As we approach what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 80th birthday, we should remember not just his dream, but his nightmares--his fear that without a "true revolution of values," the "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
On April 4, 1967, in New York City's Riverside Church, Dr. King spoke truth to power, making a powerful case against an earlier immoral war. But Dr. King was not just against the Vietnam War; he understood that the world cried out for both justice and peace. And the words our greatest prophet spoke that day still call to us: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
Yet more than four decades later, the U.S. still accounts for nearly half the world's spending on war, and preparations for war. More than four decades later, we still spend half our own discretionary budget on war, and preparations for war.
The newspapers this week are filled with discussion of our massive deficit, and the usual pundit fear-mongering over the need to cut Social Security and pension funds and Medicare. "Blue Dog Democrats" are quoted saying that they may have to oppose the stimulus plan, or any new health care plan, unless President Obama shows them where he will find the equivalent cuts in other programs (so-called "pay-go" cuts).
Well, I've got a suggestion on where to find a big chunk of that money--look across the Potomac River at that five-sided building which has enjoyed massive funding increases during the entire Bush/Cheney Administration. Heck, it's almost two decades since the Cold War collapsed, a quarter century since Ronald Reagan brought Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador to their knees (snark), and almost six years since everyone but Dick Cheney admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq--so do we really still need all the costly programs on the DOD's drawing board?
Congressman Barney Frank recently suggested a 25% cut in the military budget. He has a point, and it's not really that hard to see how to get there.
If we want to turn the page on the Bush/Cheney foreign policy, and show the world the new face of America, we should not only end the occupation of Iraq and close down the detention/torture camp at Guantanamo, but also shut down several hundred other overseas bases. America was founded in opposition to Empire, not to become one.
If we need to find hundreds of billions of dollars to fund a real stimulus program and build a new "green economy" that makes Mideast oil obsolete, why not cancel the "non-stealth", over-budget F35 Joint Strike Fighter, with its estimated one trillion dollars cost? And the next allotment of F22 Raptors, which have no mission? And the V-22 Osprey, which even Dick Cheney once tried to kill? And the DDG-1000 Virginia class submarine, another weapon without a purpose? And dangerous and costly efforts to militarize space?
Let's convert our national weapons labs completely to anti-nuclear-proliferation work and to alternative energy R&D. Aren't "loose nukes" and climate change two of our true security threats?
The Bible says that "...where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Is this really where America's heart is, spending half its treasure on a military/petroleum complex while its own people go without health care, pensions, good schools, affordable housing, even bridges and levees?
This week, the inauguration of President Barack Obama shows that we have come a long way towards Dr. King's dream of measuring people not "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." This is a very good change, well worth celebrating.
But while we are enjoying the wonderful view as our new President strolls down Pennsylvania Avenue, we should remember that Dr. King also fought for jobs & justice; that he called for an end to poverty & racism; and that he warned us about an immoral war & warned against the growing nightmare of a permanent war economy.
Dr. King prophesied that militarism would bring us economic and spiritual disaster. Maybe it's time we paid him some mind.