Donald Trump and his base — the leftover scraps of Jim Crow, the broken shards of racist hatred that once were the American mainstream and made the country seem “great” to those who weren’t its victims — have, it appears, a crucial role to play in our future.
President Trump is the increasingly naked truth. He’s what we have wound up with: a raw, uncensored scapegoating and fear-mongering that’s too much for most of the American public. And thus the political center, the military-industrial-media consensus that has ruled the country for the past four and a half decades, pushing progressive values to the margins of American politics, is unraveling. Centrist compromise, which birthed the Trump presidency, can’t mask the truth anymore.
It’s time to evolve.
If we don’t, we’re stuck in the mire of racism, exploitation, empire and war. We’re stuck in the dead past, which has given us the current state of Planet Earth: a planet at war with itself in multiple ways. We’re stuck in a dead past and a dying future.
This is the context, I believe, in which we should evaluate the Green New Deal, which may well be the most brightly shining political ideal to emerge on the national horizon in my Boomer lifetime. Here’s how one of the Deal’s arch enemies, Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, described it recently in the Washington Examiner:
“Make no mistake about it: This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States. If we don’t stop the Green New Deal, our economy may not survive. This isn’t a battle we can afford to lose.”
So it must be good! If nothing else, it’s a piece of potential legislation with real traction that transcends Democratic centrism and timidity — its instinct to cave to well-funded right-wing criticism and avoid upsetting the military-industrial applecart — that became de rigueur party behavior since the defeat of George McGovern in 1972.
But the GND needs to go further than it does. Since it’s already being pilloried as the most radical piece of legislation in modern history, it might as well open itself up to become just that: the cornerstone of a truly sustainable national and global future. The Deal should take on militarism and war as well as climate change and poverty; they are all linked. Our near-trillion-dollar military budget, and the endless and needless wars it funds — not to mention the ongoing development of our nuclear arsenal — can’t be quietly, politely ignored as we envision a sane tomorrow.
Right now, the draft legislation for the Green New Deal calls for ten years of intense national focus on such objectives as: establishing 100 percent of national power generation from renewable sources; decarbonizing U.S. industry, agriculture and transportation; the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases; the building of an energy-efficient national grid; and, along with this, the recognition “that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone,”
This is no small plan! It’s a rallying cry and vision that virtually transcends political thinking as we know it, reflecting a near-complete dismissal of status quo politics and its obeisance to Big Money. It refuses to comprise with the forces of either Trump or the Koch brothers. It challenges America to be a democracy.
Let it also challenge the military-industrial complex. The organization Code Pink has taken the lead in calling for it to do so, suggesting, for instance, that the list of goals on the draft legislation should include this one: “a major transition away from the environmental destruction of war and war-preparations, including the closure of most of the U.S. military bases abroad and within the United States and the thorough cleanup of the land and water in those locations.”
Code Pink also suggests, regarding funding for the project, that “much of the 60 percent of discretionary spending now going into the environmentally destructive project of militarism can be moved to environmental protection.”
The point, as I see it, is to create a holistic vision for the future. We can’t just shrug that war is politically untouchable. Doing so — avoiding all serious discussion of militarism, both its costs and its consequences — leaves the global noose dangling.
The military-industrial PR machine spews noise about glory, honor and national defense, but mostly what keeps the system running in perpetuity is a complete lack of discussion about alternatives to violent self-defense. The need for a strong military presence — my God, the need for a new generation of nuclear weapons — is taken for granted by the mainstream media and much of the public, and must be challenged at the national level. The time to do so is now.
A number of years ago I wrote: “From the radioactive fallout spread by depleted uranium munitions to the destruction of the ‘compression-fragile’ desert floor, we are pursuing a geopolitical strategy with single-minded, and ultimately suicidal, indifference to the consequences of our actions. And nothing can stop us except our own awakened consciences.”
The Green New Deal resonates with awareness and awakened conscience, with transcendent vision and, hallelujah, youthful determination. It represents a yanking of the future away from the moneyed interests that think they own it. Let the future it begins to build be one of peace: with the planet and with ourselves.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.
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