Pax Christi hits campus to promote military spending cut
By TIM LOGAN
Senior Staff Writer
A young woman dressed as a clean-shaven Uncle Sam looks up at a 27-foot inflatable bar graph representing United States defense spending.
And while Uncle Sam boasts about American military superiority, her counterpart, Shawna Farabaugh, describes our nation's less impressive rankings in categories like infant mortality and education.
This was the scene Thursday afternoon in O'Shaughnessy's Great Hall, where Pax Christi held a demonstration calling for those positions to be brought a little closer together.
"We can't have national security without quality education and health care for all our citizens," Farabaugh said.
The event was part of the Pax Christi "Bread Not Stones" bus tour, a 30-city journey across the country to raise awareness of military spending and propose a 15 percent cut in our nation's defense budget. Thursday, the bus came to Notre Dame.
The group gave two presentations and an acoustic concert, in O'Shaughnessy's Great Hall. After the presentations, the bus riders, along with Notre Dame Pax Christi members and interested onlookers, held a talk on Catholic Social Teaching and U.S. military spending.
The event illustrated the $271 billion that the government spends on defense each year with a big inflatable bar graph, in scale with the defense budgets of China, Russia and our other "potential adversaries" —North Korea, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Cuba, Iran and Iraq. According to figures from the General Accounting Office, U. S. military expenditures double what all of those countries spend, combined.
This, according to Farabaugh, gives good insight into our priorities as a society.
"It's like the national checkbook," she said. "You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their checkbook. They spend money on things that are important to him. What we choose to prioritize in our funding says a lot about what we value as a nation."
The group wants America to change its spending priorities, cutting 15 percent of our defense budget and putting the money into programs for education and health care. They said that money could provide health coverage for all 11 million uninsured children in this country, completely fund Head Start and hire 200,000 new teachers nationwide.
"What we're trying to do is get people to recognize what's possible with only a 15 percent cut in military spending," Farabaugh said.
The cuts would not significantly diminish our military capabilities, the group said, pointing to waste that could easily be prevented.
"We'll still have the strongest military in the world," said Eric LeCompte, leader of the bus group.
The "Bread Not Stones" movement was inspired by a statement released by U.S. Catholic bishops in March calling on the government to redirect our national spending priorities away from defense and towards education and health care. The bus tour began in Los Angeles in early September and will wind up in Burlington, Vt., on Nov. 2, the week before Election Day. Organizers hope to raise awareness of the issue across the country.
LeCompte encouraged the audience to work for a more equitable distribution of resources.
"We believe that support for this massive Pentagon spending on weapons is a mile wide but only 1/2 inch deep," he said. "The challenge for all of us here, no matter where we came from, is to break the hold that the military industrial complex has on Washington, D. C."
Attendance at the event varied throughout the event, which was originally to be held on South Quad but was driven inside by the rain. It was most crowded at its 4:45 p.m. start, when students leaving class stopped to watch. Fewer people were present later, but organizers said the event was successful, and they hope to build on its momentum.
"What was most significant for us was to have this national Pax Christi event on campus and have people walk by and think about it," said Rachel Soltis, a leader of the club. "I hope it started people thinking and Pax Christi plans to continue getting people to think."
All News Stories for Friday, October 6, 2000