Betrayal of the Empire or Fealty to Humanity?
Confessions and Reflections of a Recovering White Middle Class Hegemon
by Jason Miller
“See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.”
What a profound analysis of the current crisis in the Middle East. Bill Fitch, the former coach of the Boston Celtics, used to tell his players to “keep it simple, stupid.” Apparently the “leader of the free world” is a devout follower of Fitch’s philosophy. It may have been effective in coaching an NBA team, but unfortunately for the world, Bush’s habit of ignoring complexities has resulted in multiple disasters.
Aside from demonstrating the true depth of his vocabulary and violating his own professed concern with “Christian values” in using the expletive, our beloved leader seems to have forgotten that there is no clear evidence that Syria exerts enough influence over Hezbollah to get them to “stop doing this shit”. But then again, since when does “W” yield for lack of evidence?
And the real irony here is that Israel picked this fight through its ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, including the siege it has waged against the 1.4 million Gaza residents since January.
As of July 11, the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths was 47:1 in Israel’s military incursion into Gaza. Through 7/19, Israel had killed 300 Lebanese civilians while losing only 29 of its own, 14 of whom were military personnel.
Both territories subjected to Israeli state terrorism have suffered substantial damage to critical civilian infrastructure, including bridges, power plants, airports, and highways. Israeli infrastructure remains almost completely intact. Israel specializes in collective punishment of civilian populations.
Israel has kidnapped dozens of members of a democratically elected government in Palestine (presumably to add to their collection of over 9,000 Palestinian prisoners). Together, Hamas and Hezbollah have captured a total of three Israeli soldiers.
Only in a world where the de facto ruler is a White male (with a red-neck mentality and an IQ well below triple digits) could Israel’s barbaric response to feeble Palestinian rocket attacks (that had registered zero fatalities) and to the capture of three of its soldiers (who were complicit in genocidal acts) be considered an act of “self defense”.
In Bush’s alternate universe beyond the looking glass, logic, proportion and morality cease to exist. Israel has no more obligation to abide by the Geneva Conventions or UN Resolutions than the United States. Immunity and impunity are special privileges bestowed upon Washington and Tel Aviv. United States aid to Israel is $3 billion per year for a nation where the average income is $25,000 per year. Lebanese people earn an average of $6,000 each year and America “generously” disperses $40 million annually to their country. 75% of Palestinians live in poverty. They had been averaging a paltry $95 million per year in financial support from the United States since 1993.
As a sentient human being with a social conscience, considering these facts enrages me and leaves my mind starving for a healthy portion of rational thought.
Those of you who read my work know that I have bipolar disorder. And I thank the Higher Power of My Understanding each morning that I was blessed with my condition. While my deep roots and profound responsibilities physically bind me to the United States, the Empire will not enslave me spiritually or intellectually again.
As long as I can sit up and take nourishment, I will wage an enduring assault on the psychological chains with which the ruling elites of the United States shackle many other Americans. Bipolar has endowed me with a spiritual light to penetrate the “dark night of the soul” engendered and sustained by the monstrosities of American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, and Capitalism. And I have no intention of extinguishing my illumination, small candle in a vast darkness that it may be.
Had the intense emotional pain and distorted thinking associated with bipolar disorder not assaulted me, I suspect I would still be “enjoying” the privileges of winning the lottery. Of the 6.5 billion humans on Earth, only a relative handful have the good fortune to be born White, male, heterosexual, and Middle Class in the United States. Subordinate only to their “brethren” who are born into America’s de facto aristocracy, White Middle Class males who “play their cards right” are masters of the universe.
Eagle Scout, high school Valedictorian, and son of a father who eventually grabbed the brass ring of “success” with both hands, I began studies at the University of Missouri on a full scholarship at age 18. I had a seat at the table, a stack of chips, and a royal flush in my hand.
However, the Higher Power had other plans for me.
Slowly my condition began to manifest itself in self-destructiveness and irrational behavior. My life changed radically as it steadily unraveled. Obsessive exercise and dieting resulted in my weight dropping from 160 to 115. I transferred to another school and moved back home with my parents. Fending off depression and intrusive thoughts became a daily battle that sapped my will and energy.
Eventually, I quit school, had it out with my father, left home, and bought a motorcycle. It was about that time that I became intimately acquainted with cigarettes and hard liquor. Self-medicating became my favorite preoccupation. On a lark, I joined the Marines.
