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Jason Miller: A Kansan's Contemplations

A Kansan's Contemplations


(my essay from an upcoming book in which Michael Caddell compiles progressive writings by Kansans)
By Jason Miller

Catalyst for my Contemplation

Life in Kansas can be as surreal as the landscape of a Salvador Dali painting. Critical thinking is often a scarce commodity. “Scopes II” provided me with ample evidence that many Kansans are proudly waving the banner of anti-intellectualism. In May of 2005, the 6-4 Religious Right majority on the Kansas State School Board contrived a 21st Century reenactment of the Monkey Trial of 1925 to “prove” that Evolution is a flawed theory. As I contemplated this obscenely vacuous spectacle, I struggled to grasp how the Age of Reason could have by-passed my state.

The word farcical would bestow a generous description on “Scopes II”. Three moderate school board members and the entire mainstream scientific community boycotted the charade. John Calvert, a conservative Christian attorney who leads the Intelligent Design Network of Kansas, was the William Jennings Bryan of this circus. Calvert questioned “expert witnesses” in a quest to disprove Evolution. Most of the witnesses, who served the purpose of “validating” the board's desire to introduce the concept of Intelligent Design into the public school curriculum for the state of Kansas, were from a think tank. Founded and funded by Christian fundamentalists, this entity called The Discovery Institute was created to advance the so-called "theory" of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design essentially purports that in merely observing the complexity of the world, one cannot help but conclude that there was an intelligent designer (in other words, God). Evidence, research, and peer review are irrelevant (and non-existent) to the purveyors of the ID “theory”, a thinly veiled form of Creationism. The Discovery Institute clearly stated their ultimate intentions in using ID in a leaked internal memo known as

The Wedge Document:

The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the "thin edge of the wedge," was Phillip ]ohnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

It would seem the "good people" at Discovery Institute have their own "intelligent designs" on ways to subvert the secular public education system.

Jack Krebs, the vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, ferreted out the true intentions of the six board members who pledge their allegiance to the Religious Right, the Intelligent Design Network of Kansas, and the Discovery Institute. He boycotted the hearings and said:

"It's clear from the beginning that this is not a real science discussion. This is a showcase for intelligent design. They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism so they can fight atheism."

Pedro Irigonegaray, Clarence Darrow's counterpart in “Scopes II”, is a Topeka defense attorney who generously donated his time to the support of the Theory of Evolution. He questioned the “experts” with a tenacity that revealed their true agenda. He also exposed the fact that most of them had not even read the science standards proposed to the board. He so effectively embarrassed the opposition that his antagonist, John Calvert, refused to shake hands at the end of the proceedings.

On August 9, the Kansas State School Board voted 6-4 to adopt new science standards, which take a critical view of the Theory of Evolution, a scientific theory which is supported by volumes of evidence and has survived intense scrutiny and peer review since Darwin introduced it in 1859. After spending approximately $17,000.00 on their spurious hearings, the board will now send their newly approved standards out for external review by a Denver-based think tank. This will cost taxpayers an additional $20,000.00 so that the legalistic Christian majority on the board can point to another step in their "due diligence" before they strike a blow for "true believers" and open the door to bring faith back into the public schools (in science class of all places)! In October, the final vote which will "officially" implement the new standards is a virtual certainty. As a parent with a child in a Kansas public school, I simultaneously experienced perplexity, bewilderment, and frustration as this insane scenario transpired.

Only a Symptom

As I pondered, it dawned on me that "Scopes II" is merely a symptom of a much deeper disease gripping our nation. As Thomas Frank concluded in What’s the Matter with Kansas, American voters have been brain-washed into voting against their own economic interests in an obsessive drive to legislate “Christian values” into our nation. “Scopes II” validates his point. Integrating the observations of others and infusing my own analysis, I surmised that the root of America's decay is the insatiable lust for power and money by the ruling class. Our republic is crumbling while our standing in the world community has disintegrated to the point that America is feared and hated. During the Gilded Age, America experienced a similar period of laissez-faire capitalism, inequitable distribution of wealth, and imperialistic endeavors. While the ruling class of the late 1800’s lacked the propagandistic power to sustain its psychological stranglehold on the “commoner”, today's government media empire has the capacity to lull our citizenry into surrendering their individual freedoms in exchange for the comfort of the protective bosom of Big Brother.

