As a fairly well decorated, honorably discharged, United States Marine Corps veteran who has studied history, seen the effects of war, and grown spiritually and intellectually throughout my fifty-six years on this planet, it is my strong belief that there are no greater heroes than conscientious objectors.
That’s right. I believe it takes far more spiritual backbone, intellectual acumen, and moral courage to say, “NO!” to military service than it does to enlist in the armed forces or submit to being drafted. If we want world peace, we must teach future generations to say, “No!” and “Hell No!”!
Read these words from the late Muhammad Ali. “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America,” he had explained two years earlier. “And shoot them for what? They never called me (the “N” word), they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”
Ali’s words ring much truer and morally sound than the words of any commercial, movie, or military recruiter that I encountered in the early ‘80s. Why should these recruiters have unfettered access to young, extremely impressionable, under-developed, and often troubled, teen-aged minds?
From birth, boys and girls are perpetually bombarded with propaganda that glorifies war and violence. There are few televised sporting events where the military-industrial-complex isn’t strongly glorifying militarism. I find it ironic and laughable when I hear people say, “Keep politics out of sports!” while they feast on gluttonous portions of politically charged nationalism and militarism before, during, and after every single televised National Football League game. The fact of the matter is, I’d much rather watch a Black guy kneel for something he truly believes during the National Anthem than listen to young people being bombarded with messages encouraging them to kill children, women, and men overseas for the sake of big oil, the military-industrial-complex, and a bunch of Congressional beta-males who benefit greatly from the blood of our sisters and brothers, at home and abroad.
When I joined the USMC, knowledge of Marine Corps “History” was a non-negotiable imperative. One of the most highly venerated Marine Corps heroes we learned about was Major General Smedley D. Butler. There’s even a base named after him in Okinawa.
Here’s a sample of what they left out about Smedley D. Butler:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.” ― Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket
You might say, “But, Joe, I can understand how you feel about wars like Vietnam and Iraq, but what about WWII?” That’s a great question. My answer is that those conflicts could have been avoided if greedy U.S. bankers and manufacturers hadn’t funded and supplied Hitler in the first place. As with most wars, if you follow the money and hunger for political power, you’ll see where the dam broke, allowing the forces of evil to flood the earth. You’ll also find plenty of opportunities, throughout history, where the masses could have peacefully risen in opposition and said, “NO!”. I’m deeply convinced that “NO!” is one of the most powerful words in the human vocabulary.
I’m also a follower of Jesus, not Ares, Rambo, Darth Vader, George W. Bush, Joe Biden, or Conan the Barbarian.
Vladamir Putin recently quoted John 15:13- “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Wow! Did that ever grind some people’s gears! How dare he twist the words of Jesus!
Are you angry with Putin? Sadly, Americans quoted the same passage while mourning the loss of their countrymen who slaughtered innocent Iraqis.
It’s not an Orthodox, Christian custom to attribute militarism, war, violence, apartheid, intimidation tactics, and oppression to Jesus, The PRINCE OF PEACE, but it is a mainstay of “American” culture which needs to be abolished!
If you have served in the armed forces, God Loves You, and so do I! I’m Pro-People, but Anti-War.
Many of you will have very serious questions and objections. That's understandable.
I welcome them, as I most likely shared your points of view at an earlier time in life.
I'm at a place in life where I would prefer to be killed than to kill. I also believe that there's always a "third way" which is greater and more effective than militarism and passivist inaction. Perhaps, I'll touch on that soon.
For all who are interested, I highly recommend Walter Wink's masterpiece: "Jesus and Non-Violence, A Third Way".
I plan to write much more on this topic soon. I’m also compelled to Love those who hate this brief article as much as those who will praise it. That’s the Jesus Way!
Love & Peace!
Theologian, Peacemaker, & Lover of All God's Children