“Kindness, taken to its logical conclusion, leads us towards nonviolence”

Too often America’s image in the world is not that of freedom & democracy; but of violence and militarism. We must change this. Such an image is wrong, but the fact that it exists suggests that there is some truth to it. The reality is that American soldiers have fought and died around the world for freedom and that the financial cost has been born largely by the American taxpayer. Such is the compassion and decency of Americans. We fought to liberate Europe from the Nazi’s. We then fought to liberate the world from the tyranny of dictatorship masquerading as communism. Today our young men and women risk their lives fighting extremist around the world that seek to impose a fundamentalist religious ideology on all of us. Once again the American soldier is fighting to help the greater cause of freedom everywhere. Nonetheless, Americans have a reputation for being a violent people – our violence crime stats back this up – and for a militaristic foreign policy. In order to understand this negative image we should take an honest hard look at ourselves.

In terms of world peace – genocide, war, and mass destruction continue to plague man. Since the Nazi Holocaust and WWII nothing has really changed.

Nothing.

In fact, since the Nazi Holocaust against European Jews, gays and other “undesirables” — a time when mankind pledged “never again” — the world has allowed genocide repeatedly. In Cambodia, in North Korea, in Yugoslavia under Milosevic, in Vietnam under Ho Chi Min, in China and Tibet under Mao Zedong, under Mullah Omar and the Taliban in Afghanistan, by the Sudan dictator Omar al-Bashir, in Rwanda, and the mass slaughter of the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar).

You and I must work to change this. The evidence is clear that without a change, that war, genocide, and mass killings will continue to plague humanity. It is not kind to do nothing, and the God of the universe will not forgive us for inaction.

Since WWII we have developed weapons even more powerful and capable of killing millions in an instant. Einstein would shiver if he knew the killing capacity of modern weaponry. A good and moral people would actively work to prevent war and to promote kindness and understanding among peoples. We must be that good and moral people. The status quo in an age of weapons of mass destruction is simply too large of a threat to the human race. If we change nothing, history shows we can expect at a minimum, at least 5 more genocides this century. History shows that we can expect our country to be at war at least 5 times this century beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too often we go to war when there has been neither an attack nor a direct threat to the U.S. (in the past 5 wars the US was attacked once, we were the attacker in the others). We must be cognizant that in any wars we fail to prevent, that our children and grandchildren will be the ones to fight and die in those wars.

So long as humans place nationality above humanity, there will always be war. Only when we accept our common humanity will wars cease. It is imperative that we overcome national and religious differences to see that all humans are the same. All peoples want peace, happiness, and prosperity for their children.

Einstein addressed the problem of war when he asked, “What can we do to bring about a peaceful coexistence and even loyal cooperation of the nations? The first problem is to do away with mutual fear and mistrust. Solemn renunciation of violence (not only with respect to means of mass destruction) is undoubtedly necessary.” Yet Einstein went on to warn “One has to understand that powerful industrial groups concerned in the manufacturing of arms are doing their best in all countries to prevent the peaceful settlement of international disputes.” His warning echoed the advice of President Dwight Eisenhower who warned:

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Today we see the role of a powerful military-industrial complex that includes highly paid lobbyist, lavish and well-placed donations to political campaigns, and members of Congress who see defense spending on unwanted weapons systems and on obsolete military bases as a jobs bill for their constituents. As I write this, Congress is again set to vote for weapons systems the Pentagon says it does not need and cannot afford (weapons systems that politicians want built and where defense contractors have donated millions to politicians campaigns). Let us stop pretending that money does not buy elections and influence. The Pentagon also says it needs to close almost 25% of its military post in the US and can save $2 Billion dollars for the taxpayer by doing so, but politicians, seeing unneeded military bases as jobs and money for their district and state, have refused to close them or to even authorize another round of BRAC closures. All this unnecessary spending of tax dollars for weapons and bases the Pentagon itself says it does not need or want hurts the taxpayer and constitutes theft from programs that could have used that money to rebuild our highways, our schools, or to provide health care to the poor and the severely mentally ill. Let no one doubt the outsized influence of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about, nor should we doubt how military spending has increased the likelihood of using American military power abroad – sometimes drawing the US into a war we would have never entered otherwise. Einstein even warned us that the ‘US Military mentality’ post WWII would lead to ‘preventative war’ – something which ultimately happened with Iraq, a nation which did not attack or threaten the US. How many Americans died because of the unprovoked war in Iraq? How many Americans were wounded? How many troops suffer still with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from an unnecessary war? How many marriages were destroyed post deployment from soldiers who deployed to Iraq?

War is the most anti-family activity there is.

Yet ‘family values’ politicians still supported this war, a war that clearly failed to meet the criteria of Christianity’s own doctrine of Just War. The American church is simply so wedded to the dominant American worldview of militarism that it has become a defender of the status quo. We need religious leaders who will demand that future wars meet the strict criteria of the Church’s long standing doctrine of a ‘Just War’ and if the war doesn’t, we need clergy who are willing to speak out against it. Neither Iraq nor Vietnam met the just war criteria. Mining the harbors of Nicaragua and bombing nations that have not attacked or harmed us also fails to meet the Christian criteria of a just war – and are acts of war.

Never again must we send our children to fight a war that falls outside our own moral and religious tradition. Our clergy must not simply rubber stamp whatever foreign policy our leaders and the military-industrial complex lead the nation into. The clergy is our last hope for a moral and just foreign policy that will reflect the finest values of a civilized nation and that will make war a last resort and then only once the strict criteria of a just war are satisfied. The well-being and lives of our servicemembers, their marriages, and their children are at risk. America simply cannot afford to go to war unnecessarily again. The church has a moral imperative to speak out when wars fail to meet the standards of a just war. The Church has failed to do so in the recent past with terrible results. The church must not be to closely aligned with the defenders of the status quo that they fail to defend church doctrine, particularly when so much is at stake. We must beware of religious leaders who are too closely tied to our political leaders and the status quo that they cannot openly criticize them. Our young men and women have paid a terrible price for the Churches failure to speak out against militarism and unnecessary wars.

War is the ultimate form of violence and sends the message to ordinary citizens that violence is acceptable. Nationalism is the ultimate exercise in “Us vs. Them” thinking that often leads to hate and war. To prevent war, nationalism must be subverted for the greater good of humanity. We must no longer see ourselves as Americans, or as Chinese or Russians, but as humans first and foremost. Only when we see every person as our brother, sister and fellow human being will the end of war come. As the Dalai Lama said, “We tend to forget that despite the superficial differences between us, people are equal in their basic wish for peace and happiness.” All peoples have the same hopes, fears and dreams for their children. All peoples. Every one of us loves our little boys and little girls and wants them to grow up safe and happy. In these ways, we are all alike. We must never forget this.

Ron Hill