Saturday, February 19, 2011

Save Money. Work For Peace

If you haven't noticed, the U.S. government is gearing up for a "battle" over the federal budget. The President has proposed his version of a budget that will address concerns about the federal deficit which include a variety of controversial spending cuts. Meanwhile, Republicans are making their own efforts at cutting spending.

Any serious discussion about government spending has to include a discussion about defense spending. Did you know, for example that the 2011 budget for the Department of Defense is 548.9 billion dollars, an increase of 3.4% from 2010?

Let me see if I understand this. We have money to blow up insurgents in Afghanistan but we don't have money to warm up the homes of low-income Americans? There is something wrong with this picture. Baha'u'llah put it this way:

"O ye rulers of the earth! Wherefore have ye clouded the radiance of the Sun, and caused it to cease from shining? Hearken unto the counsel given you by the Pen of the Most High, that haply both ye and the poor may attain unto tranquillity and peace...Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions." (Baha'u'llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 92)

While some have called for cuts in military spending and some cuts have already been made, what Baha'u'llah is saying goes beyond spending cuts. Those who claim to care about government spending need to show it by investing in creating the conditions that make meaningful cuts in military spending possible. They need to invest in peace. In the language of the bumper-sticker: Save Money. Work for Peace.

As a nation that currently leads the way in world military spending, we can and should lead the way in peacemaking and demilitarization. This was the hope voiced by 'Abdu'l-Baha during his journey to this country in 1912:

" wish and hope is that the banner of international reconciliation may first be raised on this continent and the standard of the Most Great Peace be unfurled here. May the American people and their government unite in their efforts in order that this light may dawn from this point and spread to all regions, for this is one of the greatest bestowals of God. In order that America may avail herself of this opportunity, I beg that you strive and pray with heart and soul, devoting all your energies to this end: that the banner of international peace may be upraised here and that this democracy may be the cause of the cessation of warfare in all other countries." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 83)

As Shoghi Effendi has told us, the things we could do through redirecting the time, energy, and resources on excessive militarism are extraordinary:

"The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race." (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 204)