The indomitable spirit of the people of Gangjeong continues to inspire as they prepare for the 2013 Grand March for Life and Peace around Jeju Island. My film, The Ghosts of Jeju, declares, “the least we can do is to amplify their voices,” for with citizenship in America and the world, comes responsibility.
The people of Gangjeong are not alone in this struggle opposing the U.S. military expansion. All of the islands of the Pacific from Hawaii to Okinawa, to Guam, The Philippines and all the way down to Australia are rising up against American imperialism as the U.S. uses fear and power to coerce their leaders to either build or open up their ports and bases to the American military.
The myth of “national security,” is being foisted on the nations of the Pacific and Southeast Asia to instill fear that China and Russia have evil intentions to dominate the region. The U.S. military has made it perfectly clear their intentions are to encircle China and Russia, to impeded their growth by controlling access to the world’s resources, and to dominate the earth through a so-called Pax Americana. In other words, full-spectrum dominance through the use of unparalleled force on the earth, the seas, in the air and in space.
One must ask: is this really making the earth safer? Joint military exercises in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, encircling Russia and China with anti-ballistic missiles, the use of satellites to control the “battlefield” and for spying, remote controlled drones for indiscriminate killing, pivoting 60% of America’s naval might to Pacific and Southeast Asia can only be seen as provocative, threatening, and the raising of tensions in the region.
I recently did a search on the internet to find out how many times the U.S. had used military interventions in foreign lands. As an American with an undergraduate degree in U.S. History, I was shocked. Since 1798, barely 20 years after the founding of the country, the U.S. has intervened 188 times all over the globe, and that does not include World Wars I and II. The U.S. has even invaded China and Russia. And, in the process the U.S. has murdered millions and millions of innocent people to gain access and control over their resources.
America was not threatened by any of those sovereign nations nor by their indigenous peoples, nor was it America’s intention to spread freedom and democracy around the world. America sent troops to secure American “national interests,” which is manipulated language meaning the interests of the capitalist who needed fruit, rubber, rare earth minerals, and gas and oil to make money.
Since the very beginning of the U.S., white men imposed their beliefs upon a new nation under the myths of freedom and democracy, with liberty and justice for all…..meaning their own kind. The founders were mostly business men and slave owners. Women and slaves were considered property and could not vote. This group of elite, white capitalists believed not only in white supremacy and a patriarchal society, but believed that “their” America was exceptional and blessed by god. They got most of us believing it.
Imperialism is as old as civilization. Among the empires were the Greeks and Romans, the Ottoman Empire, and the empires of Europe and Asia. It was the Europeans who discovered the Americas in search of gold and riches which they found in abundance to replenish the depletion of resources in their own territories. Blessed by the Catholic Church and their kings and queens, these white explorers murdered millions and millions of indigenous peoples throughout North and South America believing that these peoples were savages, and something less than human beings. Entire cultures were destroyed
These white, European nations even fought wars among themselves in the Americas to stake their claims to the “New World” and its riches. Because they were more powerful and “civilized” they had no regard for those who had inhabited the Americas for thousands of years. Just like women and slaves, these indigenous peoples had no rights and no claim to the land.
Genocide and the extraction of resources has defined the history of the European empires. Their belief that the earth’s resources belong to the stronger, almost always blessed by the Church, are at the core of the American empire and the belief in American exceptionalism.
Resource extraction and control over those resources to fuel the American Way of Life have been the reasons for each an every military intervention of the United States. Like every previous empire, the American empire and the American Way of Life are in decline. The signs of this decline are everywhere. Governments are corrupt and beholding to the corporations. The labor movement, equal rights, and social uplift programs are being destroyed and weakened. Manufacturing jobs, except for military purposes, have gone where there is cheap labor and few restrictions on the corporations. Our roads, highways, and bridges, as well as the nation’s infrastructure are in disrepair. Education is no longer free, but being controlled by the wealthy and the military industrial complex. Income disparity has grown astronomically. The U.S. is #1 in the world in prison populations. Climate deniers and industry lobbyists have made the search for renewable energy and the creation of good, living-wage jobs impossible.
The elite, white capitalists have addicted the population to sports, entertainment, and the need for more stuff. People are more interested in sports, movie stars, celebrities, and reality TV shows than they are in what is happening to their freedoms. Inundated by advertising, deprived of an education that fosters critical thinking, duped into believing they need the latest technological gadget, and thirsting for more violence on TV, the movies, and ultimate cage fighting, Americans have been conveniently sedated and distracted.
Long gone is the independent, free media that was our protection against government overstepping its boundaries. Today, all of the mainstream media are owned by a handful of large, multinational corporations. What is fed to the American public as news, is highly refined propaganda that reinforces the lie of the great American Way of Life.
Fear and lies have always worked to control the masses, and the elite, white capitalists are using fear and lies to limit our freedoms and Constitutional rights. During the Cold War it was fear of Commies, Reds, and Russia. Today, in addition to fear of Russian and Chinese Communism, it is fear of terrorism. It works to perfection. Because of fear, most Americans have willingly given up their rights to privacy and their civil liberties.
Furthermore, the national security and surveillance state which includes the militarized local police, campus security guards, and even game wardens, have violently put down and suppressed peaceful protests. Anyone who opposes the state is a domestic terrorist and can be detained indefinitely without due process guaranteed by the Constitution.
So, why is it that so many Americans cannot penetrate the myths and the lies? It is precisely because the myths of freedom and democracy have been ingrained in the population, not by chance, but by design. American capitalism is the evil in the world today, subjugating the people of America and the world to their imperial designs. It is because the majority of Americans do not believe they have power to do anything about it. It is because the 1% has systematically divided the population over scores of issues. There are so many issues facing this country now, so many ominous warning signs that most cannot get their minds around them all. Most Americans are just trying to survive on a day to day basis and do not have the time or the energy to become informed, much less get involved in an active way.
U.S. History as it has been taught, patriotism, the flag, parades and patriotic march music, the stories of American heroes from George Washington, Davie Crocket, to Eisenhower and Patton have cemented the myth of American greatness while conveniently sanitizing the evil motives and the unrestrained and immoral violence and killing that have characterized U.S. intervention in the world.
This system, The American Way of Life is unsustainable because it recklessly depletes the planets resources. The system, based on consumption, itself is destroying the planet. In order to grow and maintain the economy and the American Way of Life, people need to consume more and more and that cannot happen without the suicidal dependance on oil, which in turn is threatening all life on the planet. Most Americans simply cannot conceive of any other way.
The people of Gangjeong know that LIFE and JUSTICE are at stake in the world. They know the struggle isn’t just against American militarism, war, and capitalism, but the struggle for survival. And that is why this year they march again for Life and Justice. For without Justice, there is no freedom, there is no peace, and life as we know it is not sustainable on this planet.
With citizenship on the planet comes the responsibility to join in this struggle for Life and Justice. The people of Gangjeong and Jeju Island cannot be left to fight this battle alone.