Social Security and Nationalism

Carol A. Hand

As “Independence Day” approaches, I am reminded of a discussion I had with students in an undergraduate social welfare policy course I was teaching in a prairie-state university. The topic for the day was the Social Security Act. As I thought about the class, I couldn’t tune out the context. The year was 2002. The U.S. was poised to invade Iraq with the flimsiest of excuses.

“In October 2002, the U.S. Congress passed a “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq“.”

People’s lives and their futures hung in the balance.

historical policy shifts

Slide – C.A. Hand – American Social Welfare Policy PowerPoint – April 23, 2014

It’s clear that wars have always deflected the attention of the nation from the needs of people, providing an excuse to decimate the grudgingly created and almost always inadequate social safety net in the U.S. How could I follow my syllabus by discussing a topic students always found boring even in the best of times?

The costs of war would certainly affect all of the programs covered by the Social Security Act (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Aid for Families with Dependent Children – now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income).

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children…. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron…. Is there no other way the world may live?”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

The future of vulnerable populations would no doubt be bleaker because of the resources wasted on war, and so would the job prospects for this eager group of 25 undergraduate social work students. I wanted them to think about the context critically. So instead of a lecture, I asked them what they thought about the prospect of their nation invading Iraq. I also took time to have the class as a whole develop a list of ground rules for the discussion before I randomly assigned them into smaller groups to discuss and record their views.

This was something new for them. Although they were social work majors, many were first generation college students from small conservative rural communities. Most were Euro-American, but there were a few Black students as well. The group discussions were animated but respectful. (The ground rules they helped develop really did work!)

We reconvened as a whole class when they were ready. Teams began to share views across the political spectrum. One Black student who shared a particularly critical view of the US invasion of Iraq asked me what I thought. “That’s a legitimate question. I promise to share my views when all of you have had an opportunity to speak,” I replied.

All of the students participated and shared their differing views, and the dialogue that followed was inclusive and respectful. With less than ten minutes of class left, it was my turn to deliver on my promise. But what could I say that would honestly reflect my feelings and beliefs that would not be viewed as judgmental, and perhaps, as treasonous?

Now, as then, I suspect many would not agree with the views I shared that day.

“When I think of independence, I think of history. My Ojibwe ancestors were not liberated at the end of the revolt against England. Our oppression has continued and deepened over the centuries since 1776, as has that of other tribes and people around the globe. And even though I know many Native American people feel a great sense of pride as warriors and defenders of their homeland, I feel no allegiance to any national government. I feel no need to fight to defend territory demarcated by imaginary lines that separate neighboring peoples or to risk my life to defend the sardonic mythology of “freedom and liberty for all.” In fact it makes me very angry to know that generations of Native American children were forced to celebrate holidays that symbolized their defeat and oppression at the hands of the U.S. army. A disproportionate number of Native Americans have proudly served the U.S. and still do, even though the same government has done little to address the many legacies of genocide, land theft, and deliberate destruction of cultures that tribal communities still experience today.”

So then as now I would say that the U.S. has no right to invade another sovereign nation to impose its will on other cultures and peoples. In 2003, as in the 1700s and 1800s in the U.S., the invasion was really about gaining power as a nation and establishing control over resources.

I ended by saying that I respect and honor those whose views are different than mine, but I feel it is my ethical responsibility to speak the truth as I see it from my perspective today.

The class was thoughtfully silent. Many came up after class to thank me for sharing another perspective, including the young woman who asked me to share my views.

The midway outcome for the Iraq invasion? Journalist Christian Parenti (2004) reports his observations when he visited the children’s hospital in Iraq during late April, 2004.

“I had seen several children in Baghdad with enlarged heads and huge veins bulging from their skulls and been told that this condition and other bizarre cancers and childhood diseases are linked to roughly 1,700 tons of depleted uranium-tipped weaponry that the United States used on Iraq during both wars” (p. 57).

Fireworks

Photo: Microsoft WORD Clipart
“… the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there …”

I know that as you watch “Independence Day” parades and fireworks, you will think about what freedom really means not only to you but also for others here and around the globe. Real social security means addressing the suffering of others, not with bombs but with peace, equality and compassion.

