One of the radio stations I listen to does a weekly “soldier salute”, where they talk to a relative of a soldier about them. It’s a nice feature – solders deserve recognition – and they usually send a care package as well. All in all – great. But one thing that annoys me is that, occasionally, they talk to a person who feels the need to preach about how great it is that we are in Iraq. They’ll go on about all the wonderful work we are doing there.
The main thing you hear from these people is about the kids of Iraq – how happy they are to see the soldiers and how we’re helping them. OK, that’s probably true. It’s great that we are helping kids. But I can’t help but think that much of the reason that these kids need help is based on the direct effects of the US having invaded their country, leaving 500,000 of them orphaned, and many more without homes or schools or churches, which have all been bombed. And I may sound callous about this next part, but while I do care about the Iraqi children (and children all around the world), I have a hard time justifying our occupation of a country, based on false claims of weapons and warfare, by saying “the kids need help.” Because here in the US? Lots of kids need help, too. We have 13,000,000 children who do not get enough food. There are 3,300,000 children who are being abused or neglected, with close to 2,000 of them dying each year. There are 100,000 children each night who sleep in a shelter, or a park bench or a car, since they are without a home. There are approximately 3,000 children a year being killed by gun violence. There are more than 8.7 million children without health care. And there are the ones without adequate schooling – in 2005, the majority of 4th graders in the US could not read or do math at their grade level. The majority! (I’ll bet they could take the fucking PSSA, though). There are thousands of children still displaced by Katrina. Or should I say, by Katrina and the completely unacceptable and morally offensive lack of giving a shit by our government. So don’t tell me about what we’re doing “for the children.”
Today, they talked to a woman who, in addition to mentioning the children, talked about the wonderful work her soldier was doing building Christian churches. Not churches – Christian churches – she made that distinction. And I couldn’t help but thinking, yet again, how egocentric we are. This country is predominately Christian (80-90%), so we automatically assume that everyone else should be. So we go into a country that we have bombed and ravaged, leaving many, many mosques in rubble – a country with a Christian population of about 2%, and we build Christian churches. What about the other 98%? I’m sure Jesus would allow us to forgive them for being underwhelmed. Look – I can sign on to the helping kids and the building schools and safe living quarters. But the building of churches, no so much. I mean, if we bombed one – then rebuild it. but to attack and invade and bomb a country, then attempt to rebuild it in our image is not only ego-centric, but offensive. Offensive to me and probably to the hundreds of thousands of Muslims that have nowhere to worship. If you want to give something back – give exactly what you took, not something else entirely. It’s like someone knocking down your house and then saying, it’s OK, here’s a swimming pool, a shovel, and some cheese.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t help other countries – we should. But we should help our own, too. And we need to stop patting ourselves on the back for helping rebuild a country that we ourselves demolished. And we need to take our damned blinders off and decide that if want to help people, we need to help them with their actual needs and not what we think they should need. And we damned well need to stop telling ourselves that “we are there for the children,” just because it sounds prettier than “we are there as a distraction and because our president is a scrotum.”