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Spreading love, at home & abroad

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Spreading love, at home & abroad

Another Valentine's Day approaches and we're still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not exactly spreading the love, are we?

We believe we are fighting for freedom. Yet freedom is stripped from most of us when we feel we must work most of our waking hours just to survive. We have lost sight of how to live freely.

Psychologists say humans share fundamental needs: survival, safety, connection to others, and a sense of dignity. As a nation with the most advanced technology, education, and standard of living, why is the quality of living so low for most of us?

Home foreclosures, unaffordable education, insufficient health care, and violence in our neighborhoods occupy our attention, leaving little time to feel safe or to connect with others. The worry and shame associated with mounting personal debts strip away our dignity and boost drug sales, both legal and illegal. So on the fundamental human needs scale, we sit pretty low on the ladder.

What if we re-thought our national priorities? What if we redirected the insane amounts spent on the military to pay off mortgages and to educate our people? America funnels more money into military expenditures than I can wrap my head around – 41.5% of $1.2 trillion in 2008 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's 2009 Yearbook. Next year, American military expenditures will cost $708 billion.

Even though nothing in my background has prepared me to deal with those staggering amounts, common sense tells me it is wrong for one country to take up that much of the global spending on war. That money could pay for how many home mortgages? How many college educations? How many parks, neighborhood centers, water catchment systems, gardens, alternative energy systems, or other life-affirming uses? Instead we choose to fund more violence in countries so remote from us geographically, religiously, and psychologically that we can use the term “a just war” with little thought or concern of the horrors we visit on the civilians living there.

On a local scale, think of what would happen if the 11,500 people working for Raytheon turned their attention toward installing solar collectors throughout neighborhoods and formed work coops to insulate and weatherize our aging housing inventory. Or if they would take the time devoted to supporting the war machine and visit neighborhood schools to read to kids? The alternatives are so numerous and so much more attractive, I don't know why we, the people, continue to accept decisions that put our future at risk instead of decisions that would enrich our lives.

Happy Valentine's Day 2010, everyone!

Mary DeCamp is a co-facilitator of Code Pink: People for Peace and a past Green Party candidate for City Council from Ward 3.

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