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Luke Sekera-Flanders: Reconsider What It Means To Be A Patriot

Luke Sekera-Flanders, photo by Ellen Davidson

Growing up in a rural town and through attending public school, I was often exposed to military propaganda.

From kindergarten through 5th grade, each class would have to put on a patriotic performance for the school, whether singing songs like “Proud To Be An American,” making skits depicting war, or listing reasons why America was the greatest country in the world – mainly its military. At my high school, and at all sorts of community events, myself and other young teenagers were presented an enticing image of what military service could offer us: financial benefits, community, and purpose.

But as I learned through my own research, there is far greater reason to be opposed to militarism and the military-industrial complex. For one, investing in war as deeply as the U.S. has robs us of so many opportunities to pursue a healthier, safer future. Changes in our climate and environmental destruction pose an ever increasing threat to human health and safety, and the U.S. military is a leading contributor to this emerging crisis that is rarely addressed. According to a 2019 study, the military emits more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than 140 countries. 

my photo

The Blue Angels and shows like it serve as a recruiting tool and a flex of America’s air power, which has been consistently used to devastate civilians across the world as recently as last weekend, when a drone strike on a supposed ISIS target in Afghanistan killed 10 civilians, including 8 children. And because of the marriage between government and corporations, U.S. foreign policy, including decisions to go to war, are dictated by economic interests – and corporations who profit from war are happy to risk military and civilian lives for profit.

Imagine if we invested so much as a fraction of our swelling “defense” budget toward proactively mitigating the coming effects of climate change, such as water insecurity. As of 2014, there were 39,000 different sites in the U.S., including multiple waterways, that were severely contaminated because of environmental disregard by the military. The military supposedly exists for our security – and yet the threat of a coming water crisis has been practically ignored. Climate scientists warn that as climate change worsens, droughts will become more frequent and more severe, even in regions that had seen abundance of water. Water is the cornerstone of all life on earth, so as water scarcity worsens, it will take the forefront of geopolitical issues as the century progresses. A couple years ago, the World Economic Forum confirmed this, placing the probability of future wars being fought over water sources at 95%.

photo by Nickie Sekera

We need to invest in public water infrastructure now, so that corporations don’t have their hand on the tap nor the excuse to drag us into an overseas war over water.

While corporate media and the mainstream of environmentalism insist that the solution to climate change can be achieved with consumer choices and electing milquetoast reformers, the real culprits go without any accountability.

Imperialism is costly in all respects.

It detracts from what could be invested in healthcare, education, environmental protection and social services. It subjugates, traumatizes, exploits, and robs self determination from people across the world, for little more than political utility and economic gain for corporations.

photo by Peter Woodruff

Its drain on resources and massive pollution condemns future generations to a future of resource scarcity.

We need to end the military-industrial complex, and reconsider what it means to be a patriot. 

— Luke Sekera Flanders, Community Water Justice

All banners by the Artists’ Rapid Response Team of the Maine Union of Visual Artists.

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