Yesterday I treated myself to the Frist Museum to see their latest installment, Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. I didn’t realize there was a Veteran’s Day parade being held on Broadway at the exact time I chose to visit the museum, but I did get to see a bit of it from the gift shop window.
The Samurai were paid fighters who were loyal to their lord. They lived a comfortable lifestyle as a result. But once no longer needed, they lived a life of poverty.
The men and women marching in the Veteran’s Day parade are also former fighters. Some of them live lives marked by disability, mental illness, and poverty due to their service to their country. A significant percentage of the homeless were military veterans before President Obama made it a priority to increase spending to help get those vets off the streets and into stable housing along with programs to address their substance abuse and/or mental illness.
I was fascinated with the intricate workmanship of the Samuri suits of armor and their head gear. It took a great deal of time to create these works of art worn into battle.
During my visit it occurred to me that we humans truly value war.
Oh, I know. War is hell. War is a last resort. War is a necessary evil. Those are things we say. But look at what we do. President Obama’s budget recommendations for fiscal year 2017 included $582.7 billion for defense spending.
The US budget for FY 2017 allocated almost $10 billion for the FBI and $70.3 billion for national and defense intelligence. And personal defense is a big deal as well. Americans spend an average of $15 billion on firearms. And that doesn’t include state and local funds spent on policing, another form of defense.
That’s a lot of money we spend to keep us safe. And our newly elected government officials want to spend more. At the same time these officials want to do away with Obamacare, Medicare and Medicaid, the Dept of Education, and severely reduce the amount of money spent to supplement the food budget for the poor.
So what is it we truly value?
I think what we value is ourselves. And only ourselves. I want mine and to hell with the rest of you.
How incredibly sad that so many of us live within that space of mistrust and misery. We fight each other around the world and within our own country.
Today I refuse to occupy that space with you.
“I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of inner peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion and elimination of ignorance, selfishness and greed.”
― His Holiness the Dalai Lama