“Did you hear that?” I asked after an Azalea Festival commercial during one the NCAA Tournament games.
“Is the Azalea Festival donating $90,000 dollars to the military?” I asked. “That’s barely enough to buy a military grade toilet.”
“It does sound odd,” my wife, the master gardener, remarked. “The Azalea Festival funds scholarships and celebrates spring blossoms. They don’t build bombers.”
“Blossoms for bombers!” I echoed. “Our military is running partly on flower power! Who knew?”
We loved taking the youngsters to the Azalea Festival to get their faces painted, eat funnel cake and enjoy azaleas in full bloom. But I had trouble with the idea that Azalea Festival was painting faces to pay for Marine sniper teams (and $90,000 actually would pay annual salaries of a couple of two-person lance-corporal-led Marine sniper teams).
It’s almost tax day. Don’t we send a lion’s share of our tax dollars to the Pentagon—and have a military budget more for than the next 20 or so countries combined? What’s next, a GoFundMe page for a fleet of next-generation bombers that won’t be needed unless the Klingons and Sith form a cross-mythical alliance? (In that case, we better start a Kickstarter campaign for warp drive, too.)
It’s sacrilege to question military spending in America, but since I’ve been ex-communicated from most churches anyway I figured I’d email the Azalea Festival folks. Officials confirmed the festival does generate more than $90,000 in donations to “military nonprofits.”
But what’s a military nonprofit?
Military nonprofits appear to focus on filling gaps for a range of veteran services that our tax dollars can’t or won’t fund. Despite Wounded Warriors’ recent troubles, most are staffed by noble people on noble missions, serving a cause greater than themselves. (Sounds like a recruiting ad.) Military.com has instructions to start a nonprofit. Militaryoneclick.com lists over 75 military-focused nonprofits.
Our military machine is not just big business; it’s small business. And it’s a nonprofit—a charity like the Sisters of Mercy or United Way. I figured war was a racket but never guessed it could be a charity.
Though, it does make sense.
The financial gain or “profit” is at the front end, arming the world—not at the back end, caring for the human exhaust spewing from the tailpipe of our war machine (like spent shells from a semi-automatic). We won’t raise the minimum wage, provide universal health care or forgive student-loan debt, but shout “national security” or “war on terror” loud enough, and we’ll willingly shred the Bill of Rights and feed our children into the great maw of the war machine.
I don’t question the Azalea Festival’s efforts to help nonprofits. It’s our nation’s vision I question. Are we Americans so baptized in our hyper-masculine culture of blood that we have become blind to how odd it is to fund any part of history’s largest military machine with proceeds from a flower festival?
Questioning the wisdom of endless war is rarer than being sexually assaulted in a public restroom by a man posing as a woman. For a man to question Mars in America means to be suspected of wearing a dress and having no balls. In our hyper-masculine culture, many people still believe it’s weak to wear dresses and have no balls, Jessica Jones and Beyonce be damned.
As difficult as it is to be a member of the LGBT community in America, LGBT groups were permitted to march in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Veterans for Peace (a military nonprofit) has routinely been denied entry because their refusal to pray to the Roman god of “War is un-American.”
In 1917 President Wilson convinced a pacifist nation to enter WWI and begin a century-long American crusade to “Make the world safe for democracy!” But in 1916 his campaign slogan was, “He kept us out of war!”
In 2016 no candidate could win a primary by being anti-war. Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate but also hawkish. She can’t afford to look “soft on defense.” Bernie voted against Iraq and advocates for veterans, but he doesn’t question the war industry itself. And our Christian values, cost-cutting GOP candidates, are embroiled in a schoolyard slap fight for the keys to our big, honking American tank!
I don’t care how the Azalea Festival donates its money. I do hope at the dawn of the 2nd century of the American crusade to “make the world safe for democracy,” we begin to see the business of war is actually “nonprofit” for everyone.