By Jason Miller
Why did I open that box?
Oh to be blissfully unaware! Alas, in my studies for my activist writing and advocating for social justice, I have opened Pandora’s Box. In some ways I wish I could have closed it before frightening truths permeated my mind, but it is too late. As I delve more deeply into the sea of knowledge about current events, history, ideology, and politics, I am experiencing seriously altered perceptions, thoughts and feelings with respect to many facets of the world. Having passed the point of “know return”, I remain in America in a physical sense, but in an intellectual sense, “I am not in Kansas anymore!” My faith in America and our government has been severely shaken. While disturbing, my awakening has been quite liberating. In some ways I miss the warm fuzzy feelings that came with belief in the pleasant fiction of the America that our leaders portray. However, in spite of the discomfort, I relish the freedom of seeing my world with clarity. In an ongoing effort, I will strive to seek the information necessary to continue piercing the veil of propaganda disseminated by our leaders.
With eyes wide open , I yearn to share the truth with others. An editor once complained that many of my pieces were "litanies of the wrongs" in America. I write my litanies precisely because there are many "wrongs", and the mainstream media is not going to expose them. My goals are to present information that the mainstream media omits, and to persuade readers to act for social change. I often harp on the "wrongs in America" so that readers will want to take non-violent action to make them "rights". As my writing has evolved, I have also incorporated solutions to the problems on which I harp, and have been doing my part to carry out the solutions which I offer.
Tristful day for justice
Priscilla Owens is now a federal judge, setting her up for an eventual nomination to the US Supreme Court. I shake my head in disgust that such a person has reached a position of power in the federal judiciary. Disgust and repulsion fill me as I ponder this turn of events.
From a 5/25 NY Times article:
"She represents a part of the Texas culture that is basically a frontier mentality," said Linda S. Eads, a law professor at Southern Methodist University and a former deputy attorney general of Texas who supports Ms. Owen's nomination.
"You don't cry about your hardships, you just keep moving forward," Professor Eads said. "In some ways, it's a very empowering philosophy, and in some ways it can be seen as cold. I guess it depends on which side of the outcome you are."
During the Senate nomination process, Owens enumerated her "most significant opinions" from her days on the Supreme Court in Texas. Her choices belie her harsh, severe nature, and are a harbinger of bleak prospects for the victimized, poor, or disenfranchised who will seek justice in her court.
From the NY Times again:
“"she chose opinions overturning rulings in favor of a child born with birth defects, a worker injured on an oil rig, a nurse fired for blowing the whistle on a drug-dealing co-worker, a family with an interest in an oil field that had been drained by a nearby company, asbestos and breast-implant plaintiffs and a student whose school made him cut his hair."
Owens simply mirrors the Oligarchy which rules our nation. Her pride in opinions that favored corporations and victimized those who were truly deserving of justice reflects her cold, callous, and hypocritical nature. The Oligarchs’ newly anointed arbiter of justice will implement their inhumane, fascist agenda with zeal and joy.
Oligarchy in America? Can it be true?
Monolithic corporations like Wal-Mart, obscenely wealthy clans with names like Bush, DuPont, and Kennedy, leaders of the Religious Right like James Dobson, powerful religious organizations like Opus Dei, and the intricate web of entities comprising our military industrial complex have psychologically and economically enslaved the American people. We have relinquished our power to this collection of avaricious demagogues which I call the Oligarchy. Sadly, many Americans are unaware that they are unwitting servants of an imperialistic machine built to establish world domination (http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm). Many of the "elected representatives" in our government are naturally part of the Oligarchy by virtue of their wealth. With powerful lobbying groups, the Oligarchs are able to use pressure or bribes to ensnare many of the true representatives of the people who sneak into our government. If Mr. Smith went to Washington today, the Oligarchs would make him one of their own very quickly.
George Bush, the figurehead of the Oligarchy, projects a reassuring image of a "strong and resolute" leader with the Texas machismo to make brash (yet incalculably obtuse) statements to the terrorists. Remember, "Bring it on"? When the Oligarchs either allowed 9/11 to happen, or actually caused it to happen (http://www.newtopiamagazine.net/articles/47), they had the psychological lever they needed to essentially crush the remnants of America's republic. Fear drove the American people to surrender many of their freedoms to a tyranny. Bush's tough talk, declaration of a “war on terror”, rush to war with a "terrorist" nation, close alignment with the Religious Right, and his alleged adherence to "absolute, family values" in a world of uncertainty, provided an illusory shelter from the storm. Already psychologically shackled by years of mind-numbing propaganda, many Americans surrendered themselves to the powerful embrace of Big Brother. If they could only see his true face, they would recoil and run away in horror.
Mirror, mirror on the wall....who is the ugliest soul of all?
Greed, hubris, narcissism, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and deceit are but a few of the "attributes" which many of the Oligarchs possess. These qualities are necessary ingredients to achieve the success defined and portrayed by the Oligarch-sponsored media machine. Thinness, self-reliance, strength, financial prosperity, influence, youth, and beauty are essential to being a successful American. Getting ahead and feeling good about oneself, regardless of the cost to others, lie at the black heart of the American dream. The quintessential American strives to meet these goals with abandon and disregard for the impact on others, and generally receives the welcoming embrace of the Oligarchs when they do reach these hallowed objectives. Narcissism be thy name.
