The guest writer is Kim Swift who has worked with the post 2012 Justice Party and cooperated with the New Progressive Alliance. Though written over 15 years ago, Kim correctly says its message is still relevant today.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Peace
November 11, 1999
Martin Luther King Jr. said he dreamed of the day when a man would be judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin. He fought racism with his moral vision.
As we look towards the new millennium and work to foster world peace, let Martin Luther King Jr.'s example inspire us to throw off the shackles of war and violence as outmoded relics of a primitive and brutal past, just as outmoded as slavery. Let Martin Luther King Jr. inspire us to believe that a moral vision can change the course of history. Let the brave struggle of African Americans to forge a new destiny inspire all oppressed people to believe that a moral vision can liberate them.
So what "moral vision" can turn humankind towards a peaceful and harmonious future? I believe several principles are key to establishing peace.
1) Martin Luther King Jr.'s moral vision of a day when a man is judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin, liberates people from categorizing other people by "color". On a person-to-person level, his vision is the vital ingredient towards ennobling each and every individual human being. Each human being you meet may have a diamond of inner beauty and character glistening inside no matter what the person looks like on the outside. This principle is essential in the U.S. Constitution. No law shall be enacted with regard to race, color, creed, gender, ethnic or national background. This principle means that Serbs and Albanians can live together in peace just as Christians and Muslims live together in peace in the U.S. Admittedly the cycles of grief and retribution can be extremely difficult to break as is tragically the case in Kosovo. But if the cycles are ever to be broken, Martin Luther King Jr.'s moral vision is the ultimate source of that liberation. The principle of equal citizenship under the law honors the dignity of each person. Realizing that the time is now to break the cycles of grief and retribution, those who oppress can choose to establish the new principle and stop the oppression. Those who are oppressed can struggle to establish the new principle rather than fight to become the new oppressors.
2) The U.S. Constitution requires that the U.S. Congress declare war. Admittedly few countries in the world are democracies, yet this principle is still a vital concept towards establishing peace. The principle is that a governing body of elected representatives must decide whether a nation declares war; this all-important decision is not the prerogative of the executive branch of government. The Founding Fathers of the U.S. wisely included this provision in the Constitution as a check on the power of the executive branch. A key part of the struggle to set the U.S. on a peaceful path for the future is to restore this constitutional principle in our foreign policy. Unless we have a declared war, no military forces should be engaged. Period. Since we do not have a declared war, this means we bring all of our troops back home where they belong. This means no U.S. President could ever command U.S. forces to bomb or fire cruise missiles or engage in any other military action without a declaration of war from Congress. This principle frees the U.S. from "entangling alliances" which keep the U.S. in a state of almost perpetual war. (Of course in this day of high technology in which life-and-death decisions must sometimes be made in minutes, the U.S. Congress should pre-authorize emergency defensive actions by the President.)
3) It is wrong to attack civilians as a method to oppose the regime in power. The tactics of terrorism which attack innocent civilians as a method to pursue an objective are illegal and immoral. The Geneva Conventions outlaw attacking civilians not involved in the armed conflict and include provisions concerning the treatment of the wounded and prisoners of war. NATO violated the Geneva Conventions in attacking civilians and the civilian infrastructure of Yugoslavia. The international community must strive to hold accountable those people responsible for dropping the cluster bombs on the marketplace in Nis in Yugoslavia, for example. Adhering to the Geneva Conventions means the U.S. and other countries would renounce forever any "first use" of nuclear weapons on cities. It also means the U.S. and other countries would stop using sanctions which essentially target the civilian population as in Iraq.
In conclusion, force and violence are outmoded relics of a primitive and brutal past and humankind can throw off those shackles by honoring a true moral vision. Martin Luther King Jr. is an example. He threw off the shackles of racism with his true moral vision that shines the light on the glistening diamond of inner beauty that can be within each and every human being. Let us work towards a peaceful and noble future. Let us honor the inner dignity and beauty of each person.