Pope Francis resoundingly condemned the global epidemic of gun violence and the reckless proliferation of weapons around the world in a powerful speech at the World Food Summit in the wake of the heart-wrenching massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
But at the WFS, he took a much different tone, mourning the “strange paradox” that the world finds itself in where food cannot reach war-torn areas but weapons are allowed to freely proliferate around the world.
“It makes no difference where arms come from; they circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world. As a result, wars are fed, not persons. In some cases, hunger itself is used as a weapon of war” he said sadly, referring to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s use of starvation tactics to subdue rebellious towns. Some 600,000 Syrians are living under siege – some for years – and the regime refuses to allow humanitarian aid to reach the starving civilians, feeding them shrapnel from barrel bombs and the flames of incendiary munitions instead.
“We are fully aware of this, yet we allow our conscience to be anesthetized” said the Pope. His words are a damning indictment of the American people and government in several different ways. The United States has allowed its conscience to be anesthetized – murders are daily and massacres are weekly; we take our moments of silence and move on, doing nothing to rectify the situation. We’ve let death into our homes, we carry it on our hips and in holsters next to our hearts – and we wonder how we’ve become desensitized?
Our consciences are also numb to the destruction and death that our greed perpetrates across the world. The United States dominates the global arms market, earning some $36 billion last year and selling half of all the weapons sold in the world. Indiscriminate about their buyers, American weapons manufacturers flood the world with weapons that are then distributed to militant groups across the world, creating a perpetual war that never stops consuming resources or taking innocent lives. Far from fighting towards any ostensible moral objective as we have in the past, today’s modern conflicts are simply business opportunities, a never-quenched fire fed by the ethereal enemy of “terrorism.” What kind of world have we become where we allow the rich to profit off the violent murder of the poor?
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.