Tyranny wears many masks
Our land has been beset by a twisted version of Christianity that spreads itself like a virus through the use of psychological terrorism. Various groups and sects comprise the Religious Right and the Dominionists, the carriers of this contagion. While the individual groups and leaders vary to some extent in beliefs and tactics, their goals are closely aligned. These modern day crusaders have relentlessly pursued the persecution of gays, and hence provided the Oligarchs with the scapegoat that a tyranny needs in order to thrive. Fortified by the hubristic belief that theirs is the one true religion, and that Jesus guarantees them a place in heaven, members of the Religious Right feel confident that they possess the "manifest destiny" to impose their agenda on the rest of America. They have grossly abused their tax exempt status with their forays into the political arena. The Religious Right is also threatening to corrupt our secular public institutions with their "truth", which they derive from selective interpretation of the Bible. Someone needs to remind them that truth is not easily plumbed from a book which the Church revised many times throughout history for the purpose of manipulating the masses.
Priscilla Owens and her fellow Oligarchs lack compassion, a crucial spiritual value. Were one to confront them, they would probably claim they were "compassionate conservatives", or they might downplay the value of compassion. Compassion was the hallmark virtue of Christ. Jesus was the one of the most empathic and liberal activist in history, and were he alive today, Bush and his ilk would be leading the march to Golgotha. Jesus was mostly about compassion, the virtual antithesis of the core motivations of the Oligarchs.
Matthew 9:35: "Jesus was going about all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the reign of God and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the crowds, Jesus felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd."
As Carolyn Baker pointed out in a series of articles in Dissident Voice about the Religious Right (http://www.dissidentvoice.org/May05/Baker0517.htm), their claim to be a “pro-life” is little more than Orwellian Newspeak. The fact is that they are actually "pro-birth" and are hostile to women's rights. Striving to advance their patriarchal agenda, they relentlessly push to deny a woman's right to reproductive choice, even going so far as to enlist pharmacists to deny birth control, and in extreme cases, killing abortion doctors. Recently, Tom Delay has even made veiled threats against members of the judiciary who dare to rule in ways inconsistent with the goals of the Religious Right.
Denying the reality that many teen or unwanted pregnancies often result in horrendous lives for the resulting children, the Religious Right continues to press for the reversal of Roe vs. Wade. Were that to happen, their efforts to “save the unborn” would actually result in more death and suffering as women continued to seek abortions. It is a foregone conclusion that the unborn would continue to die in similar numbers, while many women seeking illegal abortions from back-alley butchers would be maimed or killed. Like the Pharisees, the Religious Right and the scoundrels at the helm of our nation are far more concerned with their artificial, abstract "family values" than they are with the welfare of real human beings. Their strident objection to abortion ultimately boils down to a psychological power-play of men over women. What does the Bible say about the equality of women?
"There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus."(Gal. 3:28)
Need evidence that the Oligarchs and their Religious Right brethren are also "pro-death"?. Look to the war in Iraq. Over 1600 Americans have died, thousands more have been injured, and countless Iraqis have been killed or injured in this imperialistic foray into the Middle East. With strong support from the leadership of the Religious Right, Bush and his fellow Oligarchs gleefully launched "Shock and Awe" on Iraq, after lying to the American people to legitimize the invasion. Offering a textbook example of psychological projection, in 2/02 Pat Robertson characterized Islam as a religion that wants to "dominate and then, if need be, destroy." Portraying this crusade as a struggle of "good versus evil" enables the Oligarchs to lend moral justification to plundering the US treasury and channeling the money to their mega-corporations, like Haliburton. Characterizing Islam as our enemy enables them to use the Middle East as their springboard for the world domination they so desperately crave. What might Jesus have said to Bush as he prepared to invade Iraq?
"Do not resist one who is evil. but if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other."
As they continue to pillage our treasury and further bankrupt America, the Oligarchs are now on a relentless campaign to slither their way into Social Security to plunder its revenues. Bush touts privatization as a means to strengthen our "ownership society". The reality is that the Americans who would benefit most from privatization would be the current "owners", the wealthiest 1% of Americans, who have more capital than the combined wealth of 90% of the rest of the population. Average Americans would be playing the lottery with their Social Security money while wealthy investment bankers would fatten their already burgeoning wallets with the astronomical up tick in transaction fee money. Under the Oligarchs, the wealth gap continues to widen, the middle class is rapidly shrinking, and the rich continue to increase their holdings through enormous tax cuts. Where might Jesus say to the 1% who is vying to add to their wealth?
After the young man left, Jesus talked to his disciples about how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. "It is easier", he said, "for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."
