I had the shocking feeling yesterday that I might be the proverbial frog in the kettle. I am not sure who discovered the facts behind that proverb (some mean “scientist” with a pet frog, I guess) but, apparently, if one puts a frog in a kettle in normal frog-water temperature and then slowly turns the heat up, the frog will not jump out of the kettle. It will acclimate, bit by bit, until it is cooked.
For the last thirty years or so, since Ronald Reagan, I have been mildly upset that the president runs a huge war machine that conducts dubious if not flat-out wrong activities without much debate. Then George Bush ran the machine like a monarch and I got a little hot. Then Barack Obama got elected on the basis of his mild criticism of the military-industrial-complex and now he is, effectively, a nice George Bush. It is like we are boiling in our militarism and no one can turn down the heat.
My shock of realization came during a day when I got to sit around reading and even bumping into a bit of Brian Williams on NBC. The Inquirer had some thoughts about Gary Willis’s book Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State because he was speaking at the Free Library. One thought really caught my eye: No president before Ronald Reagan was ever saluted by the troops. During Reagan’s regime, the heat took a little leap and I was there to feel it. But no one did anything; we acclimated. Willis says that, “In a way Barack Obama is a hostage” to the beast. “There’s too much invested in the machinery” for any president to dismantle it. It’s a juggernaut composed of the entire intelligence and defense machinery and the corporations that furnish it with weapons, manpower and services.
Then Brian Williams had one of his “Fleecing of America” segments. The C-17 transport plane got on the public radar for a few seconds because President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates wanted to stop making them. The Pentagon has enough of them. But the plane is made by about 30,000 workers in 43 states. So even though the C-17 isn’t necessary, the congress has them on order for $250 million a pop. The Pentagon’s base budget for planes, ships, missiles, and guns has grown more than 50% since 2000. It is projected to be $107 billion for 2010 alone—a 5% rise over 2009. In the budget for 2010 are 10 additional C-17 “Globemasters.”
So what is a Christian in the militarism kettle with the rest of the hostages, (including the President!), supposed to do?
1. Be outraged. Start by saying “Ouch, it is hot in the kettle. I think we might be boiling!” If all we can do it talk, at least talk. Jesus made a lot of difference just by telling the truth about the situation. Let’s speak up.
2. Rely on God. Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Perhaps you have grown acclimated to trusting in a yearly 5% rise in the “defense” budget. Let’s defiantly trust Jesus.
3. Discuss some thoughtful comparisons with people. For instance, I have a family member who is among the people with pre-existing conditions who can’t get insurance for less that $1700 a month or so. My calculations are simplistic of course, but wouldn’t refusing to pay for ten needless transport planes free up $2.5 billion dollars? If the government just gave back the money they already took to waste, didn’t even bother with other health-system reforms, but got the money to people with pre-existing conditions, that would make insurance affordable for half a million people. Let’s generate thought.
4. Pray. Boiling in militarism is a spiritual matter. I don’t think God desires for everyone to die in their kettles. He doesn’t use that metaphor, but the scripture does say in 2 Peter: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” The shocking state of our captivity in our militarism is sad. I don’t really think the president and most of the congress even want to be there; they are stuck managing a monster, and Frankenstein does not obey the master anymore. We need to be saved.
That will get us started. You may have some bright ideas yourself.