I think it really hit me, so to speak, while I was standing on the street corner Saturday, April 9th, a day for anti war/occupation demonstrations throughout America. It was also a day to protest this latest escapade into Libya. You see, for those of us who have been standing on street corners for over six years, it matters not who occupies the White House or the Congress. The two major political parties are usually ‘on script ‘with their controllers from the Military Industrial Complex. Anyhow, I was standing in the hot morning Florida sun holding my Vietnam All Over Again… Stand with Us sign. I faced this yellow car, driven by a pretty 20 something young lady. She was stopped at the turning lane light, looking straight ahead, not once glancing my way. Having been at this for so many weeks for so many years, I can usually interpret whether people are avoiding us or simply uninterested. This young lady was of the latter. She just could not care less!
There have been many protest rallies and demonstrations in Central Florida lately. They are organized by groups like Awake the State and Fight Back Florida. These are good and decent people who care about the budget cuts and attempts to disable the unions. Yet, these folks refuse to ‘connect the dots’ as to the effect the military budget has on our state of Florida’s lack of Federal revenue sharing money. Matter of fact, where have all the major unions and their members been since we extended our empire into Afghanistan and Iraq? How could they remain silent as our Congress continually funds the Military Industrial Complex to the tune of an astounding and record breaking $ 550+ billion dollars for one year? Let’s take the Teachers Union and their president here in Volusia County. When approached by this writer for an opportunity to speak to his membership about the nationwide non partisan movement The 25% Solution, no response from him. Over and over, via e mails and phone voice mail messages, no response. Why? Well, this 25% Solution movement wants Congress to cut our bloated military budget by 25% (around $ 170 billion) and use the savings to balance all 50 States’ budgets. Translated: No need for layoffs or cuts in pay in any way, shape or form! Well, sounds like a win – win situation, yes? Why wouldn’t he let me speak? Why do he and his members just drive by our street corner demonstrations each and every week? Why won’t his union (and most of the others, if not all the others) start showing up at city and county council meetings, and at the offices of our Congressional representatives, to trumpet this cause? Well, if you ‘follow da money ‘you will see that his union gives big dollars to the Democratic Party. Of course, the Democrats are no better than their Republican adversaries when it comes to military spending. They both vote to continue the obscene funding for the Military Industrial Complex and to keep our troops overseas in nearly 800 bases in over 100 countries.
We had a group of close to 30 protestors show up each week on the same street corner in our town when Bush & Cheney ran things. Now, we are lucky to get 6 or 8. Yet, our soldiers are still occupying the same countries. We still spend 100 + billion dollars yearly of precious tax dollars on this disgrace. The new president, like his predecessor, chose to continue bailing out the crooked banks and investment houses. He has refused to do something viable to get those foreclosed homes off the market and jumpstart housing again. He refused to be bold, in the vein of an FDR, and demand that a public option be included in any heath care reform. Need I go on? Yet, on the subject of the occupations of Iraq & Afghanistan, for instance, here is the response from one progressive activist who stood with us each and every week while Bush was in office. When asked why he has not come out since then, his answer was: ‘These are Bush’s wars, not Obama’s. Obama inherited them, and I won’t protest Obama’s decisions or policies! ‘
We have this whole Tea party movement or whatever you call it. When you actually engage one of these supporters with dialogue, the answers are frightening. The utter audacity, like that of the Obama supporter just mentioned, is astounding! The Tea party folks will rant and rave about big government and excess spending. Then, when you ask them about the ever spiraling military funding and the occupations, they start to wave the flag at you. When you mention how it was the Bush administration that gave away hundreds of billions of Tea Party members tax dollars to bail out the corrupt and sinister Wall Street gangs, they have only one answer: ‘Well, if we didn’t bail them out, the whole system would collapse ‘. Yeah, and I have this bridge in Brooklyn for sale, real cheap. Yet, when it comes to money for medical care and medicine for the indigent, these folks could not care less. Let’s see how they react when the Feds start cutting into Social Security and Medicare to help with our economic depression (yes, depression, not recession). As far as self interest, well, wonder how many Tea Party folks use illegals to clean their homes, tend to their landscaping or work in their small businesses?
Most students in colleges and high schools could not care less about others their age who are slugging it out in the heat and destruction of Iraq & Afghanistan. We have no draft, so what do they care? I guess I was on that page myself way back in the late 60s. Maybe it took the deaths of two guys from my neighborhood to wake me up a bit. One guy, Tommy Lombardo, had a Mom who was the school crossing guard by our church. For years, Mrs. Lombardo would always carry the biggest smile each Sunday after Mass, as we crossed her corner. Then, her pride and joy came home from the Marines in a nondescript box. I could never forget how that smile became more of a Mona Lisa frown after Tommy died.
The street corners and town squares and halls of government will never be filled with the numbers that they should be. How can they? We still live in a country that celebrates consumerism, stardom, militarism and a half cocked version of religion. Jesus and our flag have been hijacked by those who push I phones, Reality TV, junk food and ‘the few and the proud ‘recruitment commercials. American exceptionalism is the code word for destroying any nation that stands up to our empire and the need for their resources. You see, The Fix is in and most of us don’t even realize or care! Do the union brothers and sisters and their leaders who now stand and protest the budget cuts actually care about what our nation is doing in the Middle East? They have been looking out at us on those street corners for almost seven years. It seems that unless Move On.org or the Democratic Party sponsors such protest, they will continue to pass us by. Do they have any empathy for the hundreds of thousands of civilians that our bombs and tanks and other weapons have maimed and destroyed? All the union brothers and sisters out there, private or public sector, who turn a deaf ear to the calls for protest, is this now their collective karma? The Military Industrial Complex has bled our treasury dry with phony wars and disgraceful occupations… all in the name of funneling away the funds needed for our states and city governments to help those teachers, police, fire, and other working stiffs. If we, as a people, union, non union, conservative , progressive or whatever, do not first come out and demand a better deal…Fascism will become the newest manner of self interest.
This reminds me of the joke, a really useful analogy to American apathy and misplaced priorities. This guy goes to a shrink and complains ‘I am very worried about my brother. He is acting more and more like a chicken. I mean, goodness, he walks around making sounds and gestures like a chicken. Now, he will only eat birdseed. What can I do? ‘The psychiatrist sighs and says ‘Well, the only thing you can do is have him committed to an institution. ‘The guy shakes his head and says ‘I can’t do that. ‘The psychiatrist asks him why not. The guy says ‘Because I need the eggs! ‘
Philip A. Farruggio is son and grandson of Brooklyn NYC longshoremen. He is a small businessman, activist leader and freelance columnist. Philip is now Volusia Cty spokesperson for the nationwide 25% Solution to cut military spending. Since the 2000 elections, he has written over 250 columns, many posted on various sites worldwide. Recently, he is finding a home at Dandelion Salad, dissidentvoice.org and progressivepatriots.net or at his own blog at www.opensalon.com. Philip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.