Jason Miller: Surrender Is Not An Option
Surrender Is Not An Option
By Jason Miller
Desperate People are Dangerous People
The Bush regime knows that America’s days as the world's superpower are numbered. The eclectic conglomeration (i.e. the obscenely rich, mammoth corporations, lobbyist groups, Israeli interests, the Religious Right), which holds the true power in our nation behind the facade of a federal republic, is painfully aware of its impending demise under the existing paradigm. Desperation has led them to commit criminal acts of the most heinous variety. Defying international law and shredding the US Constitution, our rogue government has made the Patriot Act domestic law, has instituted torture as a policy of the US military, has launched an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation based on lies, has increased the magnitude of our nation's egregious acts of state terrorism, is sweeping away what is left of Posse comitatus, is utilizing Jose Padilla to eliminate the right to due process and habeas corpus, has raised the nation's debt to incomprehensible levels, has increased military spending to the point of insanity, and has begun the starvation of the dreaded “welfare state”. Good-bye American Dream. Hello to the American Nightmares of Social Darwinism, overt imperialism, unconcealed tyranny, and relentless state terrorism.
They Have Done It Before, and They Can Do It Again
In the past, I have written that the US government is maneuvering itself into position to strip its citizens of the Constitutional rights we cherish so deeply. The mechanisms are in place, and its will to do so is strengthening as its power wanes. It is not as if tyranny, enslavement or genocide would be a new phenomenon in America. Just ask Japanese citizens interned during World War II, Black Americans, the victims of McCarthyism, those imprisoned for their opposition to World War I, or Native Americans.
Consider the fact that the federal government and their corporate, moneyed allies have historically maintained control of the American public through psychological manipulation and economic domination. Until recently, their scheme has worked to near perfection. Interestingly, the power brokers in America have indeed allowed their "underlings" a wealth of perceived freedoms, yet as in the examples I cited above, did not hesitate to deny those freedoms to those they viewed as a threat to the sacred cash cow of unbridled capitalism and the hallowed "free market".
Days of the “Soft Tyranny” Are Numbered
Even the freedoms we seem to enjoy have been carefully regulated from “on high”. Propaganda disguised as news in the mainstream media has manipulated the thoughts and opinions of many Americans for years. Corporations spend billions each year on advertising to ensure the perpetuation of Americans' obsession with gluttonous over-consumption, narcissistic worship of wealth and external beauty, and belief that amoral behemoths like Wal-Mart are benevolent pillars of "America's values". The current regime keeps men like Scott McClellan on its payroll to lie with virtually each breath he draws. Through an ongoing propaganda blitzkrieg preying upon Americans’ ill-founded fears, they have successfully leveraged 9/11 to gain the American public's consent to illegally invade Iraq and to shred the Constitution. What chance does the average American have to recognize the truth when they are bombarded with lies and propaganda from cradle to grave?
Weigh the fact that the public education system provides a white-washed version of history, leaving many Americans with limited awareness of the imperialism, cruelty, genocide, and state terrorism perpetrated by our government for many years. This same educational system emphasizes rote learning over the development of critical thought. The abhorrent No Child Left Behind Act virtually forces teachers to abandon nurturing their students' analytical capacities as they drill them in preparation to do well on tests (for fear of the punitive measures imposed on schools whose students do not perform well). Automaton thinkers serve the American Empire quite well, and those skeptics who occasionally slip through are quickly discredited as "anti-American liberals", "Communists", or more recently, as "supporters of terrorists".
With the advent of the Internet, Americans have unprecedented access to information and a powerful means to network and communicate quickly. This has severely under-mined the "soft tyranny" the US government has historically employed to manipulate its citizenry. Witness the plummeting approval ratings of Bush II and the regime's pathetic attempt to bolster support for the illegal occupation via the recent staged satellite teleconference between Bush and the service people in Iraq. Given the fact that a substantial number of Americans are awakening from their slumber and seeing the sobering truth, the abstract attack on our fundamental Constitutional rights is poised to become quite concrete. Once their "soft" mechanisms of control cease to function, those in power will employ cruelty, tyranny, and brutality (which have been staples of US foreign policy for years) on their own people. Martial law, torture, an end to legal privacy, and imprisonment of "dissidents" without due process are quite likely to become stark realities for US citizens. Orwell may have been off by several years, but Big Brother is gathering momentum for his ascension to power.
