CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While people have been focusing on whether our nation will, like a runaway train, go over a "fiscal cliff," major media and public attention suddenly shifted to the slaughter of children in Newtown, Conn., and the subject of guns.
The reported discovery that the weaponry used in the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School was "similar to weapons used by troops in Afghanistan" was disturbing to say the least.
Sad but true, too often it is a tragic event, one involving bloodshed, that surfaces important questions about subjects that need attention but are avoided. Newtown prompts a national discussion in search of answers about violence.
A lively discussion is already in progress. Do we need stricter gun laws, a ban on certain weapons? Should we be addressing mental health issues to thwart future violent episodes? Is excessive media coverage of violence contributing to the problem? Are violent movies and video games to blame? Is God punishing us, through the barrel of a gun, because we are a sinful nation?
There is one question, however, that has not surfaced. Is there an underlying connection between the violence in Afghanistan and the violence that erupted in Newtown? My answer is yes.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw the connection between homegrown violence and war. Speaking at Riverside Church in New York City just one year before he fell victim to a bullet in Memphis, teaching young people about the power of practicing nonviolence in their communities, he said they confronted him with the observation that their own nation was using massive doses of violence in Vietnam. Dr. King then came to the awareness that he could not address violence at home "without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government."
Washington, once past the fiscal cliff debacle, will face a budget loaded with huge military expenditures. The $100 billion proposed cut may sound like a lot of money, but it is minimal when the full extent of military support is considered.
Consider the outdated Pentagon approach to military deployment. Our nation has more than 1,000 military bases scattered across the world, many of them in place since World War II and the Cold War. The Pentagon says we spend $22.1 billion a year in support of those bases. In fact, when the hidden costs surface, the annual total is about $170 billion. That on top of the $1.38 trillion wasted on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.