Yesterday, we celebrated the holiday marking the birthday of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of my fondest heroes, and I bet one of yours, too. "DDE" is President Dwight David Eisenhower, and yesterday was also the anniversary of his "Military-Industrial Complex" speech.
The wisdom of these two very different men – one a decorated warrior, the other a prophet of non-violent resistance to racism, war and greed – calls to us today across five decades with a startling similarity, clarity and relevance. Consider these eloquent passages:
"We pray…that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love."
Dr. King said that, right?
Nope, it was Ike from his 1961 farewell address warning of the growth of the military-industrial complex and the dangers of nuclear arms – a warning we have not heeded. King similarly decried the triple evils of racism, militarism and economic exploitation.
"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
That one was indeed Dr. King, from "Strength to Love" in 1963.
Were truer words ever spoken? Have we as a nation ever needed to understand and live this truth any more than we do right now, as we mourn the tragic massacre in Tucson and endure a seemingly endless war – the longest in our history – in Afghanistan?
Unbelievably, the Pentagon's general counsel (its top lawyer), Jeh C. Johnson, recently claimed that if Dr. King were alive today, he would support the U.S. war in Afghanistan as being just and necessary.
With all due respect to Mr. Johnson, does he know the first thing about MLK's life and work?
Were he still with us – and every day, I wish that were the case – Dr. King would doubtless be marching, sitting in, praying, organizing, strategizing, leading and educating right along with us to end the war in Afghanistan (and increasingly with our drone attacks, Pakistan).
Very soon, we will launch a new petition campaign to end the war, which, in all humility, I think Dr. King would approve. The petition will offer signers the option of self-identifying as supporters of President Obama's campaign in 2008, and that they may well not support his re-election with the same fervor in 2012 if the president fails to move decisively and quickly to end the war.
The tens or hundreds of thousands of signatures we will gather will give concrete political form to the reality that Obama's base – the people who carried him to an historic election victory Dr. King would surely have celebrated (or perhaps did in a heavenly party with Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez and other angels of righteousness and justice!) – hates this war and the president's escalation of it.
Why do I think Dr. King would support this campaign? Because he preached not only the gospel of love, tolerance, peace and social justice, but also the gospel of strategy, and I think he'd recognize this campaign makes smart, political strategic sense.
Stay tuned for the petition, we will send it your way very soon, and ask for your signature and for you to circulate it to your friends, colleagues and family. In the meantime, to help us build our strength online (as we will promote the petition online and also the old-fashioned way, using paper, pen, clipboard and shoe leather!), please "like" Peace Action on Facebook.
What would Eisenhower and King think of our organizing on Facebook? I think they'd "like" it, very much.
Humbly for Peace,
Kevin M. Martin