Can America Be Rich and Peaceful?

Flint, Michigan is a place to practice war because it is poor.

The famous documentarian Michael Moore is utilizing his economically depressed hometown of Flint, Michigan to call attention to third world conditions that residents live with — and to promote his latest film. Ever since Moore’s breakout Reagan-era hit about Flint, Roger & Me was shown in my high school economics class, I’ve had an eye out for social and economic injustice. When he posted Ten Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy, But I Will, I figured that he would be the authority to listen to. And the one thing that grabbed me was just an aside, but an explosive one.

The [US Military] decided to practice urban warfare on Flint, making use of the thousands of abandoned homes which they could drop bombs on. Streets with dilapidated homes had rocket-propelled grenades fired upon them. For weeks, an undisclosed number of army troops pretended Flint was Baghdad or Damascus and basically had at it.

Moore is infamous for near-libelous statements for the sake of crowd-gathering. I was similarly duped into this crowd. The image is so rich with essential truths that I had already formulated this op-ed without checking out facts. But as I prepared to write, I could not find proof that a single home was razed by bombs or grenades. But this time, I had already asked our newest illustrator, Gavin Knox, to depict bombers taking down dilapidated homes.

Those who constantly await chances to debunk Moore have done so in this case. Sometimes the debunkers are remarkably insensitive to the valid complaints a citizenry might have earned about something that is essentially true. Re-Newsit provides such commentary here,

This was hardly “abusive” to a city that continues to win the very competitive number one spot in the top five most dangerous cities in the US to live in (In 2014 Flint ranked #1).

So because a city is in horrible economic decay, and has been afflicted since the slow collapse of the middle-class beginning with the Carter Administration, Flint’s residents can justifiably accept a little military terror, because it isn’t as dangerous to them as themselves.

Abandoned Home in Flint, MI.
Abandoned Home in Flint, MI.

Residents were actually caught by surprise (they were not warned of the operations) and put into a temporary panic. For ten days, the drills carried on around the city, including at the abandoned Lowell Middle School, and in downtown Flint. Moreover, Flint was not the only city to be struck with military drills that summer.

Left-wing and right-wing conspiracists believe that this is all about desensitization to a military presence. Some say that martial law is already here. The official government story is “training for overseas deployments.” Because of Syria and Iraq, I believe it. But still, why does the military need to use populated areas for training? It’s hard to believe they do not have facilities for this.

The thought of the US Army demolishing houses with extraordinarily expensive bombs may be more ludicrous than the truth, but it isn’t far off, now or in the future. If it is acceptable logic to suggest an unsafe city should see military deployment rather than extensive social programs and a localized economic revolution, then I think we have essentially found the truth about how the government maintains its economic dominance in the world.

Homelessness and hunger in the US costs extraordinarily less to eliminate than the cost of arming the dysfunctional Iraqi army — the number one source of arms to ISIS. The failed F-35 Bomber, a super-bureaucratic multi-tasking jet will cost taxpayers the equivalent of wiping out student debt. The richest American corporations and their offshore tax havens could also be tapped to eliminate poverty, with plenty leftover.

Flint’s residents can justifiably accept a little military terror, because it isn’t as dangerous to them as themselves.

Homes remain vacant despite the homeless, some of them occupied by rich people’s furniture and security cams, but not with people. Millions of older homes sit dilapidated, requiring standard maintenance to make them inhabitable for struggling families.

Large commercial buildings and old government buildings sit abandoned while entrepreneurs struggle to raise capital for office space. Minimum wage earners are pushed out of inflating rental homes routinely as Wall Street corporations bank on new rental-backed financial products.

Considering that these facts persist year after year and wealth inequality has reached a tipping point, the people and the government ostensibly choose to destroy homes rather than repair them. The only way out of poverty for some is to join the army.

The riddle that persists within my brain asks can the US maintain its economic might without also maintaining poverty and overspending on military operations? In other words, can Americans be rich and peaceful? This is an honest question that I cannot answer.

Considering that we’re not the only world power vying for economic and military dominance, there is a need for defense. But I cannot believe that there is anything sustainable about this path. If a single F-35 jet could eliminate 25,000 people from homelessness, if a tax loophole closed on Apple’s offshore accounts could match that, then what are we doing here?

I can also imagine this snowballing into the need for urban drills. There will be civil war if you return to 1955 tax rates (90% against households of $200K and up) applied to anyone worth $2M and more. It would release billions of dollars for the poor, who greatly outnumber the rich.

But then you would see privately funded militias attempting to take over federal buildings — far beyond the scope of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation by a small militia. Serious questions to the US military about how to deal with that will be answered from the top down. If the fight that the US wanted to take on was against the wealthy oligarchs whose influence has already taken over the world, then I might welcome the military drills, but on Wall Street and Madison Avenue, not in the depressed neighborhoods of Flint.

Featured Illustration by Gavin Knox

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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