Spiritually lost, emotionally sick, and rebellious as hell, I arrived at MCRD in San Diego. I quickly determined that I had no interest in becoming a grunt in the Empire’s Legion and became the most obstinate and uncooperative recruit in my platoon. Less than half-way through boot camp, I completely refused to participate in training. Vein-popping, swaggering drill instructors with the testosterone levels of bull elephants assaulted me with threats, intimidation, punishment, and vicious face to face rants. I remained unphased. When a Naval doctor determined I had a congenital hernia, I refused surgery. Like many at that time in my life, the Marines did not know what to do with me. Ultimately they gave me a convenience of government discharge.
Returning to Kansas City, I got married and began working in the blistering heat and filth of a metal plating facility. For meager pay, I did heavy manual labor involving the use of caustic, toxic chemicals like sodium hydroxide, cyanide, and sulfuric acid.
My wife and I made each other miserable, bought a house, and had twin boys. (But not necessarily in that order). After two years and two significant industrial accidents that left me with severe chemical and thermal burns over a significant portion of both of my legs, I hung up my rubber plating apron and began working in machine shops. My wages and benefits became even more sub-standard as I treaded water just above minimum wage. I eventually quit drinking but my problems continued to escalate.
I abandoned the last vestiges of my White Middle Class Methodist upbringing when I left my wife and plunged into an abyss of self-inflicted misery. Living with a woman who was as depressed and suicidal as me, she and I took to a life of debauchery, immediate gratification, cheap thrills, and roller coaster emotions.
I raged, car-surfed on the highway, shop-lifted for thrills, worked menial jobs until I got fired for absenteeism, vandalized, lived a migratory lifestyle at cheap motels and friends’ homes, got tattooed thirteen times, pierced my nipple and my nose, smoked pot, wrestled with suicidal ideations, carried a gun, and fought with nearly everyone. My newly betrothed followed me, enabled me, got high with me, got tattooed and went to rock concerts with me, engaged in bulimic behavior (unbeknownst to me), worked to qualify for disability, and attempted suicide. And we both abandoned our children.
Personal bankruptcy, a period of homelessness, under-employment and unemployment, isolation from family and friends, and two voluntary stints in the state-funded psychiatric hospital coalesced into a blurred mosaic of misery.
Poverty, friendlessness, joblessness, and stints in a nightmare reminiscent of “The Snake Pit” offered me a unique perspective on humanity. Hours of screaming from individuals secured to beds with restraints. Menacing delusional individuals. People drugged to the point of zombie-like catatonia. A schizophrenic woman who followed me because she thought I was Jesus (I had long hair and a beard). Desperately clinging to a tiny raft of relative normalcy bobbing tenuously in a roiling sea of frightening insanity, I bonded with others who still possessed a reasonable degree of lucidity. Sadly, my chief source of inspiration was the brief daily visit by an elderly volunteer who led us in Christian songs.
Reality had finally bludgeoned my consciousness with a burlap sack of stones. I had reached the bedrock of an eight year spiritual crisis.
And how serendipitous that I had created my own personal perdition. Pain teaches, and had I not endured it, I would not have embraced the belief that spiritual well-being supersedes hedonistic desires, winning, instincts for revenge, nearly constant access to creature comforts, immediate gratification, materialism, obsession with money, and virtually every other aspect of the American Way. The Inferno motivated me to relinquish my pathological sense of entitlement that comes with White Middle Class Hegemony. I cashed in my chips, folded my cards, and left the table.
Properly motivated to climb out of the abyss, I found AA, a Higher Power, my lesbian guardian angel, and cognitive behavioral techniques. My second wife found what worked for her. We started getting better and went our separate ways. Recovery tends to do that to people.
Slowly I reclaimed my mind and soul from the purgatory of unchecked bipolar as I learned to manage it. My trials and tribulations and my devotion to recovery built my character. Existential suffering fueled my diligent search for meaning and substance. I plumbed the depths of my soul guided by the likes Dostoevsky, Solzhenitzyn, Orwell, Huxley, Maugham, Kafka, Scott Peck, John Bradshaw, and Sinclair Lewis.
I repaid my debts and re-established very good credit. I made amends to those I had harmed. I paid my past due child support and became active in the lives of my sons again.
I attained meaningful employment where I could utilize my innate abilities and education and earn decent pay with respectable benefits. Ten years later I am still working in the same field. As a loan counselor working a portfolio filled with Hispanic immigrants, I am able to speak my second language to help struggling human beings navigate our brutal and exploitative Capitalist system.
Fourteen years ago I took my last swill, symbolically shattered my final bottle of Evan Williams, and freed myself from the powerful grip of the alcoholic beverage industry. In the tradition of AA, I now drink gallons of black coffee. (I hate to disappoint some of my antagonists, but I am not a “latte sipper”).
As an aside, while I have not smoked marijuana in ten years, the logic of criminalizing the use of a drug that makes people mellow while corporations spend billions promoting a drug that turns users into obnoxious belligerents and their cars into lethal battering rams still eludes me.