While the Oligarchs continue to prosper with increased corporate welfare, decreased taxes, and increased funding for the military industrial complex, the less fortunate suffer the budget cuts which are badly needed to keep the $7.5 trillion dollar debt from spinning further out of control. The elderly, the disabled, the poor, single mothers, and family farmers tighten their belts for the "good of their country" while the elite let theirs out a few notches. Why are we giving the biggest tax cuts to those who already possess great wealth? Why are we cutting taxes at all? Thanks to the unrestrained spending and tax cuts of the Oligarchs, our legacy to our children is a $7.5 trillion debt that continues to mount. What did Jesus say about paying taxes?
Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
It has become personal
I grew up under the reign of a tyrannical father who, despite his denial, shares many of the Oligarchs' values. Having prospered financially, he met one of the most important goals of success in the perverse system of "American" values. However, the tab was three heart attacks and the loss of his family. My mother divorced him and got remarried. My brother has disappeared somewhere in Alaska. I elected to walk away from him. Had I licked his boots long enough, I probably would have inherited a small fortune. However, I would not abide his tyranny, and I will not abide the tyranny of the ruling elite in America today.
Both my wife and I suffered deep emotional wounds inflicted by Christian churches which embodied the values of the Religious Right. She and I have both forged our own personal spiritualities. Neither of us has chosen to reconcile the Christian religion into our spiritual beliefs after the damage that the churches rendered upon us. My wife and I are both people of honesty and integrity. We respect the rights and dignity of others, and embrace many of the teachings of Christ. However, neither of us calls ourselves Christian.
I went through extremely difficult times in the past. During those times, I utilized several components of the social welfare system to get myself back on my feet. Had those life-lines not been there, I would not be where I am today. I now have a college degree and earn a middle class wage as an account representative at a finance company. My wife and I are raising our son, and I have joint legal custody of two boys from a previous marriage. I am an active parent in their live, and pay my child support to their mother. I am also a successful activist writer in a climate where dissident voices are all too scarce of a commodity.
Should I stay or should I go?
I choose to stay in America so that I can make a positive difference. Like Judge Owens, I am exceedingly persistent and tenacious, and I have empowered myself by overcoming significant adversities. However, unlike Owens and the rest of Bush's Neocon subordinates, I do not see the "frontier mentality" as a virtue. My wife and children have taught me not to expect others to be as tenacious as I am in facing challenges. People need compassion, and some need more help than others. As much willpower as I have, I needed serious help during my trials, and still need help and support. I have reconciled my strengths and limitations, and feel more connected with others because of my limitations. Compassion and mercy are values that I embrace, in spite of my strength.
I have chosen to align myself with the disenfranchised of society and to pursue social and economic equality. My friends are mostly women, minorities, gays, intellectuals, or people who are economically disadvantaged. I have chosen to advocate for social justice, civil liberties, and intellectual freedom through my activist writing and through my ACLU affiliation. I am teaching my children to think critically to free their minds and to seek social justice. I dissent against the Oligarchs through my writing. I have chosen to learn Spanish as a second language so that I can communicate with my numerous Hispanic immigrant customers rather than demeaning them by forcing them to speak a language that they have not had time to learn. My wife and I work hard to live within our means. Unlike our government, we are virtually debt-free because of our thrift. We boycott multinational corporations like Wal-Mart and spend our money at small, local vendors when possible. My wife and I both strive enthusiastically to be part of the solution in a nation beset with problems..
My one regret in staying in America is that I pay taxes to the federal government. However, despite the fattening of the Oligarchs and the furthering of the imperialistic agenda, I feel gratified knowing that some of my tax money goes to social welfare, educational, and other programs to benefit humanity. Since I am not prepared to stop paying taxes and engage in a futile battle with the IRS, I live with this ambivalence.
Man is free at the moment he wishes to be (Voltaire)
As the tyranny grows more overt, and the light of democracy grows dimmer, the Oligarchs grow bolder in implementing their foreign and domestic policy agendas. With rising frequency, their policies clash significantly with the welfare of the poor and working class. Still, I believe that once enough of the uneducated and undecided American people awaken and become motivated to act, the Oligarchs will be forced to render a measure of social and economic justice. Studying the Populists, the Wobblies, the New Dealers, and the Civil Rights protestors, I see how they forced significant social change in favor of the people. I rest my faith and hope on their successes. I am prepared to go a step beyond what I am doing now and engage in civil disobedience when it becomes necessary, and will encourage others to do the same.
I envision a grassroots movement rising to power over the next few years. It has already started gathering momentum through the subversion of the mainstream media via the Internet. Non-profit news sites, blogs, email, and over 2 billion websites give people an unprecedented means to communicate and exchange information. The human spirit thirsts for freedom, and when enough people begin to realize that they have been enslaved, the dissidence and non-violent revolution will become so powerful that the Oligarchs will capitulate and yield a share of the wealth and power back to the people. We of the poor, working and middle class have the advantage in numbers, and in the fact that tyrants are destined to fail because of the intolerance of the human spirit for enslavement. The Oligarchs need us to buy their products and do their dirty work, and people will not wear the yoke of oppression indefinitely. Despite their possession of most of the wealth, the true economic power lies in our hands. It is only a matter of time before increased awareness and activist efforts shift the balance of power, but more people need to wish to be free, and take the steps necessary to attain freedom. Remember, you have more power than you think, and compassion is an empowering virtue!