By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, May 20, 2023
Remarks at Liberty State Park in New Jersey on May 20, 2023, with Veterans For Peace’s The Golden Rule and Pax Christi New Jersey.
A lot of things go wrong, but sometimes things go right.
The Statue of Liberty is an example of things going right. Not because there was ever a golden age of perfect kindness and intelligence that wasn’t chock full of bigotry and hypocrisy, but because such a statue with such words on it could not be created today. Yesterday, the New York Times expressed its disgust with Greece for taking immigrants out to sea and abandoning them on a raft, while meanwhile the United States treats people at its southern border with cruelty that would have, in recent memory, outraged almost everyone, regardless of which party was atop the throne in the White House. And the sanctions and militarism and corporate trade policies that help create the immigration go largely unchallenged.
The Teardrop memorial is an example of things going right. I imagine you all know that there’s a beautiful memorial around here that was a gift from Russia and its president. I know that most people in the United States have never heard of it. Somebody was careful not to make the mistake that had been made with the Statue of Liberty, of putting the thing where it would be noticed. But think back to that moment of 911, which we now know could probably not have happened without Saudi Arabia or the CIA, and which we always knew Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Syria and Somalia and Libya and Yemen were not responsible for. The world expressed sympathy, and the U.S. government declared war on the world. Millions of lives, trillions of dollars, and unfathomable environmental destruction later, who would not now say it would have been wiser to return the gestures of friendship, join international treaties and bodies of law, and prosecute crimes rather than committing them?
The Golden Rule, this beautiful, brave, little ship, is an example of things going right. Courage, wisdom, and creativity were brought on board the Golden Rule and used to push back against nuclear war. The Golden Rule is still used to push back against the conjoined twins of nuclear apocalypse and the slightly slower collapse of the climate and ecosystems driven by a society that invests in such things as nuclear war but not in such things as compliance with the Earth’s needs.
I know that there have been successes cleaning up this river, and many other local successes and failures here and everywhere. But I think our responsibility in the U.S. is global and local in a unique sense, in that the world would be on a drastically different course without the U.S. government, U.S. lifestyles, and especially the destruction wrought by the super-wealthy concentrated above all on the other side of this river. The U.S. is a global leader in opposing environmental standards, in emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, in fertilizer use, in water pollution, and in species threatened. The U.S. military alone, if it were a country, would rank high on the list of the world’s countries for CO2 emissions.
We allow this country to do this to the Earth. We allow it to lead the world in billionaires, and in weapons dealing and militarism. Of 230 other countries, the U.S. spends on war preparations more than 227 of them combined. Russia and China spend a combined 21% of what the U.S. and its allies spend on war. Since 1945, the U.S. military has acted in a major or minor way in 74 other nations. At least 95% of the foreign military bases on Earth are U.S. bases. Of 230 other countries, the U.S. exports more weaponry than 228 of them combined.
I want to mention just one little place where this has an impact, the tiny European country of Montenegro. For years now, the U.S. has tried to turn a beautiful and inhabited mountain plateau called Sinjajevina into a new training ground for NATO. People have not only risked their lives nonviolently to prevent it, but have organized and educated and lobbied and voted and won over their nation and elected officials promising to protect their homes. They’ve been ignored. The U.S. military is threatening to come on Monday. Not a single U.S. media outlet has mentioned these people’s existence. But they tell me that it could have a huge impact in Montenegro to receive photos of support from the United States. So, before we leave here, I’d like us to hold up these signs saying SAVE SINJAJEVINA.
In closing, I’d like us to think for a moment about memorials that are not and could be. There are no memorials to wars prevented, to nuclear wars avoided, to bombings that never happened. There are virtually no memorials to peace activism or environmental activism. There should be. There should someday be a memorial to everyone who helped abolish every last nuclear weapon and nuclear reactor. There should be a memorial to those who put everything they had into protecting our planet. There should be a monument to the Golden Rule, made with the melted-down weapons of every permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and honoring the day they gave up the veto power and chose to support democracy.
I look forward to coming back to New York for the dedication.
That ship is the Golden Rule!