America’s Top Exports: Grief, Sorrow, and Loss

Their lives are bigger than any big idea.
— “Peace on Earth,” U2

My mother passed away on January 12, after a long illness. She was nearly 72 and had been very ill since mid-2005. Intellectually, one might think that perhaps I had time to “come to terms” with a sense of inevitably…yet I remain inconsolable. Despite having almost three years to “prepare” for this reality, her death is teaching me previously unimaginable lessons about grief, sorrow, and loss. My heart is broken, shattered in a million pieces.

Amidst my mourning, I can’t help but visualize the feelings of grief, sorrow, and loss being experienced in places directly and indirectly impacted by US policies. Imagine if you will, a mother in Iraq. She walks to the market as an American bomb levels her home. Her parents, her husband, her children (none of whom were affiliated with the “insurgency”): all killed. What of her grief, sorrow, and loss…as the US continues to spend one million dollars per minute on war?

And it’s not just military murders. Every two seconds, somewhere on the planet, a child starves to death. More grief, sorrow, and loss. More anger and frustration, too. Columnist and author Norman Solomon recently shared similar emotions when his mother died. “Our own mourning should help us understand and strive to prevent the unspeakable pain of others,” he wrote. “And whatever love we have for one person, we should try to apply to the world.”

There’s a line in the song, “Middle of the Road” by the Pretenders: “When you own a big chunk of the bloody Third World…the babies just come with the scenery.”

What’s that…we don’t own anything here or in the Third World? Here’s the equation, friends: American tax dollars (and our rhetoric and/or our support and/or our silence) fund and/or enable US domination of institutions like the World Bank. As a result, the developing world spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in aid. That means untold billions are allocated toward paying off debt to powerful Western banks instead of being invested in water systems, infrastructure to rural communities, education, and health care.

A 2004 UNICEF report on the State of the World’s Children found:

* One in six of the children on the planet were severely hungry

* One in seven had no access to health care

* One in five had no safe water

* One in three had no toilet or sanitation facilities at home

* 640 million children did not have adequate shelter

* 140 million children, the majority of them girls, had never been to school

More than 10 million child deaths were recorded in 2003, with an estimated 29,158 children under 5 dying from mostly preventable causes every day.

29,158. Under 5. Every day. From preventable causes.

The next time you’re at a baseball game or rock concert, glance around and get a feel for what 29,158 looks like. Then try your best to conceive of the feelings of grief, sorrow, and loss inspired by those 29,158…each and every day. These are humans, not statistics. They feel as much as you or I. If they feel anything like I do right now, they are utterly despondent.

“In mediaspeak and political discourse, the human toll of corporate domination and the warfare state is routinely abstract,” wrote Solomon. “But the results—in true human terms—add rage and more grief on top of grief.”

These doomed humans cry, they mourn, they miss loved ones, and they ask why when the UN tells them that the basic nutrition and health needs of the world’s poorest people would cost only $13 billion a year (that’s less than 10% of what the US has spent on the war in Iraq so far).

Remember: every two seconds, somewhere on the planet, a child starves to death. Meanwhile, the US spends one million dollars per minute on war. Do the math: How much of our money was spent on war and how many children starved to death while your read this article?

We often hear the question: “Why do they hate us?”

We give them an excellent reason every 2 seconds and a million more reasons every single minute.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Read other articles by Mickey.

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  1. Robert B. Livingston said on February 4th, 2008 at 11:03pm #

    Excellent essay.

    I am reminded of Erich Fromm who advised that people should replace old roots of blood and clan by new roots that allow for true love for all people.

    In a 1960 interview, Huston Smith asked him:

    ” Is a matter of geographic extent involved here? If a person were related in brotherly love to his family, that would be too small a group and this would be a wrong-rootedness?”

    Fromm answered: “Indeed, I would say that unless one can love all men, one loves nobody; because if one is only loving one’s family, it is really an enlarged egotism.”

    (Isn’t this another form of saying: “Love thine enemy as thyself”? What is the true value of one’s love for any one person, if one cannot love others?)

    pdf source at the International Erich Fromm Society: http://tinyurl.com/298bcy