The Need to Feel Safe is a Bottomless Pit
A letter-writer responds to someone who suggests cutting the military budget to better satisfy “domestic needs”:
Personally, I have a domestic need, as most other people do, to feel safe within my own country, unafraid of attack from without – and filling that need is not without cost.
Too right that is. According to the War Resisters’ League analysis of the federal budget, 48% of the federal budget is spent directly or indirectly on the U.S. military. Military costs take a huge bite out of the American budget. American levels of military spending are unmatched around the world: the U.S. spends nearly eight times more on its military than any other country on Earth. The United States has enough nuclear warheads to turn every other nation on the planet into the semblance of Swiss Cheese.
The letter writer speaks of feeling safe within his own country. Is he really safe? Not one of us is completely safe: life is a postponed death sentence. We’re all headed for destruction one way or another. It’s possible to speak of relative safety from attack, and compared to other countries the United States is quite safe. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Liberia and Uganda have suffered under attacks much more serious than any attacks on the United States. Per capita deaths from attacks on U.S. soil are miniscule. Death rates from malnutrition in America are much, much higher than death rates from attacks on the United States.
But the letter-writer nailed the issue on the head: his need isn’t for real security from attack. His need is to feel safe. His need is not to be afraid. But there is no number of weapons that can take away fear. There is no military budget that can make someone feel safe. Humans have large imaginations and a great capacity for fear that can be stoked by theater as much as by reality. As long as television stations and movie theaters and newspapers tell us how unsafe we are, and as long as politicians take to the microphone and tell us how much we have to fear an attack, we will be afraid and we will feel unsafe.
My advice to the writer of that letter: if you want to feel safe, if you want feel unafraid of attack, stop tuning in to the people who are stuffing fear and insecurity into your ears. Turn off your FOX News. Go outside. Look up at the sky. Pick a flower.
By gum, that doesn’t cost a thing.