We Know there is a Problem…..So Now What?
Having made the assertion that the United States is evolving into an overt tyranny, I will turn to a question many readers have asked me by email. What do we do about it?
I want to start by quoting Noam Chomsky from his latest book, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post 9/11 World:
“We have every option open to us, and have none of the problems that are faced by intellectuals in Turkey or campesinos in Brazil. We can do anything. But people here are trained to believe that there are easy answers, and it doesn't work that way. If you want to do something, you have to be dedicated and committed to it day after day. Educational programs, organizing, activism. That's the way things change. You want a magic key so you can go back to watching television tomorrow? It doesn't exist.”
Well-Armed but not Invulnerable….
Yes, we do have options, and it is time to exercise those options before the ruling elite severely limits them. As Chomsky indicated, there is no "magic key". Those of us who passionately desire social justice and peace need to commit to a prolonged effort, and prepare ourselves to endure strong resistance, threats, intimidation, ridicule, persecution and even punitive measures from the government once their "soft tyranny" mechanisms finish imploding.
Some readers have written to me that they are ready to engage in a violent revolution, and that this is the "only way" to supplant the avaricious, malevolent force we call a government. I would remind those individuals that they are suggesting that the American citizenry take up arms against the most powerful military machine in the history of man-kind. Besides the astronomical odds against victory, the notion of a violent revolution also begs the question: who or what would fill the political vacuum left if such a revolution was successful? The odds are that a tyranny imposed by the most powerful amongst the victors would arise. If a violent revolution did emerge, I would not stand in their way to help defend the abomination in DC, but I would not join them either.
I believe that we are running a marathon, not a sprint. Remember, the corrupt entity in Washington did not emerge overnight. It has been evolving for years. Those of us who recognize its villainy, and desire to end its reign, need to attack this colossus through a variety of non-violent means. I envision this hideous, puissant incarnation of tyranny suffering death by a thousand cuts. Progress toward justice will occur in small increments. We may not see the fruits of our labors in our lifetimes, but we can revel in the spiritual fulfillment that we are working to make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.
Fuel for my Passion
Fifteen years ago, I underwent a spiritual crisis. Along the path to rock bottom, I experienced homelessness, joblessness, severe emotional pain, and isolation. From the heights of being Valedictorian of my high school class (with a fully paid university scholarship), I plummeted to seven years of self-destruction and mostly self-inflicted pain. Drifting from menial job to menial job, abandoning my young twin boys to the care of their mother for a short time, suffering a severe industrial accident, and abandoning the use of my Higher Power-endowed gifts of tenacity, intellectual dissection and analysis, and capacity to articulate, I slipped into the abyss of my own private nightmare.
Realizing I was addicted to alcohol, I quit drinking and began a profound evolution. As I climbed the path back to spiritual health, my soul searching led me to deep existential wanderings. I read, studied, pondered, kept journals, and conversed with a wide array of people. My thirst for philosophical and spiritual knowledge grew logarithmically. I healed and I reclaimed my spiritual well-being. I became very active in my twins' lives again. I found employment which suited my strengths and paid me a decent wage. I returned to school and completed my degree by chipping away one course per semester (while I worked and parented my children). I met my current wife, who had a two year old boy. I have since adopted him. In 1997 I quit smoking and freed myself from the psychological chains of yet another product of avaricious corporations. In 2002 I began teaching myself Spanish, and am now proficient enough that I can converse with my numerous Hispanic immigrant customers in their first language. My wife and I both work to maintain a lower middle class income (no easy task under the Bush regime).
