Many of the world's religious leaders in attendance at the
Parliament of World Religions taking place in Melbourne, Australia, are in partial mourning for the dream
of a new world that President Obama promised, and decisively torpedoed in his
announcement of major escalation of military forces in Afghanistan.
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For political activists, the issue is often framed in terms
of Obama's failure to learn the lessons of Vietnam : one cannot win a war
against a population that has been fighting for many decades for its own
independence. No matter what America's stated war aims, the people of
Afghanistan perceive the American
military presence as generating far more violence and destruction than
they faced before the U.S. got involved.
anxious to protect the rights of women, the capitulation to Islamic
fundamentalism in its treatment and denial of rights to women by the current Afghani government which
America is pledged to support undermines any picture of the US actually
providing a long-term strategy that would defend women's rights.
And for working and poor people in the US who are told that
serious health care reform would not only hurt the interests of the health
insurance corporations and the medical profiteers (poor dears!) but also
increase the deficit at a time when it must be reduced, the willingness to put
hundreds of billions of dollars into war making with the deficit suddenly
forgotten makes many wonder about distorted priorities once again.
For the religious leaders of the world assembled in
Melbourne Australia for the Parliament, all these issues are quite salient. Yet
what comes most directly to mind for many is the fundamental warp in the Obama
Administration's understanding of what could actually succeed in providing homeland security.
One reason many global religious leaders celebrated the
outcome of the 2008 election was the perception fostered by the Obama campaign
that the new President really understood that militarism and the use of force
to achieve American objectives should be relegated to the dustbin of history,
at least until every non-violent strategy has been exhaustively tried. We
believed we had heard a clear message that Obama recognized the need to end
global poverty and the suffering it has generated as the first step that must
be given time to work before military options are embraced.
That approach was given teeth by the vice chair of the
Progressive Caucus of the House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, who has worked with the Network of
Spiritual Progressives to develop a Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (DGMP).
The DGMP would have the US take
the leadership in bringing the advanced industrial societies of the world to
commit 1-2% of their Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty to
once and for all end global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education
inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment.
It seemed obvious to religious leaders that the meltdown of
the global economy and the obvious role played by the ethos of selfishness and
materialism presented the new President with a once in a lifetime opportunity
to remake the global economy in ways that would redistribute wealth to the poor,
thereby generating the very consumer demands that could rebuild the global
marketplace by taking the monies that were not being spent and putting it in
the hands of those whose immediate needs for food, clothing, housing and basic
material needs would generate a global economic revival and end unemployment.
But the only way that could happen would be for the Obama
Administration to have put its full energy behind a new approach to homeland
security. Obama would have had to teach Americans that lasting security could
come from generosity, whereas the strategy of domination of others had proved
futile and a guaranteed loser.
Even when Obama started pouring trillions into the hands of
Wall Street banks and investment firms there was still a hope in the religious
world that he would remain faithful to the peace-oriented insights he had
articulated during his campaign.
No wonder then that the global religious leaders convening
in Melbourne are expressing dismay to each other. They have long known what Obama
seems not yet to have absorbed in a serious way: that the path to peace must be
a path of peace, and that you cannot bomb and kill your way to security. This
simple insight is the one thing shared by most of the world's religious
traditions, and it is to testify to the path of peace that thousands of
religious leaders are assembled here to affirm a truth that Obama and the world must take seriously,.
If you agree with this perspective:
this to everyone you know
the Tikkun Conference to "Support Obama to BE the Obama Americans Voted
For" *in San Francisco,
University of San Francisco, mini-conference,
President's Day, Monday, February 15, 2010 *in Washington D.C. Full conference June 11-14, 2010. Put aside the dates now. More info: http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php?story=june2010conference
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