by Steve Bivans
Actually, as I have told you, they were not far off the edge of the forest; and if Bilbo had had the sense to see it, the tree that he had climbed, though it was tall in itself, was standing near the bottom of a wide valley, so that from its top the trees seemed to swell up all round like the edges of a great bowl, and he could not expect to see how far the forest lasted. Still he did not see this, and he climbed down full of despair. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: Flies and Spiders
I love and hate Facebook.
It’s a great place to find old friends and reconnect and then get into stupid arguments with them and their acquaintances. There seems to be no shortage of short-sighted, ignorant assholes on Facebook. I should know, I’ve been guilty of being drawn into toxic ‘discussions’ on so many occasions that I can’t count them. The negativity is nasty, and it can actually ruin my entire day.
For instance, I got into such a discussion–which really wasn’t so nasty as it was a waste of my time–the other day about a meme that a friend posted about the costs of fighter jets and how that same amount of money could pay for something more useful, like healthcare, or schools, or new teeth for granny, I don’t remember; it’s not important. Some dude posted something to the effect that without those jets we could expect ISIS or ISIL, or whatever they’re candy-assed name is, to show up at our doorstep and behead us all. He didn’t actually say that, but that was the implicit message, one of fear.
I responded, like an idiot–I should have just walked away, but my Facebook Genital Shocking Device wasn’t working I guess–that our enemies weren’t coming here, and even if they were, a fighter jet would not stop them. Constantly supporting war was not a good thing, and I should know, I’m a military historian. I continued my rant with “I used to say that ‘war is good,’ but I was wrong” or something to that effect. I didn’t actually believe war was good. I would make that statement to stir up a conversation among Minnesotan college students who aren’t the most verbose group, let me tell ya.
The other guy responded to my post, of course, with a litany of details about the particular fighter jet program, how much it costs, the fact that they were really not an expense of our government, they were created by Lockheed, or Martin, or whomever, and that they were actually being sold to Israel in accordance with some deal that our government made with them a few years back or whatever. Someone else chimed in to agree with him, and go into even more details about the sale of these planes, and how the real waste of money was Obamacare, yeah, he said that. I mean ‘get a new spill man.’
Staring at Trees
When I saw that my name had been mentioned or tagged, I stupidly went back in to see all of this stuff, and it pissed me off. The degree of wasted mental energy involved, mostly my own, was beginning to fuck my day up, which in and of itself began to drag me down, the proverbial sucking whirlpool of piss that is the negative thought process. Once it gets spinning, it’s damned hard to stop it. So I looked at all of this conversation about fighter planes, and about my statement on war vs healthcare or whatever, and realized that these guys were really just stuck in the middle of Mirkwood forest, like ole Bilbo, counting trees and worrying about the spiders and what was for dinner.
So, I posted something to the effect that it was easy to get distracted by trees and miss the forest, and that I wasn’t sure that there was a moral equivalency between spending money on war and spending it on heath-care, but I could be wrong. Actually, I couldn’t, can’t, ain’t. There is no fucking moral equivalency between the two.
That’s where I left the conversation and I have no intention of returning. I wanted to go into a rant, but instead I decided to point to the fact that the discussion had gotten stuck looking at trees–i.e. the particular fighter jet program, the costs of it, who was buying them, who was making them, why Obamacare was a waste of money and bad for the economy, etc, etc. All fucking trees.
Where’s the forest?
The forest is War. Healthcare. That’s what I was pointing to in my post, not to a bunch of fighter-jet-trees. That’s not to say that trees aren’t important, of course they are. The details of any great topic are important, but it’s the big picture that really matters in the end. Too often we get caught up in ‘who did what,’ or ‘this thing is bad,’ ‘this thing is good,’ and forget that there are larger issues at play, like War and Healthcare.
To be fair, the original meme that started this whole conversation was about trees, or details: those damned fighter jets. But there was an implicit point the meme was trying to make: war is a waste of money and takes away from things that are more important. That’s what I was attempting to point out, only to be bombarded with details about a fucking sale of fighter jets that I could give a rat’s ass about. Fuck the jets! The jets are a symptom, not a cause. They are a symptom of a mentality based on fear, the fear of ISIS, Al Queda, Nazi’s, Russians, Alexander the Great, or Sauron: different times, same fear. This fear leads to armament, which eventually leads to war. War is not good. Never.
Necessary isn’t necessarily Good
That’s not to argue, however, that war isn’t sometimes ‘necessary.’ Unfortunately it is. It’s prudent to be prepared for such an occasion. But the U.S. isn’t just preparing for it, we are perpetuating it by ramping up fear, in part, by constantly spending a massive percentage of the annual budget on weapons and the military. They can justify it by pointing to our enemies, many of which we had a hand in creating.
Drop the Fear
It’s time to stop the ramping up and reexamine our fears. It’s time to invest much more of that energy into things that really matter, like our crumbling infrastructure, cleaning up our food systems, and ensuring that people have adequate healthcare. This isn’t an ad for Obamacare. I think it has a lot of problems, but at least it isn’t building weapons with the expressed purpose of killing people. It might be such a clusterfuck that it actually does kill people; most healthcare systems are, and do. That’s a problem, and it needs fixing. If the system kills, then it needs to be fixed.
But we aren’t going to fix any system by staring at its component parts, the trees. We have to look at the big picture, the forest, or we’ll be cursed with Bilbo’s predicament: climbing to the top of a tree, only to see more trees. Stop climbing trees. Grab the ankle of an eagle and fly up high enough so you can see the edge of the forest and find your way out. Or, be eaten by spiders.