A message to Presidential Candidate Barack Obama
Senator Obama, I’m getting a very queasy feeling over all this blather about “faith-based initiatives.” As you know, the Founding Fathers, in devising the set of rules that would apply to the new nation, heeded the lessons of history. Early colonists had fled to the New World to escape religious persecution. Some of those same colonists then fell into the persecution of others on religious grounds, including the infamous burning and drowning of accused “witches.” Consequently, the Founders strove to guarantee freedom of religion in the newly formed United States. The First Amendment clearly precludes our government from entangling itself in religion and religious practices and activities. That would include the granting of tax money to churches! As tempting as it may be to curry favor in the religious community, “faith-based initiatives” clearly violate our Constitution and would open a Pandora’s Box. The United States is not a “Christian nation” nor was it ever meant to be. It is a nation built on the premise of individual freedom, including freedom of – and from – religion.
Your recent stated intention to send more troops to Afghanistan, where they are dying in even greater numbers than in Iraq, is also cause for concern. The attacks on 9/11 were criminal acts – as Colin Powell stated at the time – and our response should have been to treat them as such. At a time when we had the sympathy of the entire world, we could have prevailed upon virtually every police agency to track down the instigators and bring them to justice. The Afghan people were not to blame, yet we rained bombs upon their heads. It made no sense then, and it makes no sense now.
You say we must “finish the fight in Afghanistan.” Have you too been infected with Bush’s “victory” delusion? We’re not at war with either Iraq or Afghanistan. We can’t kill the Taliban fighters as fast as their madrassas turn them out. What sense does it make to continue the destruction of Afghanistan? And do we stop there, given that bin Laden and al Qaeda are, apparently, holed up in the hills of Pakistan, a nation to which we’ve given billions of dollars in aid?
Neither you nor McCain at the present time have enough knowledge to formulate a strategy for ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Tossing out specifics such as “16 months,” then hedging on that timeline, does nothing to inspire confidence in the citizenry. The reality is that the U.S. must end its occupation at the earliest possible moment for two simple reasons:
1) We can’t afford it militarily! Our forces are stretched to the breaking point. Soldiers are committing suicide – or going mad – as they continue to engage in pointless, life-threatening patrols, on a daily basis, for months and years on end.
2) We can’t afford it monetarily! Our economy is in a tailspin, the dollar is losing value, Americans continue to lose their jobs and their homes, deindustrialization continues, our infrastructure continues to deteriorate, trade deficits continue to soar.
Practicality, and indeed our own human survival, will require a massive shift in our attitudes and our priorities, a shift toward sustainability, toward environmentally benign energy sources, toward small, local farms and businesses, toward conservation of resources. Such a shift will energize the citizenry, foster cooperation, create jobs, vastly improve livability and community, and restore our core values of “liberty and justice for all.”
I urge you to avoid offering specifics on programs and timelines. Stick to the broad concepts that have brought you so far. The Reich-wing will continue to cavil and lie and distort and demean; it’s what they do. Respond as you have done so well to date, appropriately, with humor at the nonsensical, with effective attacks on substantive issues. “Strong on national security” certainly means talking rather than invading. It means cultivating friends rather than naming enemies. It means openness rather than secrecy, building trust rather than exciting suspicion, helping other nations rather than dictating to them. It means basing our foreign policy on our values of laws and justice rather than on trying to be King of the World.
I am not alone in these concerns. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances of all ages are expressing the same uneasy feelings. Please listen to us!
Louisa Arndt • 810 Idylberry Road • San Rafael CA 94903 • firstname.lastname@example.org