Man of the People? I Think Not

Who is George Bush? Does the “aw shucks”, folksy persona he projects square with the real man? Is our beloved “W” truly a man of the people, as he would like Americans to believe? Old Hickory, who was truly “of the people”, would turn in his grave at that notion. Strolling through life with at least $9 million in inherited wealth, our current president could not begin to fathom the plight of the middle class, let alone the poor. He has failed or underperformed at virtually every endeavor of his life, but that has not been a problem for him. Wealthy friends and family have been there to bail him out nearly every step of the way. His alleged empathy for the plight of the common man is a fraud. With his MBA from Harvard, I strongly suspect that “W” is not nearly as ignorant as he portrays himself to be. He may be strong and resolute in his beliefs, but given his power, money, and support network, how difficult is it to be “strong and resolute”? While it was his perceived strength and resolution that captured the hearts, minds, and votes of many Americans after 9/11 rattled their psyches, what those same Americans failed to realize was that Bush would use those very qualities to advance a cause that under-mined many aspects of their well-being. Middle and working class Americans who support George Bush need to awaken from their intellectual slumber. Jozef Hand-Boniakowski has much more to say about this in his essay entitled The Fascist Ego and the Future.

George Bush exists to advance the interests of the rich and the elite. Early in his reign, the events of 9/11 shattered the feelings of security of many Americans. Seizing upon this opportunity created by the collapse of the Twin Towers {which some, like David Ray Griffin in 9/11 and the American Empire (readily found by Googling), assert that Bush and his henchmen actually master-minded}, they have employed this powerful tool to manipulate many Americans. Preying upon America's deep sense of fear, Karl Rove, the Minister of Truth and a man from whom Joseph Goebbels could have learned a great deal, forged the image of George Bush as God's chosen savior to America and to the “free world.” He nurtured the notion that America was under constant threat of attack by a nebulous enemy called Terrorism. Such an abstract enemy enabled Bush and Rove to keep the American people in a perpetual state of war and insecurity. The new paradigm of the “good” Americans against the “evil” Terrorists, laid the foundation for Bush's long coveted invasion of Iraq, and enabled his regime to advance the Bush Doctrine , a remarkably bellicose, hubristic, and imperialistic foreign policy. As the administration rushed the Patriot Act through Congress, few Congressmen had time to even read the legislation before rubber-stamping it for fear of being branded “unpatriotic” by John Ashcroft, America's newly anointed Minister of Love. The Patriot Act ensured a domestic policy which would work harmoniously with the Bush Doctrine by restricting civil liberties in the interests of “national security”.

Reign of Bush II

Over three years have passed since 9/11, yet many Americans still dangle from the marionette strings of The Ministry of Truth. Rove's propagandists and the mainstream media have enabled "W" to propel the United States into an illegal, imperialistic invasion of Iraq to perpetuate the interests of the military industrial complex, including companies like Halliburton and Bechtel. Tax cuts for the wealthy have shifted the tax burden to the middle and working class. Under a crushing national debt of $7.5 trillion, America is now the reigning king of Debtor Nations, a title once arrogantly bestowed upon developing nations. How can we saddle our children and grandchildren with that burden? At the rate America is going, future generations will become the indentured servants of China and Japan.

Social welfare benefits for the poor are substantially diminishing. Government-endorsed discrimination against gays is increasing. The line between church and state delineated by our Constitution is disappearing. Chasm is the new word to describe the gap between the rich and the poor. Inconceivably, despite his declining popularity, a substantial number of Americans still adore "W", somehow managing to disregard a mountain of evidence of his incompetence, disregard for the working class, and deceit. If one whispers a sweet little lie to oneself long enough, one starts to believe it.

Repeat after me: George Bush is a good president and represents my best interest....George Bush is a good president and represents my best interest....

Is it working? Have you slapped a “W” sticker on the back of your forty-foot SUV yet? If you have, you are in Bush country now, partner. Tell the terrorists to “ bring it on”….

Social welfare programs, the Judicial Branch of the government, and Iran are now targets of the Bush machine. Despite rapidly declining support for the war in Iraq, and the pending investigation concerning possible treason committed by Karl Rove, America is on the precipice of unbridled tyranny. As many Americans passively watch, what is left of our republic is completing its ugly metamorphosis into oligarchy, blended with a strong tinge of theocracy which emanates from the Religious Right.

