Politics Mondays: An Imaginary Letter from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to President George W. Bush by Anthony Welch
January 19, 2004
Dear President Bush –
I pray this letter finds you strong in body, mind, and spirit.
I am deeply troubled by the challenges facing America and the world, and I write this letter with love and respect, with the hope of showing you, in the words of the apostle Paul, “a more excellent way”.
Before doing so, I would like to commend you on your support of substantial efforts to help people who are suffering with AIDS across the globe. I applaud you for the support you have given to the expansion of community service efforts across America. And I am moved by your genuine expressions regarding the role faith has played in your personal life.
But there is, Mr. President, a “more excellent way” to look at, and deal with, the challenges facing America and the world, a “more excellent way” that can truly create a beloved community of peace, prosperity, and security.
Because I know your worldview is focused predominately on the struggle with terrorism, I will utilize language in this letter that speaks directly to that worldview.
In a world torn by terrorism and tyranny, it is a great misconception to believe that police and military forces can stop all of those who wish to do evil to others. The police chief and the military general are often the first to understand the limits of the jail, the gun, and the bomb in making and keeping the peace.
The Good Samaritan is indeed a blessing to those victimized by thieves on the Jericho Road. But ultimately, the safest and most peaceful Jericho Road is one without thieves in the first place.
I’m saying to you today that America has the unique opportunity and responsibility to make of the world a safe and peaceful Jericho Road by removing the conditions and circumstances that help nurture the terrorists and tyrants of this world, and that the plotters of evil use as justification for their evildoing.
It is difficult for terrorists and tyrants to thrive when there is sufficient food, shelter, and clothing for all. It is difficult for terrorists and tyrants to thrive when all have opportunities to make and peacefully participate in decisions affecting the key issues of their lives through government structures aligned with principles of liberty and democracy. The roots of terrorism and tyranny wither away when land is fairly distributed, and when clean water and sanitation are available to all. The thieves on the Jericho Road lose their base of operations when jobs with good wages and opportunities for entrepreneurship are available for men and women to support themselves and their families. It is very difficult for the terrorist and the tyrant to breed nursed resentments when care and compassion are shown to those with AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, and when dedicated efforts are made to prevent the spread of these and other dreaded diseases. Terrorists and tyrants cannot long survive an environment in which all have a basic understanding of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and a sense of their God-given ability to be positive agents for non-violent change.
In many ways, America is involved in constructive efforts in all of the areas I have just described. But I humbly submit to you that America has not committed itself sufficiently to the task at hand. A nation that wages a winning war spares no expense, is discouraged by no barrier, marshals all of its creativity, and commits itself to the successful achievement of the objectives it sets before itself. A nation that seeks to wage a winning peace must do no less.
The American government spends more than $400 billion per year on military defense to provide a measure of peace and security for its citizens and allies. Approximately $15 billion is spent on a variety of forms of foreign assistance annually. For reasons I have outlined earlier in this letter, I believe that foreign assistance, dollar for dollar, when well-spent and effectively managed, provides America with greater long-term peace and security than does well-managed military spending.
Mr. President, I ask you to consider the profound good that could result from a relatively modest re-allocation of your government’s spending on military defense to additional opportunities of foreign assistance – a re-allocation that would still provide America with the strongest and most capable armed forces in the world.
Based on recent research, I believe that an additional $5 billion per year would help provide food for almost all in the world who are hungry.
An additional $9 billion per year would help provide clean water and sanitation for almost all in the world who need it.
An additional $10 billion per year would spur the effective treatment of almost all who suffer from diseases such as AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.
An additional $9 billion per year would allow almost every girl and boy around the world to receive a basic education.
An additional $2 billion per year would help lift 10 million of the world’s poorest families out of poverty through the utilization of microfinancing – a strategy in which small loans support the entrepreneurial efforts of impoverished women and men starting viable businesses.
Countries utilizing a democratic and human rights framework for their governments typically do not suffer from famine or engage in war with each other, and provide greater civil liberties and economic opportunities for their people than do countries built on dictatorship. More can and must be done to nurture and support the indigenous leadership of men, women, and young people who are committed to the path of liberty and democracy - a free press, freedom of speech and religion, the right to peaceful assembly and protest, a fair judicial system, the right to vote in free and fair elections – in every country of the world whose people desire freedom. I propose that an additional $5 billion be spent annually in support of efforts to make human rights and democracy the long-term, universal cornerstones of governance around the world.
I propose the additional funding streams outlined above be managed by the U.S. State Department, which I encourage to work closely with the United Nations to ensure that these funds amplify and build upon the constructive efforts of governments and non-governmental organizations around the world.
The implications of the near-elimination of hunger, ill-health, poverty, illiteracy, and dictatorship are astounding. Young people all over the world will mature into adults who can be constructive parents and productive workers and entrepreneurs, willing and able to support and nurture the next generation of this world’s citizens.
To do this, to wage this winning peace through the re-allocation of $40 billion (less than 10 percent) of America’s military budget to additional opportunities of foreign assistance, is compassionate in the short-term, fiscally and economically prudent in the long-run, and morally and spiritually right forever. And I encourage you, Mr. President, to consider that all of this can be done without war, without the spilling of the blood of precious young people from America and around the world, and without undue strain on the national Treasury.
I close my letter with the words of Isaiah, with the hope that you are willing to reflect upon the deepest meaning contained in that great prophet’s words:
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always, satisfying your needs in a sun-scorched land, and strengthening your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the foundations of many generations. And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
May God forever guide you in the paths of faith and truth-bound leadership.
Anthony S. Welch is the co-founder of BetterLife Communications, an organization specializing in personal and community change strategies and processes. The author of "To Dream Again: The Continuing Challenge of Martin Luther King, Jr.", Anthony lectures widely across the country. He can be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com
Monday, January 19, 2004