Having reclaimed my soul and embraced truly fulfilling spiritual values, it was only a matter of time before I awakened from my slumber and discovered the fetid odor of decay and corruption emanating from Washington DC. Having hit spiritual rock bottom, I forged a powerful set of core values which include honesty, sobriety, self awareness, taking responsibility for my actions, practicing the Golden Rule, acting assertively rather than aggressively, loving as an act of will, living within my financial means, engaging in acts of moral courage, respecting self and others, reclaiming my strong work ethic, embracing diversity in people, empathizing, feeling compassion, working at relationships and communication, and helping those in need (as I am able). About a year ago, I finally turned my focus to political and social matters. At that point I realized that many of the actions and policies of my government represented the virtual antithesis of my core values. Given this revelation, I decided to focus my energy, effort and attention (outside of work and family) on pursuing social justice, human rights, civil liberties, peace, and intellectual freedom in a nation governed by extremely depraved and sick people, who value property over people, worship money and "success", and thrive on deceit, betrayal and abuse of power.
Exposing the Lies and Turning the Tables on Them
One of the first things that those of us vigorously pursuing social justice need to do is to reframe the debate. Those in power have worked tenaciously to portray themselves as shining liberators in Iraq and practitioners of a benevolent "compassionate conservatism" on the domestic front. They wrap themselves in the American flag and speak of patriotism and "spreading freedom and liberty". They claim to represent a "culture of life" because they oppose abortion and the use of frozen embryos to advance stem cell research. Bush II claims to embody the compassionate teachings of Christ, when in reality his pathological devotion to the illegal war in Iraq belies the truly perverse nature of his administration.
Their prevarications are indeed both flagrant and obvious. In 2003, the United States invaded a sovereign nation based on lies disseminated by its government. Much of the world views our presence in Iraq as an illegal military occupation perpetrated to advance American imperial interests in the Middle East. Many Iraqis want the US military out of their nation. Forcing a nation to adopt democracy at gunpoint is utterly absurd. Compassionate conservatism is Orwellian in that it means the US government is shutting off the spigots of money flowing to the poor and working class, as evidenced by the manner in which they are handling the New Orleans disaster, the continued flow of tax dollars to the military industrial complex, tax cuts for the wealthy (which shift the tax burden to the "lower classes"), and budget cuts to socially beneficial programs. Bush and his loyal followers spew rhetoric about a patriotism which is simply a repulsive form of nationalism they use to maintain an "us" versus "them" mentality to justify their perpetual war against "terrorism". Our government represents a "culture of life?" For years, many of our leaders have wrung their hands over the plight of the unborn (to garner the support of the Religious Right). At the same time, our government has been directly or indirectly responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians (including women and children) in the Middle East, Vietnam, Africa, and Latin America. For more on this, visit:
We who are struggling for social justice need to pierce the false image of benevolence projected by our government through the education system and corporate-controlled media. More Americans need to see our deviant and twisted leaders as they truly are. We need to deliver the message that what we are seeking is a society (and a government which reflects and represents that society) which treats all of its members with dignity, reveres human rights for all people, is militarily prepared to defend itself from a legitimate threat but not to engage in imperial expansion, limits the obscene power entrusted to corporations, is prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to protect our environment, seeks peaceful co-existence with the rest of the world, is prepared to abandon wanton over-consumption, respects international law and the treaties to which it is a part, promotes an education system which teaches a more honest view of history and critical thinking skills, and adheres to the US Constitution. We need to rally more people to our cause because it is just and humane, not because it is "left" or "right" or "Republican" or "Democrat". Partisanship is divisive and is another illusion created by the government to divide and conquer its "underlings". A moral and sane government is what we seek, and people need to understand our goal.
Purveyors of Porn are not the Only Beneficiaries….