The “Golden” Rule

While many of the poor, middle and working class continue swallowing the fiction of the “American Dream”, the rich and elite, whom I will call the Oligarchs, own and manipulate the media machine which continues to propagate the Horatio Alger myth. What the Ministry of Truth does not tell us is that for every Bill Gates “rags to riches” story, there are millions of Americans who put their hearts and souls into success and stay mired in the quicksand of perpetual poverty. True social mobility is rare in America, and the Oligarchs under Bush aim to make it rarer still. They comprehend the truth of the maxim that “he who has the gold makes the rules.” Oligarchs have most of the gold, and they are strengthening their capacities to make the rules. Media perpetuation of hubris, xenophobia, and homophobia enable the Oligarchs to convince Americans that despite genocidal acts against Native Americans, the enslavement of the black race, the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II, imperialistic policies in the Middle East since the end of World War II, support of numerous ruthless tyrants around the globe throughout the history of the US government, and ongoing discrimination against women and minorities, that America is morally superior to the rest of the world. Despite creating 25% of the carbon dioxide responsible for the Greenhouse Effect, denying its existence, and withdrawing from the Kyoto Treaty; defying the UN by invading Iraq and sending an antagonistic “serial abuser” as our new UN ambassador (without Senate approval); and hoarding 35% of the world's wealth while only representing 5% of the world's population (shockingly, of that 5%, 1% controls one third of the wealth), the Oligarchs somehow convince Americans that our nation was an innocent victims in 9/11. America has engaged in various forms of state terrorism for years, and the victims are finally retaliating. Rather than taking the rational steps of changing their narcissistic and imperialistic behavior, taking reasonable steps to defend the American people, and implementing justice against the true perpetrators of crimes against humanity (including both individual terrorists like bin Laden and the state terrorists who are at the helm of America’s government like Bush), the Oligarchs continue with imperialistic actions that fan the flames of hostility. Perpetuating this cycle of violence feeds America's dependence on the Oligarchs’ cash cows, including the military industrial complex and Big Oil.

They want the whole world in their hands.....

Bush and the Oligarchs will not be satisfied with absolute power in America. Their ambitions extend far beyond our borders. One need look no further the Project for the New American Century and its Statement of Principles (both readily found on the Internet by Googling) to see that world domination by the American military industrial complex is their ultimate goal. Several of the signers of the statement of principles are now serving in high level positions in the Bush administration, including Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Americans who support Bush have passively handed the keys of the kingdom to a pack of ravenous megalomaniacs bent on world domination. Much to the delight of Bush and company, fear and the media/propaganda machine are not the only factors keeping the working classes from breaking free of their economic and psychological shackles. Ongoing "cultural wars" over issues like abortion distract ordinary Americans from important economic and foreign policy issues, leaving our leaders to their own devices. Convinced that false dichotomies limit their choices, many in America expend their energy fighting one another rather than aspiring to individual freedom, working to develop their potential as human beings, and allowing others to do the same.

Beware the False Dichotomy

In Bush's America, if you are not for the “war on terrorism,” you are not a patriot, and thus you are "against America". In this 1984-like atmosphere, it is no coincidence that a law that gives the federal government virtually unchecked power to violate our civil liberties is called the Patriot Act. In Bush's vision of the “ New American Century,” whether you are American or not, you are either for us or against us. There is no room for constructive dissent against the almighty “W”. Bush’s loyal subjects see the world in black and white, and support the illegal war in Iraq because they are terrified of being labeled as unpatriotic. Unwittingly, Bush supporters pledge their allegiance to a paradigm that enables the rich to maintain dominion over the poor and middle classes. Perverse use of the concept of “patriotism” ensures a steady supply of tax dollars and warm bodies to feed the war machine.

With numerous states having passed constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and Bush pushing for an amendment to the US Constitution, gay rights in America are under siege. Under the Oligarchs, you are either “straight” or “gay”, and if you are "gay" you are not entitled to Constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties. Hitler used the Jewish people while Pol Pot preyed on intellectuals. In homosexuals, the Oligarchs have found the scapegoat on which a successful tyranny depends. Offering their minions a group to blame for the moral decay of society provides a powerful cause around which the Oligarchs can mobilize their faithful to rally.

For a serious laugh, consider the notion that Americans have a real choice when they go to the polls to elect a president. Dominated by two monolithic parties, both of which are beholden to corporations and wealthy campaign contributors, the political arena allows scant room for meaningful participation by the poor or working class. Despite the superficial differences between the Republican and Democratic parties on some issues, the two parties share the common goal of perpetuating the power of the wealthy elite. While the poor and working class have historically fared better under Democratic rule, there is little evidence that there is an appreciable difference between the two parties. In the end, the Oligarchy still rules, whether they don the guise of an elephant or of a jackass.

