This year as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s 83rd birthday, I’m struck by the vast difference between his beliefs and today’s “peace candidate”, Representative Ron Paul. In New Hampshire, Paul received 47 percent of the under 30 vote compared to 25 percent for Mitt Romney. It’s easy to understand Paul’s youth appeal. He would avoid “long and expensive land wars,” would immediately withdraw from Afghanistan, has railed against the draft and supports legalizing marijuana.
But let’s be clear: Ron Paul is no Martin Luther King. While Dr. King most likely would have supported Paul’s call for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, King’s understanding of what peace means is almost the opposite of Paul’s.
Paul’s vision of peace is based on individualism and isolationism. He believes that “the greatest chance for peace comes from a society respectful of individual liberty.” But there is a world of difference between being anti-war and pro-peace.
King believed that,
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties … must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
Representative Paul, year after year, has offered legislation to pull the U.S. out of the United Nations and other international organizations.
Dr. King believed that, “It is not enough to say, ‘We must not wage war.’ It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.”
Paul consistently votes against funding to offer help to the world’s needy and poor, and if elected, would do away with all foreign aid. He voted against funding peacekeeping to help end the genocide in Darfur. Paul’s philosophy is based on turning our back on the world and just taking care of our own.
Dr. King understood, even back in 1964 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize, how irrevocably interconnect our world is. In his acceptance speech he said,
“We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.”
Despite the T-shirts, bumper stickers, psychedelic peace-signs, videos and other campaign swag that Paul’s supporters are distributing, he is not a peace candidate. His vision of peace is as clear as an ostrich with it head stuck in the sand. Paul would have us turn our back on violence, conflict and suffering. Doing so might cost us less in the short term, but like that ostrich with its head in the sand, it leaves us very vulnerable. Working for peace cooperatively with other nations is the only way to create a just, safe and sustainable world.
Written on the walls of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial are these words: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” Justice takes hard work, common laws, and engagement.
For me, I’ll take the vision of peace offered by the only person to be honored with a memorial on the National Mall who was not a president. Happy Birthday Dr. King.