The way that the US/Iran conflict is being framed amongst diehard Trump supporters strange. The other day I shared opposition to the conflict and sympathy for the civilians of Iran. I was instantly met with hostility and told that I if I didn’t like how things are being handled maybe I should just move to Iran if I think they are so great.
In the early days of our country Alexander Hamilton argued against becoming entangled in the French Revolution and there attempts to go to war with Britain and much of Europe. He ultimately convinced George Washington to take a stance of neutrality. The wording was so strong in the neutrality decree that any US citizen found supporting the French or British would face legal measures.
Hamilton and Washington argued that American was not stable enough to engage in every conflict and needed to focus on the efforts at home.
In his declaration of neutrality Washington stated, “Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great Britain, and the United Netherlands of the one part and France on the other, and the duty and interest of the United States require that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers.
I have therefore thought fit by these presents to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid toward those powers respectively and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.”
How odd is it then that thinking we should avoid war is considered un-American! Why would it be bizarre that many of us would rather see our resources go to healthcare, education, ending homelessness, veterans affairs, and infrastructure?
That was certainly the argument that President Franklin D. Roosevelt used as he attempted to stay out of the conflict of WWII. Even though most Americans felt negatively about the Axis of Power, they are conflicted about how much US involvement should be given to our allies overseas. It’s hard to fathom now, but the United States originally took a stance of neutrality in WWII.
President Roosevelt argued that it is “impossible for any nation completely to isolate itself from economic and political upheavals in the rest of the world.” And by this declaration called on all nations to drown out Germany’s ability to do commerce and therefor prevent them from continuing to grow their conflict with the world.
The feeling was that we were in a period of reconstruction from the Great Depression and the process of the New Deal was just beginning to have positive effects on the economy. What good could come from engaging in another world war? Again, when we look at the actual moral ramifications of Hitler, it seems unimaginable not to engage against such evil! But the truth remains that America did not engage until after we sustained a direct attack on Pearl Harbor.
President Eisenhower gave a dire warning over fifty years ago stating the dangers of where we were heading. In his speech given January 17th, 1961, he told the American people to be wary, “the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." He went on to state, “we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."
I am not going to pretend I have all the answers. The conflicts we are facing are very complex. But I will also express my concerns, hope for peace, and beg mercy for the innocent people that will certainly become casualties. I will demand, along with countless others, that our government not erase Iranian cultural sites as a form of vengeance. None of this because I hate my county! That’s absurd. It’s specifically because I love my country and hope for it to be better, always, that voice my opinion.
And that is truly American.
Nathan Monk’s new book, Charity Means Love, addresses many of our cultural blind spots in how we give. Order your copy today!