As activists for social justice, the Internet is one of our most powerful tools. Thus far, the government and their corporate partners have not gained control of this invaluable means of communication. I know from my own experience that gathering news and information from the Internet (in a discerning manner so as to exclude the trash) is far more reliable than watching Fox or reading the New York Times. Besides the myriad of alternative media sites which are not compelled by corporate masters to maintain America’s facade of benevolence, one can find a plethora of refreshing opinions and analyses on blogs, and can exchange thoughts and ideas with a virtually unlimited number of people via email and other forms of Internet communication. Remember, the US government has imposed their "soft tyranny" through capturing the hearts, minds, and souls of many of its citizens, not by using force. Convincing those still faithful to the US government that they have sold their souls to the devil is crucial to the cause of social justice. I have spent countless hours without pay over the last year gathering information, "connecting the dots" with my essays which advocate social justice and expose many of the myriad malevolent aspects of our government, and working to get published on the Internet (over 100 Websites have carried my work). I have spent perhaps an equal amount of time communicating with readers and fellow activists via email and maintaining my blog at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/. We need to utilize the power of the Internet to gather information and to communicate. Working through the Internet, we can network with like-minded individuals and reach out to those somnambulists who still believe the “Red, White and Blue” stands for freedom and liberty.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Simple Acts….
Few if any acts are too small to be of value to the advancement of true freedom and justice in the United States. As I go through my everyday existence, I act on my spiritual values I described earlier. My goals are to be a part of the solution and to set an example for others. I realize I am only one person making a ripple in a vast ocean, but if many of us act in spiritually healthy ways together, the ripples will evolve into waves. Eventually those waves will form a tsunami which will wreak havoc upon the slime oozing about our nation's capitol. To contribute to that tsunami, I suggest that a person be as honest as they can in their endeavors. I advocate taking responsibility when one makes a mistake, learning from it, and making amends. Simple endeavors like recycling, keeping debt to a minimum, and refusing to become part of the culture of greed and over-consumption will help save the environment and make continued human existence on Earth feasible. Treating oneself and others with dignity and respect is a cornerstone of spiritual health. Embracing diversity in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical condition is crucial to the advancement of social justice. Each human being deserves their human rights and brings something positive to contribute to the world (if they choose to do so). I advocate working hard to attain one’s goals, but at the same time, realizing that each person deserves help along the way. Standing up for one’s beliefs in the face of adversity is essential to our cause. As I have stated in previous essays, I will continue to act for social justice and my spiritual beliefs, regardless of the consequences. There are risks to pursuing this cause, even in the United States. The people we are challenging stand to lose a great deal and have clearly demonstrated their ruthlessness and inhumanity. Despite the fierceness of the opposition, everyday acts by large numbers of everyday people can tip the balance back toward a humane, sane, and just society.
Strength in Numbers and Concerted Efforts
We need to join groups like the ACLU and Amnesty International (or one of hundreds of other NGOs) which struggle for human rights, freedom, peace or equality. I cited the ACLU and Amnesty because I am a member of both. I have done volunteer work for the ACLU and participated in some of their meetings and activities. I utilize both organizations' Websites to glean information about civil and human rights violations, and to send letters to various members of governments around the world on behalf of the oppressed. With what little discretionary money my wife and I have, we donate regularly to theoe two entities and sporadically to various charities. Groups and organizations bring large numbers of similar-minded people together and garner significant resources needed to mount legal challenges to the criminal acts of our government, and to expose those committing egregiously unlawful and immoral acts to the glaring spot-light of public awareness. Charities help to fill the gap left by the diversion of our tax dollars to military funding.
Teach Your Children (and Yourselves) Well…
We need to educate ourselves. I recommend visiting alternative media Websites often to read articles by people like Norman Solomon, Ramzy Baroud, Charles Sullivan, Mike Whitney, Phil Rockstroh, Uri Avnery, Kim Petersen, Paul Craig Roberts, Mickey Z, and Jack Dalton. I suggest authors like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Thomas Frank, Scott Peck, John Bradshaw, Sam Keene, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, Henry David Thoreau, and Franz Kafka. Turn off the television and pick up a book or read an article on the Internet. The ruling elite has taken American's intellectual apathy to new heights through the medium of television. I work to avoid watching this "opiate to the masses”, which is nearly a perfect medium for propaganda delivery. I read as often as I can, often falling asleep at night with a book in my hands.
