By Ernie McCray
Martin Luther King once said “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
Those words sure ring true today as the folks in the White House have little to no interest in anything even resembling “social uplift” and it seems our nation is “approaching spiritual doom” at a blinding pace.
And, as I write these words, U.S. missiles are flying in Syria with talk of more such attacks, and nothing “socially uplifting” ever rises from scenarios like that, especially at a time when this administration plans to give the Pentagon 54 billion dollars, a 10 percent raise – at the expense of our schools and the arts and our housing needs and our ability to feed the elderly and keep the citizenry well and protect the planet …
And so many people are down with what’s going on, elevating our president from a ding-dong “who doesn’t have a clue” to an overnight war hero.
It’s been nearly 50 years since Martin died and here our government is still trying to solve problems through its military power, making it possible that we might later on have to send some kid from the high school class of 2017 off to “make a difference” —something I’ve spent decades taking a stance against because it’s all about our children for me. But, alas, an anti-war activist’s work is never done.
So here I am at a new stage of taking on the war machine, going about it, as I’ve always done, by “acting locally” as they say, by, specifically, contributing to COMD (Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft), an organization that has always stepped forward, in our behalf, in times like these, standing up against our nation’s warmongering tendencies for nearly 40 years:
- playing a key role in defeating a Selective Service proposal that was meant to boost draft registration in California by linking it to eligibility for a driver’s license;
- helping our community better analyze, through their articles in Draft Notices, how social issues like minimum wages and immigration and environmental justice intersect with war and militarism;
- reaching out to youth and supporting programs like Project YANO (Youth and Non-Military Opportunities) as they counter military recruiters and work to demilitarize our high schools (some of my proudest moments as an activist have been winning some victories in San Diego City Schools with YANO);
- monitoring efforts regarding plans to extend draft registration to young women …
My appreciation for COMD runs deep because they always have children in mind, understanding that the young ones are the master mimickers of the world.
They know that in troubled times like these our children need to see us striving to leave them a just and peaceful world, challenging the billions upon billions of dollars being wasted on fanning the winds of war when we have so many crucial social needs that beg our attention.
Our nation is, indeed, in a spiritual decline, as Dr. King suggested. But we can turn that around if we’d tone down our flowery nostalgic “I Have a Dream” remembrances of this great man and give honor to his courage in warning us about the path we, as a nation, were traveling and continue to travel in our penchant for wars.
In 1967, regarding the war in Vietnam and the struggle for civil and human rights, Martin spoke of how just a few years earlier there seemed to be a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. And then came the buildup in the war, and the program was “broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything in a society gone mad on war.
Knowing that America would never again invest the necessary funds or energies for helping the needy he felt “increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor.”
For speaking such simple truths Martin was vilified until he died and we should never, as COMD hasn’t, let his spirit die.
I would encourage anyone who is concerned about the rise in militarism in our country today to look into COMD’s website, http://www.comdsd.org/, and get a sense of the work that they do, how they chip away, as we all should do, in the never-ending struggle to create a better world – one our children deserve.