Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
As the U.S. continues to depend on military solutions to deal with an ever-growing number of problems locally and around the world, militarization will be the focus of this month’s Dispatch. Basic segments will include the Culture Watch, My Writing the Documentary & Book/Movie Reviews. We’ll look to Voice of the Day for inspiration, and for some comic relief, with a new Just Keep Laughing when that’s all we can do, as well as What Others Are Saying. Just click on the poster above for my latest book reviews in “The Million Mile Walker Review: What We’re Reading and Why” along with all the articles and resources available in this month’s “Arizona Authors Association Newsletter”.
As the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan after 20 years with no real successes to point to, it’s worth reviewing the scope and impact of our military complex. Daniel Sjursen, once model U.S. Army officer and West Point graduate, and author of Patriotic Dissent bluntly assesses the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq, “The Bush team fabricated, twisted, misinterpreted, and tactically leaked intelligence to manufacture and sell an outright invasion to the American people. They lied about the whole thing—blatantly, repeatedly and routinely.”
But once we appreciate the size and scope of this military apparatus, it is no wonder that our leaders continue to look towards military solutions to resolve the majority of the historically complex conflicts around the world. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. accounts for close to 40%, or $732 billion, of military expenses, which exceeds $1 trillion if you include “defense related expenses.” China is a very distant second with an expenditure of $261 billion. And this is but the tip of the military iceberg when you consider the impact of the arms industry, of which the U.S. accounted for an impressive 53% of that trade. The global arms industry is $398 billion, and the majority of the top ten companies are U.S. based, led by Lockheed Martin. And this will not change anytime soon, given that the arms industry contributes heavily to incumbent members of Congress.
So, when the U.S. sends one envoy to Israel to look for a “peaceful solution,” while we sent Israel $3.8 billion for arms in 2020 alone and have committed $27 billion in military aid over a ten-year period, why do we think that we’ll see anything different from the ongoing violence and carnage?
Todd Miller’s Empire of Borders reveals another example of global militarization, as the United States has effectively extended its borders throughout the world, giving rise to a worldwide enforcement network that is highly militarized and profoundly dehumanizing. He visits, and uses, Guatemala as an example of this trend and its implications.
Former U.S. army officer and author, Daniel Sjursen, became a military dissenter while still on active duty. He asks the pertinent question whether there is a proper space for patriotism that renounces entitled exceptionalism and narcissistic jingoism, which allow the ongoing growth of our military complex to continue at the expense of providing much needed resources for some of the serious challenges facing most Americans today. He calls for a critical exploration of our allegiances, and suggests a path to a new, more complex notion of patriotism. Equal parts somber and idealistic, this is a story about what it means to be an American in the midst of perpetual war, and what the future of patriotism might look like.
This phenomenon hits closest to home as the U.S. military continues to arm our police forces. The program, established in 1996, has given 10,000 law enforcement agencies $7.4 billion worth of equipment including grenade launchers, combat vehicles and hundreds of thousands of rifles. https://www.davisvanguard.org/2021/05/guest-commentary-its-past-time-to-end-the-federal-militarization-of-police/
Consequently, both here and abroad, military solutions are the U.S. government’s logical first choice since that is where our resources go and we don’t have to deal with the complex issues of developing cross-border understanding and trust, which lead to long-term solutions. The Quakers are the one organization I turn to when trying to understand this situation and how to change the culture and laws that make it possible. The American Friends Service deals with education and changing many of the issues addressed here. Key issues | American Friends Service Committee (afsc.org)
My Writing, the Documentary & Book/Movie Reviews
I am pleased to announce that Maria Martin, the award-winning public radio journalist based in Antigua, Guatemala, where she heads up the “GraciasVida Center for Media,” has agreed to become the new Executive Producer for our documentary, “Trouble in the Highlands.”
To identify more Maya activists and leaders to tell their story of the challenges their communities face, leading to so many fleeing to the north, we’ve added a multi-generational family (father, daughter) to our team, and both are Mayan Kaqchikel. Avexnim Cojti is the program director for “Cultural Survival” and Demetrio Cojti Cuxil is a former Guatemala Deputy Minister of Education who has worked as a university professor and social researcher. You can find out more on our website, which is being constantly updated: https://www.troubleinthehighlands.com/
My next article for the July issue of “Revue Magazine” will be, “Crossing Borders, Building Bridges: A Journalist’s Heart in Guatemala,” which will tell the story of our Executive Producer, her new book and her influence on the new direction of our documentary.
I’ve submitted a proposal for my next book, The Moritz Thomsen Reader: His Books, His Letters and His Legacy As Told by the Writers Who Know Him Best, to several university presses, including where I graduated, the University of Texas in Austin—which rejected it. But I’m still waiting to hear from the other two university presses, as well as several London based publishers. I’m also waiting for more stories from Returned Peace Corps Volunteers/Guatemala for my article, “Six Decades of the Peace Corps in Guatemala.”
I initially came across this book after listening to several interviews with the author and realized that her focus on how racism affects all Americans was consistent with what we’ve learned about the consequences of the COVID pandemic, where the majority of developing countries are unable to access the vaccine, despite none of us being safe until everyone is vaccinated, as well as the consequences of ignoring the plight of so many Central Americans forced to flee their homes to head north in search of safety and a decent quality of life.
The author embarks on a deeply personal journey across the country from Maine to Mississippi to California, analyzing what we lose as a country when we buy into the zero-sum paradigm—the idea that progress for some of us must come at the expense of others. Interestingly, she meets white people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed.
Race would play a central role in the rise from a starving colony to a superpower. The economy depended on systems of exploitation, which, in 1860, resulted in four million human beings in a slave trade with a market value of $3 billion, which benefited white colonizers and slaveholders. This, according to the author, made it easier to sell the idea that the inverse was also true: that liberation for people of color would necessarily require taking something away from white people.
The author ends her book with the realization that “Since this country’s founding, we have not allowed our diversity to be our superpower, and the result is that the United States is not more than the sum of its disparate parts…” “We in ‘We the People’ is not some of us, but all of us. We are greater than, and greater for, the sum of us.”
According to the NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, “One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone—not just for people of color.”
A hilarious, but insightful, Netflix biographic drama with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. Based on the controversy and scandal of tax-evading companies using Panama law firms to hide money in offshore bank accounts to the detriment of those deserving restitution from insurance companies.
The Laundromat: Netflix Release Date, Plot, Cast & Trailer – What’s on Netflix (whats-on-netflix.com)
Voice of the Day
Four Presidents and two decades later, “Mission Accomplished” is more endless war. Robert Draper, author of To Start a War.
Just Keep Laughing
Some of us are suffering from “Trump Withdrawals”. Here is an SNL take on “Trump Addicts for America”. You know its bad for you, but we can’t do without it!
What Others Are Saying
I will be stepping down from the board of Partnering for Peace on June 4th, in order to focus on the documentary and my writing, but before that, I’ve recruited a Co-Chair and left a plan for future membership growth, including job descriptions.
Mark, when I transition from one opportunity to another, my biggest concern is that my work and goals move in a different direction or are forgotten. Don’t worry. You have documented it well, and I appreciate that. Kim Dixon, President of Partnering for Peace.
All 60 book reviews and 25 articles, plus several videos, are at www.MillionMileWalker.com “Follow” me on Twitter. https://twitter.com/millionmile, @millionmile_wal Facebook http://www.facebook.com/millionmilewalker/?modal=invite_friend for the latest on international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” by all means, rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it.
Mark D. Walker