Work Cited:

Christian Parenti (2004) The freedom: Shadows and hallucinations in occupied Iraq. New York, NY: The New Press.

 Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
This entry was posted in Challenging the Status Quo and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Social Security and Nationalism

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Wow, I could never imagine such a perceptive quote from Eisenhower! Beautiful post Carol from your beautiful mind & heart. Thank you for educating me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. yeseventhistoowillpass says:

    I’d reblog your post but I don’t want to get in trouble.. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. steelcityman says:

    Beautifully written and with such passion too. It’s a great pity that what is loosely called ‘Freedom’ can be so painfully oppressive to many. I greatly admire your words….Best regards from over the pond…Patrick

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dolphin says:

    Reblogged this on Dolphin and commented:
    At the risk of sounding like I’m a suck-up, which I’m not, I did think of the Native Americans as the holiday approached, and wondered what they must think every Fourth of July. Carol does a good job explaining her honest feelings as an Ojibwe. We celebrate our independence from a government that taxed us without representation….but forget how we oppressed another peoples. This euro ancestry gal is thankful for this land and all those who love it enough to stick their necks out for it–including the Native Americans who watched us trash the place in a few hundred years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. smilecalm says:

    words to inspire
    my true
    inner freedom!
    thanks Carol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. larryjben says:

    Reblogged this on randomthoughts and commented:
    Busy here, so thank you for the words of wisdom. Reblogging now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Gator Woman says:

    Brutal facts, told as only you could tell this Carol.
    Can we ever learn?
    Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Equality 333 says:

    Carol an absolutely amazing post, I could not agree more! And the quote by Eisenhower powerful yet true words no one has listened too. But the words that resonate with me the most are;

    “I feel no need to fight to defend territory demarcated by imaginary lines that separate neighboring peoples or to risk my life to defend the sardonic mythology of “freedom and liberty for all.”

    and that sums it up for me completely. They can call it what they want liberalisation, war on drug, terror all that rubbish, it’s war and war is destruction and terror. We need peace and people coming together under one banner not war will achieve that only compassion and empathy. For centuries there has been a tag on war by both sides trying to justify their actions but it will never achieve peace but will alway cause more war and distrust!

    Thank you carol your words in this post are so turn and I have saved them so I can keep them there are a reminder and tool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comments and important insights, Equality. I really hadn’t made the connection with all the wars we wage – drugs, crime, welfare fraud, and “illegal” immigration to name a few. You are so wise in pointing out that war never results in peace. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello, Miss Carol,
    I noticed that you had read a couple of my blogs, and I wanted to thank you for your interest. If you have time, I would be interested in how you happened to notice my blog.
    I also wanted to comment on this post. I hadn’t seen the quote from Prez. Eisenhower before, so thank you for that. You may enjoy reading my blog #17 concerning our military, where I also mentioned his warning about the military/industrial complex. He had apparently seen enough war to make him wary of the logic for armed conflict.
    I also questioned the multitude of ridiculous uses of the word “war” in our current society, and especially the use of the word “warriors” to describe our military personnel. My old pappy who does all my typing (a hound doggie’s tootsies are no good at all on these tiny computer keyboards) had been visiting family and friends back east for a month or so, but we will resume our blogging soon.
    Thanks again for your interest, Buster and his (really) old pappy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Buster. I’m grateful to hear that you like Eisenhower’s quote as well as his warnings about the military industrial complex. I agree with you about the over-use of the word “war” to describe our approach to social issues, (drugs, crime, and welfare to name a few). The combative response, however, is an apt description of our approach and explains why our efforts continue to fail. We fight and punish people rather than provide support to help them heal.

      I look forward to checking out more of your interesting posts.

      I discovered your blog because of your thoughtful comments on JC’s blog (http://swedenmiddleeastviews.com/2015/03/24/farah-the-egyptian-feminist).

