Originally published in the Greenfield Recorder
by Patricia Hynes
Remember the mid-March snowball fight with some boys in our 8th grade class at St Helena’s School in Wilmington, Delaware? The wet snow made for hard, icy snowballs, so I hid my young sister Monica behind a parked car. You joined me against the other boys who had started pitching snowballs at me; but none of us, all classmates, really wanted lasting enmity. When over, no resentments, no grudges.
It’s the contrast of this youthful experience with your foreign policy today — specifically your dangerously hostile attitude toward China and Russia, both nuclear powers, and China, an economic giant in need of constraint as U.S. national security overlords warn, that I want to address.
You ran on “diplomacy first” (U.S. people having wearied of “forever wars”) and “no more support for the Yemen war.” Both worthy, needed pledges have been swept under the Oval Office rug, as was the recent letter of the Democrats’Progressive Caucus suggesting direct talks with Russia toward a negotiated settlement and ceasefire while continuing U.S. military support for Ukraine.
You have sustained the war in Ukraine since February 2022 by massively arming Ukraine with $54 billion in weapons and aid. Thus, the U.S. is a party to the war and, consequently, you are in a strong position to be proactive on a ceasefire and negotiations. In fact, our nation’s highest ranking military officer General Mark Milley “has publicly voiced support for diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia,” while your Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pushes for sustaining the war. Isn’t the State Department mission to lead in diplomacy not aggression?
This war has become your war, despite the majority of Americans wanting a quick diplomatic end to it. And you risk — in not pursuing negotiations — nuclear war, recession, inflation and food shortages for millions in Africa and Asia, while the country Ukraine is being wrecked by Russian bombing. All to bring down Putin, as you said in an unguarded moment. Isn’t regime change a haplessly failed habit of the U.S. government.
Please read and heed the words of someone you putatively admire. On Nov. 4, Pope Francis tweeted: “In the garden of humanity, we are playing with fire, missiles and bombs … I extend my heartfelt appeal to everyone that the war in Ukraine be ended and that serious peace negotiations begin.”
And why are you ramping up militaristic tensions with China at a time of impending climate breakdown when the two largest climate polluters need to collaborate on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, if humans and other life are to survive this century?
The world of nations is not the simplistic binary that you persist in describing: “rule of law” democracies, mainly the West (good) versus authoritarian regimes elsewhere (bad). There are many fragile democracies, especially our own in which billionaires determine elections about 90% of the time and wealth determines the votes of Congress for legislation, making the U.S. a plutocracy. Some consider it a political and economic oligarchy essentially at the bid of giant corporations, freed by Citizens United decision to buy the political process. The preamble to the Constitution might as well begin “We the Corporations” not “We the People,” notes Ralph Nader.
Reverend Liz Theoharis, co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, designates the U.S. ”an impoverished democracy.” She ponders why few candidates (Democrat and Republican in 2022) “bothered to talk about poverty, food insecurity, or low wages” or to run on platforms such as renewing the Child Tax Credit to lift families out of poverty. Forty million people live in poverty, but an additional 95-100 million live one paycheck from health crisis and eviction and poverty. “Bobby Kennedy, even Lyndon Johnson, spoke about the poor. Now you can’t say the word poor and get elected,” observed Father Michael Doyle pastor in Camden, New Jersey, one of the poorest cities in the United States.
To your credit, Joe, you have tried on the domestic front with your ambitious Build Back Better bill. But in this plutocratic democracy of ours we cannot even achieve what “autocratic regimes” have. How is it that China and Cuba, for example, have attained a higher life expectancy than ours; have given COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries when ours has not; provide free education and health care, including abortion, to their citizens; and do not have the extremes of wealth and inequality that our country does?
Which legacy do you want — plutocracy, impoverished democracy, ever-expanding militarism, and climate breakdown or a just economic recovery, a livable world, diplomacy and peace in Ukraine before a brutal winter sets in, and the U.S. a member of the family of nations, not its self-deemed patriarch? The boy I remember would choose the latter. He would act to achieve peace and equity for us all.
— Pat Hynes, a retired Professor of Environmental Health, is on the board of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Her recently published book “Hope, But Demand Justice” is available at World Eye bookstore and Haley’s Publishing.