The above quote is a very interesting observation by former president John Kennedy, especially on the heels of President Eisenhower’s parting remarks expressing concern about the growing power of the military-industrial complex.
It’s interesting because today (Sept. 2008) we have a minority candidate with a shot at the White House, as well as a woman within striking distance. On the other hand, where is the nearest conscientious objector?
Here is what I find especially interesting regarding the Sixties protestors who took a stand against the military-industrial complex. The very phrase itself originated in the mouth of a U.S. president.
A conscientious objector is someone who, for matters of conscience, must decline from military service. Usually it’s for religious reasons, but there are who simply refuse to do harm to others of the human family. In the course of history many conscientious objectors have been imprisoned, or even killed, for this adherence to conscience. It’s a stain on our history.
The stance of conscientious objector is a challenging one. Few there are who would disagree that a brutal tyrant like Adolph Hitler would require being stopped, which presupposes a commitment to maintaining armaments of greater force. Conscientious objectors can be opposed to carrying weapons and doing damage to others, but may be fully integrated into an army as stretcher bearers or nurses, though others would oppose even this assistance to a war effort.
The attitude of a conscientious objector may also include a call for reflection on whether a war is just or unjust. Patriotism is challenged by this stance. Many patriots, standing beneath the banner “My country right or wrong,” demand a fully unified affirmation from the masses. To be perceived as unpatriotic is a form of anarchy or sin in their eyes. But a conscientious objector can love his or her country very much while calling the nation into account to higher laws.
Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy felt strongly that war was incompatible with Christian faith altogether, citing much historical literature to support his beliefs. Here is but one typical example of Tolstoy’s view. “The most ardent and sincere fathers of the Church declared the teaching of Christ to be incompatible with one of the fundamental conditions of the existence of the State: armed force. In other words, a Christian must not be a soldier prepared to kill every one whom he is ordered to.”
During the American Revolution, the Quakers were themselves at odds with those who intended to take up arms against England.
Dr. Francis Schaeffer, however, cites that Charles Finney laid out a case for Christians taking up arms against tyrants. In this manner he justifies the American Revolution in his book “A Christian Manifesto” which also provided the wind power that swept many Christians into political activism in the 1980’s. C. S. Lewis stated in one of his essays that two Christians serving their countries as soldiers might shoot one another simultaneously and meet immediately once more on the other side of the veil.
It’s likewise ironic that Thoreau, whose pacifist writings influenced Mahatma Gandhi and later Dr. Martin Luther King, endorsed the violence of John Brown preceding the Civil War.
I personally find it insane that General MacArthur proposed using atomic bombs on more than 35 targets during the Korean War. It’s bad enough having the reputation of having slaughtered the massive quantities of civilians that we did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Our track record, historically, is not entirely glorious. It waits to be seen what lies ahead.
Eisenhower Warns Us of the Military Industrial Complex
The Cold War’s Killing Fields
Paul Thomas Chamberlin Shares Insights from His Research on The Cold War’s Killing Fields
Joan Baez: Where Have All The Flowers Gone
Primarily published originally at https://pioneerproductions.blogspot.com.