Are you a liberal or a conservative? Political pundits, pollsters, and their masters in Washington thrive on people defining themselves as one or the other. Their objective is to pigeonhole people into narrowly defined groups. Having accomplished this, the powerful media machine sows seeds of discord that draw people into a perpetual ideological battle between fictitious groups. The reality is that no human being fits neatly into either category. People fall on a spectrum somewhere between liberal and conservative. Their views on some issues may tend toward liberal, and move towards conservative on others. Yet the Oligarchs successfully manipulate many Americans to choose a side, and battle it out with the other side, regardless of what their individual views might be if they were to step out of their liberal or conservative “box”. Perpetual bickering amongst the working class gives the Oligarch plenty of cover for their malfeasance.

Secularism versus the Religious Right is King George's favorite aspect of the cultural war. Representing “W” as an Evangelical Christian, the administration mobilized a coalition of conservative Christians known as the Religious Right. The Religious Right’s leaders are as power hungry as the Oligarchs, while their followers, fueled by feelings of victimization for their beliefs, vindictively pursue the “Christian” agenda. Riding the Right to re-election, in spite of the obvious incompetent and criminal nature of his first term, Bush was rewarded with another four years to commit crimes against humanity. Employing a classic “divide and conquer” strategy, Bush and the moneyed class enthusiastically promote spectacles like “Scopes II”. In fact, Bush recently gave a public endorsement for teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. While their subjects squabble over the validity of Evolution and argue about the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Oligarchy counts the stacks of cash in its counting room.

Peace and Social Justice are NOT Mirages

I am not despairing. In fact, I am very hopeful for the future. History reveals that the working class is not helpless before the might of the elite. We are not destined to victimization at the hands of the Oligarchy. Mother Jones, Eugene Debs, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the millions who rallied behind them forced the Oligarchy of their time to give the people a degree of human rights, freedoms, and economic justice. Awareness is the first step in the journey toward reform. The human spirit is not easily crushed or caged for prolonged periods, and we have the means at our disposal to challenge those in power.

To begin this renaissance of humanity and reverse the ugly dehumanization instituted by the ruling elite, more Americans need to abandon the Oligarchy-controlled mainstream media and fortify their minds with information from Internet sources, many of which remain uncorrupted by the money of the elite. Activist writing, letters to the editor, and correspondence to elected officials are powerful means to inform and persuade others (and to hold public officials accountable).

To counter their “divide and conquer” strategy, we need to join groups and organizations like the ACLU, the People for the American Way, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign, and the NAACP. These groups champion human rights and challenge the tyranny perpetrated by the Oligarchy. The working class needs to wage a powerful campaign to re-unionize America, where union membership has dwindled to a pitiful 9% of the workforce. Impossible as it may sound, groups as deeply divided as secularists and members of the Religious Right need to find enough common ground to unite against the Oligarchs.

Protests, boycotts, marches, and civil disobedience have been effective means of diminishing the power of the Oligarchy in the past, and can be again. Corruption, greed, and malfeasance are rampant in the American government, and we need to use virtually all peaceable means at our disposal to curtail the power of the Oligarchy. On September 24, a group of protestors with an anticipated number in excess of 200,000 will descend upon the White House. My wife and I will be among them. We will present a list of demands to the Bush regime, which include ending the war in Iraq, ending colonial occupation in several sovereign nations, supporting the Palestine people's right of return, stopping the threats against nations like Venezuela and Iran, removing military recruiters from schools and communities, bringing the troops home, and defending civil rights. On October 15th, Bush will receive a visit from another large contingent of proponents of social justice via the Million More Movement. There is still hope for America.

(For more on challenging those in power visit: (http://www.worldwiderenaissance.com)

Richard Nixon, one of the most corrupt presidents in the history of the United States, lost his tenacious grip on power through impeachment proceedings which led to his resignation in 1974. It is now 2005, and once again American citizens deserve far better than they are getting. The members of Congress who have not sold out to the Oligarchy need to seriously consider impeachment proceedings against George Bush. How long do we abide an incompetent, avaricious war criminal? Under Bush, the money spigot for his military industrial complex is wide open while the flow of tax dollars to the poor is reduced to a trickle. It is unconscionable that a man with his arrogance, disregard for human rights, inability to tell the truth, and lack of capacity to tolerate dissent remains in office. Recent polls show that 60% of the nation opposes the war, yet Bush and Cheney continue vowing to "stay the course in Iraq". How long will it be before enough Americans wake up and we impeach George W. Bush?

My Objective

According to Finley Peter Dunne, the purpose of journalism is “to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” As usual, I hope I have fulfilled that purpose.

*************

Jason Miller is a 38 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He works in the transportation industry, and is a husband and a father to three boys. His affiliations include Amnesty International, the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He welcomes responses at willpowerful@hotmail.com or comments on his blog at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.

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