Today, we remember and give thanks for those who have given their lives in the service of our nation. During the pastoral prayer yesterday, many pastors in our country asked God to help us honor their memory by…
…caring for the family members they have left behind, by ensuring that their wounded comrades are properly cared for, by being watchful caretakers of the freedoms for which they gave their lives, and by demanding that no other young men and women follow them to a soldier’s grave unless the reason is worthy and the cause is just.[i]
The late pastor of Riverside Church in New York, Harry Emerson Fosdick, once said:
I hate war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatreds it arouses.
In January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used his farewell address to alert the nation of what he viewed as one of its greatest threats: the military-industrial complex composed of military contractors and lobbyists perpetuating war.
Eisenhower prophetically warned that “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” had emerged as a hidden force in US politics and that we “must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.”
Failing to heed his warning, today we find ourselves in perpetual war. While perpetual war creates perpetual losses for families and perpetual increases in our national debt, it also creates perpetual profits for private business.
In 2015, the Department of Defense budgeted more money on federal contracts, $274 billion, than all other federal agencies combined. In 2016, CEOs of the top five military contractors earned on average $19.2 million each — more than 90 times the $214,000 earned by a U.S. general with 20 years of experience and 640 times the $30,000 earned by Army privates in combat.
In his sermon on militarism at Riverside Church in 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the leaders of the original Poor People’s Campaign said:
If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
To honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, I believe we must do all that we can to escape this dark corridor, or at the very least, be dragged down it kicking and screaming.
This is just one of the reasons the Poor People’s Campaign has been reignited. We are marching and screaming that no more blood will be shed for this country unless the reason is worthy and the cause is just.
Calling for a moral revival in this nation, we do not believe we can remain silent when we discover the immoral profit that is being made by perpetual war.
We cannot remain silent when we hear war-mongering speech from our leaders that supports this immoral profiteering.
We cannot remain silent when our leaders call for a privatization of the Veterans Administration that will allow corporations to profit from the injuries of war.
We cannot remain silent when the Commander-in-Chief, who has the power to declare war, lies repeatedly to the American people.
We cannot remain silent when we learn that 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar goes to military spending, and only 15 cents is spent on anti-poverty programs, many of which assist our veterans.
We cannot remain silent when those who profit by war proliferate our peaceful communities and with weapons of war that kill our children.
We cannot remain silent when people of color are being unjustly victimized, demonized and dehumanized by a “war on drugs” or a “war on terror” that has become a war on the poor.
We cannot remain silent when children who are immigrants are being separated from their families to support a political agenda.
We cannot remain silent when the political agenda is to support a war economy for the financial benefit of a few. If we want to honor those who gave it all for our country, we must agree as a nation that it is morally indefensible to profit from perpetual war.
Speaking on behalf of those who sacrificed their lives in WWI, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae ends his beautiful poem In Flanders Fields:
To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.
May we honor their fallen hands by holding high the torch of truth while marching for peace.