If you haven’t read him, you should

north korean soldiers marching

We live in an age of technological wonder and it happened within the blink of an eye. For tens of thousands of years, the life of a person was identical to the life of their ancestors. They ate the same food, walked around the same few miles of their village and used the same tools to solve their daily problems.

Literally, nothing changed for a dozen generations and then we became civilized. Now we have technology that seems to change at light speed and brings with it so much potential to better ourselves. Instead, we use our intellectual wealth to develop bigger and better ways of hitting each other over the head.

At the moment in our wondrous modern world, we have a standoff between North Korea and the United States. Chances are the North will back down and life will go on as before but one stray bullet may change all that of course. Most people reading this may be too young to remember but there was a Korean War with this same country over similar issues and it cost the lives of 54,246 American servicemen and woman. The Korean War did not end in an American victory, it ended with a ceasefire where we packed up and came home leaving behind very little to show for the blood it cost. Even after all these years, we still keep a small contingent of troops on the southern side of the border more for appearances than serious defense of our ally. I say that because there are 28,500 American troops in South Korea and 700,000 North Korean troops stationed on the other side waiting to kick down the fence and march right over the top of them to Seoul.

A conflict between North and South may not ultimately end well for the North once all of America’s long range firepower comes into play but in the short term, you don’t need to be a military strategist to figure out the odds of their survival if the North decides to cross that border without warning. Maybe we are there to support the ideal of a free and democratic South Korea but after sixty years, maybe we are just there for reasons that no longer exist. Perhaps we are there because no administration has had the nerve to say to a wealthy and well-defended South Korea: “We are bringing them home.” It doesn’t matter what the reason, now they are in harm’s way and probably very frightened. They should know that they are in our thoughts, we owe them that.

On the other side of the Demilitarized Zone, North Koreans live in poverty while a corrupt government spends the fruits of their labor on weapons of war; not to defend the laborer or his family but to preserve the status quo so that the tyranny can be passed on to the next family member in line. For us on the outside looking in, it seems like such a waste of human endeavor.  We wonder what they could do, what they could achieve if only they spent their money and hard work on lifting themselves out of the economic mess that they must surely be in.

America spends trillions of dollars on the very same weapons of war. It’s great that we a have a strong military and the means to defend our shores but like North Korea on a larger scale, do we need to spend so much? Halve our annual expenditure on things that kill and imagine what we could do with the savings? Take the money and spend it for our own betterment and America would have the best schools, the best jobs and the best hospitals in the world. Give it back to us as tax breaks and watch our economy thrive as the money is spent locally.

These are the decisions that responsible leaders should be making but they don’t. Instead, they worry more about their own political necks than the well-being of the people they claim to serve. Whether it’s Pyongyang or Washington, hardworking citizens deserve to have their money better spent and their resources put to a saner use. Thousands of years of human development should have led us to a smarter way of settling our differences and those of us who can see that need to make our voices heard. It really can be a better world but it needs to start with this generation and we need to be strong in telling our leaders that we don’t want to live like this anymore. If we wait too much longer, the odds increase that some young soldier somewhere on Earth, will fire at a shadow and start a war that may destroy us all. We’ve been down this road before—enough is enough.

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