Children are the foundation of our future. It is crucial that we teach them to think critically and to approach situations with a healthy amount of skepticism. Helping them with their homework, staying involved with their studies, and giving them an education beyond their schooling are ways to prepare them to combat tyranny and support social justice as they grow older. I often encourage and challenge my three children to apply critical thinking strategies, and to question virtually everything with which they are presented. I encourage them to read often. I teach and model my core spiritual values to them. I want them to grow up to be independent thinkers, decent human beings, and people with the moral courage to act on their beliefs regardless of peer pressure or consequences.
They Will Work to Forge New Chains….
While the ruling elite possess great power through the military, the CIA, and domestic law enforcement agencies, their capacity to truly impose their will upon us is actually quite limited. Our minds and souls belong to us. Unfortunately, it is up to each individual to break the psychological strangle-hold the wealthy individuals, monolithic corporations, deeply conservative Christian churches, and various other entities have placed upon the American psyche through the propaganda they disseminate. As more individuals educate themselves, and break their intellectual and spiritual chains, the Bush regime, or its successor, will resort to overt tyranny and martial law. In their deeply narcissistic existence, the ruling elite worship money, success and power, and they will allow no moral or ethical boundary to stand between them and the objects of their devotion. As they see the sun setting on the American Empire, they are expending resources in an obscene manner, defying international and domestic law, committing egregious acts of state terror, sending American service people to die for their "nobility cause", and raping Mother Earth in their frantic attempts to preserve their imperialism, materialism and Social Darwinism. When enough Americans free themselves from its psychological grip, the US government will train its savage tendencies on its own citizens.
Symbolism and Acts of Solidarity Are Powerful
Protests and marches are viable means to express dissent and evoke change, even if it is incremental. On 9/24, over 300,000 demonstrators gathered in Washington DC to promote social justice and peace, and to show opposition to the Bush administration. The following day about 400 supporters for Bush (and his regime's illegal war) gathered. Think people around the world did not sit up and take notice of this gross disparity? Just this past weekend, Louis Farrakhan led the Millions More Movement in which tens of thousands more protestors converged on DC with the goal of "transforming American society and eliminating poverty and injustice". How does our current regime respond in a logical manner? They are incapable of doing so without lying because their agenda is one of social, racial, and economic inequality and injustice. I was in DC on 9/24. I felt deeply moved to see so many others willing to sacrifice their time and money to make the trip. The presence of 300,000 people showed tremendous solidarity in the quest to realize social justice and to oust the criminals who hide behind the veneer of "democracy". Despite the meager coverage by the mainstream media, many Americans received a powerful message that day that they are not alone in their distress over this nation's dissent into madness. I know because many of them wrote about it on the Internet, commented on my blog, or emailed my fellow activists and me. People from many other nations were watching too, and now realize that many Americans see our leaders for the malefactors they are. I feel thankful for Mr. Farrakhan's and his group's follow-up efforts to provide another powerful symbol of solidarity for social justice and against the scourge in DC.
To provide an example of an upcoming protest (which will be largely symbolic, yet will still hold power if large numbers participate to show support and commitment), I will be participating in a day of fasting on November 1. The purpose of the fast is to show support for the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay who have been denied justice since 2002. Sending a letter to your representative in Congress demanding justice and humane treatment for the detainees, and committing yourself to one day without food is as simple as clicking:
Look (Hard) for the Union Label
Unions once represented a powerful force in this nation which forged (and protected) rights, decent wages, and benefits for the working class. Since the Nixon era, when Social Darwinists began reasserting their hold on this nation, union membership has declined significantly. According to the latest US Census, union members comprise a meager 13% of the workforce. In 1954, the figure had peaked at 35% and by 1983 the number had declined to 20%. Corporate deregulation, outsourcing, massive layoffs, long-term temporary employees, a minimum wage which has not increased since 1997, and shrinking benefits are the order of the day for workers in the American economy. Corporate executives (making hundreds of times the salary their average employees take home) and their shareholders love it. Wal-mart (my wife and I have not shopped there in over a year), the largest employer in the nation, offers sub-standard wages and benefits while fighting tooth and nail to keep its employees from unionizing. I strongly urge you to join a union, or work to form one, if your work-place lends itself to unionization. US labor needs to become empowered once again.
