— Income Failed to Increase for Fifth Straight Year.”

So here’s the picture: on the Arms Sales front, we are number one, hurrah! On the Poverty front- it’s on the rise in our country and we are stingy when it comes to the world’s poor. And then we wonder why the world doesn’t love us the way we think they should.

We support dictators.

We ignore genocide.

We invade other countries.

We are the only G-8 nation that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

We supply guns all over the world.

In addition, we reject the call upon nations to contribute .7% of their gross domestic product in foreign aid because, we say, it would cost us $91 billion a year. Yet we are willing to spend more than that waging war in one Middle East country.

As always, issues of spending come back to priorities. And, as always, self-interest and profit rule six days a week. On the seventh day most Americans — including our politicians — go to church and mouth beatific prayers and scriptures about giving to the poor and being instruments of peace. How do you reconcile selling instruments of war all over the world with being instruments of the Lord’s peace? How does a populace ignore the poor at home and abroad while reciting the Sermon on the Mount on Sundays? Somehow we are able to handle such contradictions.

Whenever the issue of poverty comes up you can be sure someone will invoke the mind-numbing cliché : “You can’t solve problems by just throwing money at them.” It is a sure guarantee to get the sheep to bleat and the dogs to wag their tails. And sure enough when the U.S. rank of 12th came out, Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, J. Edward Fox said, “Throwing money at a developing country is not necessarily the best way to do it.” The throwing money away image always seems to be the trump card. But how about investing in building schools, agricultural development, building hospitals, improving food supplies, and creating nutritional programs? Would this be throwing money away or would it be investing in human decency, and, by the way, winning friends rather than creating enemies?

And while we’re at it, how about becoming the world’s leader in buying back weapons and supplying the world instead with books, medicine, food, housing materials? Why not replace being number one in weapons sales with being number one in promoting peace, industry, health and education?Such ideas are always dismissed out of hand as being too idealistic, impractical, not realistic— as if what we are doing, business as usual, is successful. The guns we sell around the globe are used to kill people— that is their intended use. In addition, often the guns we sell to a current ally are used against our own troops when former allies become enemies. Realpolitik fails over and over and the deepest human needs and dreams of living in peace and with the freedom to work, enjoy family, and participate in creative culture are thwarted. Idealism doesn’t work because it is rarely tried. I pray that in my lifetime and in my daughters’ lifetimes that we Americans will try a different path, one less traveled, that we will as the 60’s song urges, “give peace a chance” and that we actually practice what we preach.

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