I am of an age in which the first President I really remember is John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It was a frightening era. This JFK ran for President as a war hero who would end the "missile gap" and build up the Special Forces ("Green Berets").
Kennedy didn't live out a full term, but a lot happened during his Presidency. He did build up the Green Berets, and sent them to Vietnam, building up American involvement there from a few advisers to true combat involvement. In a sense, he started the Vietnam War. The bellicose posture of the USA under his Presidency almost resulted in the annihilation of the human race with his "Cuban Missile Crisis." Things seemed so bleak that many peace people fled the country for the Southern Hemisphere (then believed to be a refuge as it was thought the atmospheres of the two hemispheres didn't mix much; now we know there is no place to hide). On the domestic front, despite campaign promises, he would not lift a finger for civil rights.
During that time, Friends (Quakers) came to Washington and protested in front of the White House. There weren't many others doing this at the time. Many Friends joined other Americans in sending pens and bottles of ink to Kennedy, pointing out his failure to end housing discrimination "with a stroke of the pen" as he had promised. These were worthwhile efforts, although they did not succeed in changing the policies of the Administration.
Last night, I listened to another JFK - John Forbes Kerry. He was presented by others and presented himself as a war hero, just like the earlier JFK. The speech, and what surrounded it, was full of paeans to the glory of war, and flag waving jingoism. There were few specifics in the speech, but one reminiscent of the earlier JFK sent chills through my spine. He promised to double the size of the Special Forces, the shock troops of America's imperialist wars. Another specific was to increase the size of the military by 40,000. Somewhat more vague was what seemed to be a promise to give the military every new weapons system it wants.
Several months ago, The Washington Post
ran an analysis of the strategic thinking of the Kerry campaign. It said Kerry was going to run as a hawk. The Post's analysis was borne out by what we heard at the Convention this week.<br><br> Friends, we have our work cut out for us as believers in the gospel of peace. This year, the two major Presidential candidates are vying to see who can portray himself as the more effective advocate of militarism. The peace position has been relegated once more to the far fringes of politics in this country.
All the demonstrations and mass movements of the last half century don't seem to have gotten us very far. We need to sink deeper, to really fundamentally change hearts and minds, not just get opposition to a particular policy or war of the moment.