The Shame of Contra AidBy W.W. Finlator
Vol. 8, No. 3, 1986, pp. 18-19
The Old Testament prophet called down woe upon those who said that darkness was light and light was darkness. We today fall within the shadow of that prophetic judgment since, led by our super-patriotic President, we have come to call what is truly American, un-American, and what is truly un-American, American. Consider the contras and Nicaragua, for there, our President would have us believe, the former Somoza death squads can be likened to George Washington's freedom fighters at Valley Forge.
To achieve such self-deception requires a leadership skilled in the art of misconstruing the American dream. From the Monroe Doctrine, to the Good Neighbor policy of Franklin Roosevelt, to the present crisis, we have been assured that our relationship with Central and South American nations has been one of justice, freedom, and democracy. Actually, we have treated these countries as US colonies. We have set up and maintained repressive, despotic, governments. We have frustrated and defeated movements by the people of these countries to achieve justice and freedom for themselves. Nowhere has America, while believing its motives pure and unmixed, been so cynically and systematically un-American than in its dealings with these nations. Nicaragua is now exposing the sham and shame to the world.
Millions of Americans are waking up to these dark chapters to our history and we are angry at what our militaristic President is doing to the people of Nicaragua, angry that a spineless Congress supports him and, in the South, particularly angry that our timid representatives fall such easy prey to his jingoistic rhetoric. It is for us to hold these Southern politicians to strictest account, as one day all of us surely will be held in account for what we are doing to that suffering nation.
But, it is what we are doing to ourselves in the name of Americanism that concerns me for the moment. In supporting the contras and keeping alive the war and destruction in Nicaragua we are violating the heart and soul of our nation, in several ways.
First, we are in violation of the spirit and letter of our Declaration of Independence when we try to crush the yearning and striving of Nicaraguans for justice and
Page 19freedom. It is as though the loyalists, following the American Revolution, and after leaving or being driven out of colonies, had regrouped on the Canadian border and with reenforcements from a hostile European nation, resumed the conflict as "freedom fighters."
Secondly, we are in violation of the spirit and letter of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Rather than attempt to understand and support the strivings of Nicaraguans who wish to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty" to themselves and their families," we support a war of terrorism while hypocritically decrying a communist take-over and international terrorism. When you think of the kidnappings, tortures, burnings, maimings, pillage and murder, you have to spell it terrorism, pure and simple, underwritten by the US Government. This is not only deceitful and hypocritical, it is also plain un-American.
Thirdly, we are in violation of the spirit and letter of the Charter of the United Nations. The World Court, which we helped to set up and have appealed to in the past, has found our involvement in Nicaragua in violation to the UN Charter. We have become, as it were, an international outlaw to our own structure for justice and peace. The Oval Office seems to exult in this outlaw posture.
The final violation is theological. Millions of our citizens insist that America is a "Christian" nation. That such a designation contravenes the state-church separation principle is an argument I should like to push on another occasion. But, assuming, for the moment, that we are a "Christian nation" we have to define what is "Christian" and then we must decide who does the defining. This could lead to endless mischief and controversy. Perhaps most Christians would agree on the centrality of John 3:16 where we are told that God so loved the world that he sent his Son into the world to save it. From this we deduce that Jesus in His incarnation identified himself with all people, and apparently with a special option for the poor and lowly. The classic passage for this is the one in which Jesus tells us that he was hungry and we fed him, he was thirsty and we gave him drink, naked and we clothed him, sick and we visited him, imprisoned and we came to him, and then he added that inasmuch as we did these things for others, even the least, we did them also to him.
It takes no effort of imagination to see that these are literally the same basic needs of the vast majority of the people of Nicaragua, and indeed of all nations south of our border and the third world. But they are needs that neither their government, nor their church has met. When at long last the people have undertaken for themselves to achieve a just and peaeful and compassionate society, "Christian" America is prepared to use every means to prevent them. We are, I say, in violation of our religious faith!
For these reasons a moral outrage in America is in order. And this is why we cry shame, shame upon so many of our Southern members of Congress and why we must hold them to strict account.
Rev. W. W. Finlator is the retired pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, N. C.