      Sending my best wishes to your and pappy 🙂

      Like

  10. A writer from the East says:

    Thank you from the bottom of the heart for this passionate and extremely insightful post that you have written. These days am interviewing Afghan refugees and some other groups and this is all very hard again, as I grow old I am feeling a huge dissent with my own work and sometimes I feel that am wasting my time writing and believing in the power of words. Obviously these wars are making the the emotions run high of millions of dis-empowered people of non white ethnicitys’ and I find this part totally outraging, “it makes me very angry to know that generations of Native American children were forced to celebrate holidays that symbolized their defeat and oppression at the hands of the U.S. army.” I have literally no right words to condemn this rogue and insane superiority and at some level I do understand your feelings. I say this because a couple of years ago I met and interviewed the victims of US drone strikes and the puppet governments bows to USA for their blatant actions on a sovereign country, I agree that Pakistan is no paradise and is full of problems but that does not give right to USA or any western state to drone us out in name of extermination of terrorists they helped create and let loose in my backyard.
    This story is giving me a pretty good idea that those in power are going around making USA the killing machines of Muslim countries duping that they bring us peace and democracy all while the they need our resources. These wars are placed around the white race’s narrative that they need to intervene to save us from our men. I have written significant stories on what I call it the “Saving Muslim Women Syndrome” and they all highlight the reality of the white race narrative that we-Muslim women of color need to be saved from our men of color that are portrayed as savages, beasts and anti women. You be be interested in this:http://wp.me/p2Mxgu-Yx or perhaps a linkage with white feminism at http://wp.me/p2Mxgu-HX.
    I realize a similarity with what you write from the Ojibwe history because what happened was all for power and the need to control resources.
    Last, I hope those stories won’t be offensive because they have anger and am not a very good writer so please excuse me in advance. Thank you once again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing these important posts, Saadia. Your points are elegantly argued and a crucial foundation for authentic understanding and meaningful dialogue. Anger about ignorance and the arrogant dismissal of the truths you share from your lived-perspective is healthy and justified.

      I, too, am repulsed by white feminism. I remember the sheltered middle-class white woman who commented during one of the workshops I was part of in a long ago career. “I am working with Native American women to teach them how to be assertive,” she said. “And what do you know about the culture and history of this particular tribe?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “It’s not important.” “Perhaps we should speak after the session,” was my final comment before I digressed from my prepared remarks to talk about how essential it was to respect other cultures by taking the time to learn more before one assumes they know what is “best.”

      The ignorance about Islam and Muslims in the US, the ongoing propaganda that hardens hearts with fear to justify the indiscriminate slaughter and destruction of whole communities of sovereign nations around the globe, concerns me deeply. It’s all about power and greed. The poor souls who are duped to take up weapons for these assaults are victims, too. As long as this continues, we need to speak out honestly and continue speaking out despite those who try to discredit our truths!

      Chi miigwetch (thank you very much) again for your work and your thoughtful comments here, Saadia. I’m so grateful to have met you, a sister in spirit, and send you blessings. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A writer from the East says:

    I am truly blessed to have come across you and your blog, Shukria Tasleem (thank you very much) and I too am sincerely grateful for our connection as a sister in spirit. Staay blessed always ❤❤❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m deeply honored by your kindness, Saadia. ❤

      Yesterday, I came across a blog post by a friend in England that reminded me of the essays you shared with me earlier. When I commented on her post, I shared links to your work. I think you would be interested in her work, too. Had not your replies come in together this morning, I may have overlooked sharing this link with you: https://racereflections.co.uk/2016/08/28/the-burkini-the-colonial-gaze-and-the-body-a-few-thoughts/.

      Sending love and blessings ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • A writer from the East says:

        Thank you so much for this, you are kindness itself and am grateful for your feedback. Very interesting because the Burkini debate is so divisive among Muslims themselves and also with the race relations. I don’t wear the hijab at all (while I cover my head in specific religious activities and hijab is really an more recent Arab export to my country, as we don the chadoor or dupatta over our heads and during my work I usually am found in that while meeting communities particularly that are more staunch in such matters) I get labeled by both Muslims and Non-Muslims for my non hijab wearing and moderate life style but I also think that this unveiling of women of color is very disturbing.. its like what you wrote that white woman teaching Native Americans that they should be assertive arrogantly assuming that she knows best.
        Let me read her article and once again, many thanks! Many wishes, love and blessings!

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s