Create a “Brain Drain”
One university student has out-lined a long term strategy for academia to cut its ties with the military industrial complex and is engaged in a long-term campaign to redirect US research efforts and technological development toward more peaceful ends. Brian Bogart’s project represents yet another means of creating a more peaceful and just society. If enough universities and highly educated individuals agree to stop supporting the military industrial complex, it will starve intellectually. Brian’s site is at http://www.strikeforpeace.org/index.htm. I recommend supporting his cause, or joining it if you are in academia.
Money Makes Their World Go Around….
Another viable non-violent weapon "We the People" have at our disposal in the struggle for a more just, free and humane society is a strike or boycott. With effective organization and mass participation, workers and consumers could cripple the system which perpetuates the flow of wealth and power to those living on the high end of the socio-economic spectrum. Ultimately, they need us more than we need them, and a massive strike and boycott, in which people stopped working and shopping for at least a day, would deal the ruling class a significant blow.
Similarly, a well-organized tax revolt with heavy participation by the poor and working class would put a severe gash in the artery supplying the pecuniary life-blood to the plutocracy ruling our nation. I am like many of you. I have a family which my wife and I support. I cringe with disgust when I think of the taxes we pay. I realize that some of that money goes to fund programs and departments of the federal government which benefit humanity, but increasingly, our tax money is going to fund the ruthless and malevolent military machine. At what point do "We the People" come together and agree that we are no longer willing to supply our hard-earned dollars to fill the coffers of the likes of the Carlyle Group to enable its stake-holders to buy another yacht while the streets of Najaf are filling with the co-mingled blood of Iraqis and Americans?
Obviously, to be effective, the massive strike and/or tax revolt which I suggest will need to be well-orchestrated and involve heavy participation. I am not suggesting that individuals engage in either on their own. One individual lacks the means to organize such an effort, or make a real impact by acting on their own. However, I believe that as more people awaken and network with others to fight for justice and human rights, the opportunity to effectively use one or both of these means to attack the deeply entrenched and corrupt system will present itself.
They Can’t Force us to Perpetrate Their Crimes
Acts of civil disobedience are the final measure I suggest we take in the quest for social justice. With families at stake, wisdom dictates engaging in such acts of open defiance with large groups, or to reserve such extreme dissent for grossly unjust directives, decrees, or laws issued by the authorities. Kevin Benderman has provided a powerful example to us all. He has my deep respect and admiration. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and their followers represented the gold standard of civil disobedience as their actions and movements won significant gains for the causes of justice and human rights. I am not suggesting that each of us become a powerful leader or a martyr. With a family depending upon me, I consider engaging in a significant act of civil disobedience to be the nuclear option, but when circumstances warrant it, I will be ready to push the button. In the interim, as with the strikes, boycotts, and tax revolts, I suggest we continue networking and organizing until a massive act of civil disobedience of great magnitude can be orchestrated.
They are Looking Lonelier by the Day….
Our federal government may still preside over the world’s only remaining superpower, but the tide of public opinion here and abroad is rapidly turning against them. More people from the poor and working classes of the United States are beginning to realize the extent to which our government has lied to them and has used them as tools and cannon fodder in their quest for profits, power and imperial expansion. As Hugo Chavez has stated, many in Latin America will be with the American people in our struggle against the cancer in DC. I feel relatively certain that a majority of the world’s populace is poised to aid our cause.
Regardless of what happens, the millions of Americans seeking sanity, justice and peace need to disregard surrender as an option. We owe our unwavering perseverance to future generations, the rest of the world, and to ourselves.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.