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DESIGNER/builder Magazine - Viewpoint his past Fourth of July we cringed at the prospect of watching one more performance of the National Symphony Orchestra pumping out old American martial standards on a stage festooned with flags and bunting, while an arsenal of fireworks lit up the sky and another generation of impressionable youngsters was indoctrinated into the belief that to be patriotic is to be militaristic.

All over the country that day towns large and small sponsored parades with high school drill teams shouldering rifles, marching bands in paramilitary uniforms with gold braid and gleaming boots, sometimes real soldiers, floats with missiles and rockets, and flyovers by air force jets. What were they celebrating 230 years after the Continental Congress declared its independence from its English colonial rulers? Was it a belief in independence for all oppressed peoples? Was it a belief that all men are created equal? Was it the right to universal “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” which would have to include food, shelter, health care, and a livable wage?

Righteous faith in our militarism has become even more exaggerated since 9/11 when nineteen terrorists crashed four planes and struck three buildings, a singular event that was twisted into an “attack on America.” Immediately reacting from a posture of revenge, we took on the box cutters with bunker busters and laser-guided bombs. Five years later, in mindless pursuit of terrorists, we have become deeply mired in two wars that have inflamed the Middle East and have left large parts of the Muslim world in ruins, creating more terrorists everywhere we go.

Meanwhile, all over America, school children pledge allegiance to our continued brutality. The seventh-inning stretch at the ball game that once filled the air with “Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks” has been replaced with the plea to “God Bless America.” In most sporting events, the uniforms of athletes are emblazoned with American flags. And pro football games and NASCAR races have become military recruiting events.

The government hides behind an abstract search for homeland security and spends billions chasing it. Yet back in March the General Accountability Office found that after a massive upgrade of airline safety, including searching the sneakers of grandmothers for hidden explosives, congressional investigators were able to sneak homemade bomb components by baggage screeners at twenty-one different airports.

Nor is homeland security securing our inalienable rights. According to government figures, there are 200,000 homeless veterans in the country today. The Department of Agriculture reports that 38 million Americans live with either hunger or “food insecurity.” Almost 9 million of them are children and 3 million are senior citizens.

Yet we have plenty of resources for our wars. We have dug into Iraq for a prolonged occupation. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University estimates that the true cost of the war will exceed one trillion dollars. Among those expenses, according to The Times of London, is the construction of the largest U.S. embassy in the world. Larger than Vatican City, the complex of twenty-one buildings will cover 104 acres, be surrounded by walls fifteen feet thick, and have its own water, power, and sewage systems – a small, self-contained city for the protection of some 8,000 inhabitants. It will be as impregnable as the castles of the crusaders, who hunkered down far from home, prisoners of their own hubris. But then anyone who knows the history of colonial India will understand that you cannot build a wall thick enough, a tower high enough, or a force strong enough to hold back the self-determination of an occupied people.

What continues to be ignored in the current strife in the Middle East is what is underlying Muslim rage. This is the endless occupation, systemic dehumanization, and ongoing abuse of the Palestinian people. In both the West Bank and Gaza, they are locked away in ghettos as odious as those of Warsaw and Lodz, treated without an ounce of humanity and condemned every time they strike back in fury and frustration. Also ignored are the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli desert prisons without charge.

Wherever one wants to jump onto this historic timeline, the reality is that for nearly forty years this occupation has been a festering wound in the Muslim world. With one excuse after another Western governments have refused to demand a solution and the archaic and U.S.-led United Nations has shown its weakness in failing to insist on the illegality of and end to this occupation. Where is the voice for a diplomacy of peace that will lead to the only possible solution for all parties involved – the creation of a fully independent Palestinian state free from continued interference and harassment with international economic development support?

Meanwhile, the United States continues to fan the flames of war. Number one in military might and exercising it daily, we are making the world ever less safe. We are a country that glorifies war. Our core values are about power. We are a nation that is poisoning its own people. DESIGNER/builder Magazine - Barefoot Artists