Remarks delivered at “Music, Peace, and Hoppiness“, sponsored by MAPA Next Gen, August 19, 2018
Hi. My name is Brian Garvey and I just want to say a few words about the problem of militarism in this country and its connection to these elections coming up. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but we are a nation at war, and we have been for my entire adult life. We’re in at least 7 wars that I know of and I think we should name them: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Niger, and Yemen. This isn’t discussed much. The number one reason is a failure of Congress. When our government was created the founders specifically denied the President the power to make war. To have a war, legally, we’re supposed to have a debate and a vote and the politicians are supposed to have a record on how they voted. Funny, but I don’t remember a vote on a war in Yemen or Syria or Somalia or Niger or Libya. The President can now make war on a whim. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives in the Middle East, millions have lost their homes and been displaced, and our Congress has completely abdicated it’s responsibility. So it is now up to us to hold them responsible. That’s where this election comes in.
Congress controls the money, that’s their main job. Caitlin and Susannah talked a little bit about the economics around this issue. The pile of money we spend on the military is so large it’s hard to imagine. And it’s getting bigger. This past Monday President Trump signed a new military budget that adds an extra 80 billion dollars a year, making the yearly budget over 700 billion dollars. What does that even look like? To put it in perspective we spend about 5 times as much as China and 10 times as much as Russia. That seems excessive to me. The extra 80 billion dollars a year we just added is more than Russia’s entire military budget. It’s also more money than it would cost to provide universal, tuition free college at every public university in the country. When it’s about helping people we never have the cash, but when it’s for war? No problem.
Unfortunately the vote to spend all that extra money was not close in Congress. It passed 351 to 66 in the House. It passed 85 to 10 in the Senate. Now that’s almost all the Republicans, but it’s also a vast majority of Democrats, including 5 of the 9 Democratic Reps from liberal Massachusetts. I think we should name them: Moulton, Lynch, Neal, Keating, and Tsongas voted for it. Capuano, Clark, Kennedy, and McGovern voted against it. So this is a bi-partisan problem and it has been for a long time. That’s why it’s important to vote in these primaries on Septemember 4th as well as the general election in November. Young people have a bad reputation when it comes to voting, especially in primaries and mid-term elections. We should all do our part to change that.
But we need to go further. Voting is an important first step, a necessary first step, but, if I’m to be honest, I don’t think it’s enough. This problem of militarization that we’re taking on is in my opinion the biggest threat to this nation today. It has the power to bankrupt us, morally as well as financially. As Chloe said, the threat of nuclear weapons to our species as a whole is a threat of extinction, and that decision is in the hands of one man, Donald Trump. The time to act is now.
The problem may seem far away but it’s right here in Massachusetts. As we’ve said most of our congressmen voted to increase the War Machine. One of the largest military contractors in the world, Raytheon, is headquartered less than ten miles from here in Waltham. The company that makes the bombs dropping on the Middle East is right here. That makes us responsible.
I won’t lie. It is going to be hard. The Military Industrial Complex is a tough opponent and they are going to resist. They have an army of lobbyists, endless funds, and powerful friends in government. What do we have? You, the people, who by and large don’t want war. In a democracy that still counts for something.
So we’re all here, now what can we do? Well, if you can speak, if you can write, we’re going to need that. Can you research and organize? We need that too. Do you have some ideas? We’d love to hear them. So once again thank you for coming out, but please, come talk to us, get involved. Talk to your families and friends about these issues, the people who trust you. Certainly, vote at the very least. We are the Next Generation of Americans. What ultimately happens to this country is up to us. We are now caught in a cycle of violence and hatred. These wars will not stop themselves. We must stop them. Thank you.
To learn more about MAPA Next Gen, go to http://masspeaceaction.org/act/nextgen/