Home Hot minute, finest hour, build or wreck, cut rate

Hot minute, finest hour, build or wreck, cut rate

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When I go on social media I will frequently shake my head, glance at the clock, and say to myself, “Well, there goes four minutes I’ll never get back.”

We all have our own relationship to time. But what happens in a specific bit of time compared to what else is also happening should be of interest to us, especially because our actions can help change at least some of the frequency of events that we want or don’t want.

Hot minute

So I ask you to join me in noting what happens in any given minute, every single day and night, on average:

  • $2,283 is spent by the US on the military.
  • 30 guns are sold in the US (16.2 million in 2022).
  • The US military burns 8750 gallons of fuel (4 billion, 600 million gallons annually).

Finest hour (or not)

It was 18 June 1940, a furious moment in World War II. The outcome was anything but certain. Winston Churchill, in one of his remarkable speeches to the House of Commons, said, “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

Now I ask you to join me in contemplating what occurs each hour, 24/7, in the US, and ask if this represents our finest hours:

  • 14 people are shot in the US.
  • 1 child is shot in the US.
  • 1 or 2 US military veterans take their own lives.

Build or wreck?

Time, it is sometimes claimed, is relative. A minute can seem like an hour when getting a root canal, passing a kidney stone, or giving birth. But what about building compared to destruction? Militaries are so proud of their destructive powers. Is that a worthy power?

  • The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan was consecrated in 379, worked on by architects and builders, finally finished in 1099. In August 1943, much of it was destroyed by Allied bombing in moments.
  • The Tomb of Jonah in Mosul, Iraq, was constructed in the 8th century, one of the most revered sites honoring an Old Testament figure, with artifacts from the site, including statues hinting at some construction dating back more than 2,600 years. ISIS demolished it in minutes in July 2014.
  • Last week Russia bombed Odesa’s UNESCO World Heritage site, including a direct hit on the Ukrainian Orthodox Transfiguration Cathedral, destroyed in seconds, built over 43 years, finished in 1837.

Cut rates

When we shop for the best deals, we seek quality goods at cut rates. But what about cutting rates for the worst features of our society?

  • Women in El Salvador die in childbirth at a rate of 43 mothers per 100,000 live births.
  • Black women in Detroit die in childbirth at a rate of 43.7 mothers per 100,000 live births, more than double the US national rate of 21 deceased mothers per 100,000 live births.
  • Women in Norway and Poland die in childbirth at a rate of 2 per 100,000 live births.
  • Virtually all countries with universal health care have maternal mortality rates less than half the rate in the US.

I offer these contrasts in the spirit of Jonah, the biblical prophet who warned the people of Nineveh in Assyria (which is now Mosul) of their doom if they did not repent of their sins. I’m not as wise as Jonah, and the only whale I’ve been swallowed by is the prison system for my nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons in 1985 and 1996.

But the waste of war, including the massive diversion of the fruits of our labors to the war system instead of health care, education, and infrastructure, seems overwhelmingly stupid and maladaptive. Are we truly Homo sapiens, the self-anointed “Wise ones”?

We shall see. It’s looking dubious.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Coördinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University, PeaceVoice Senior Editor, and on occasion an expert witness for the defense of civil resisters in court. 



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