In 1997 I escaped the clutches of an industry predicated on deriving profit by inflicting disease and death. I crushed out my final cigarette in November and haven’t had a drag since (aside from the vicarious experience of breathing second hand smoke in restaurants). Jeff Wiegand’s courageous stand against the quintessentially malevolent tobacco giants is a powerful source of inspiration to me.
I finally completed my degree in liberal arts. In the Capitalist realm, studying the humanities is considered by many to be a worthless endeavor since it does not lend itself to generating profit, one of America’s sacred cows. However, I find it to be intellectually and spiritually rewarding. My ongoing education has prepared me well for many of my endeavors and has armed me against the onslaught of propaganda “catapulted” by the corporate media to keep good little consumers and worker drones mentally enslaved.
About two years ago I cut ties with my father for personal reasons. In the process I threw away the prospect of a decent inheritance. A small price to pay for freeing myself from yet another spiritual prison.
I have boycotted Wal-Mart and their “Always Low Wages and Benefits” for two years now. I stopped drinking Coke products. I would enthusiastically eat dirt before I dined at McDonald’s. When I need to buy something, I almost always look to trade with proprietorships and local vendors rather than monolithic corporations.
I recycle and choose to wear my clothes until they are threadbare. I rent a modest apartment in an older neighborhood. Last year I gave my birthday and Christmas money to Oxfam.
I shun television almost entirely. When I gather news from a corporate media source, I dissect it with an intellectual scalpel to carve out the malignant lies.
On the Fourth of July this year, I refused to celebrate on the grounds that I would be glorifying the Empire. In fact, last year on the Fourth I burned an American flag. I will not pledge my allegiance or stand for the national anthem.
I am a spiritual person but will not engage in organized religion. I consider it deeply denigrating to the memory of a true champion of social justice, peace, and compassion that many call the United States a Christian nation.
I have given aid and comfort to illegal immigrants out of compassion.
I volunteer at a homeless shelter.
I accept no money for the publication of my essays and no advertising for Thomas Paine’s Corner.
Most of my friends are Black, Hispanic, gay, women or Muslims.
I devote a significant amount of my time and energy to the struggle for social justice and human rights. Principally, I strive to convince as many people as I can to join the cause. Based on the broad dissemination of my writings across the Internet, the number of visitors to my blog, the volume of emails I receive, and reader feedback, I have succeeded in reaching hundreds of thousands of people, inspiring, enlightening, motivating, and sometimes enraging. Admittedly, this represents a modest ripple in a vast ocean. Nonetheless, I am making a difference.
Implausible as it may sound, I am thankful for the affliction with which I have been bestowed. It has opened my eyes, mind, and spirit to so much. Were it not for bipolar disorder, I would probably be living the American Dream. Living in a 10,000 square foot trophy home in a gated community. Watching Fox News on plasma television. Bringing down six or seven figures as a corporate executive. Owning a couple of Hummers (each of which would have more square footage than my apartment). Socializing with a homogeneously White circle of friends and acquaintances. Luxuriating in insularity from “criminal elements”, minorities, and the “lower class”. Golfing on the weekends. Embarking on annual cruises and summer trips to Europe. Yet had I chosen to live this dream, I would have been abetting in perpetuating a nightmare for the “have-nots” of humanity.
If I had been a “good boy”, pledged allegiance, saluted the flag, played the corporate game, schmoozed, worshipped at the alter of conspicuous consumption, maxed out a fistful of Visas, shopped until I dropped, finished school in the prescribed time and earned the “right degree”, prayed to the God that self-proclaimed Christians expect to bless a nation which thrives on greed and militarism, and loyally served the Empire’s war machine, I could be sucking the marrow and leaving the bones for the remaining 99% of humanity.
Bubbling over with hubris and a perverse sense of entitlement, I could be reveling in my plenitude without feeling a hint of that demonic emotion called guilt*. Like many amongst America’s de facto aristocracy and White Middle Class Hegemons, I too could have exorcised guilt from my psyche and been joyously feasting while the masses struggled to fend off starvation.
[*Note: I am not referring to the paralyzing, existential guilt in which some people become mired. By guilt I mean the healthy emotion involving the feeling of conscience in the moment of realization that one has participated in (or benefited from) an immoral act. Ideally, one responds to healthy guilt by acting to rectify the situation in some fashion].
With healthy guilt out of the way, I could have built and maintained an artificial yet intoxicating narcissistic “self esteem” and savored my “right” to pursue the satiation of my every desire, regardless of the consequences for others.
What events, circumstances, and factors have animated the American Dream for the ruling elite and White Middle Class Hegemons?
Genocide against millions of Native Americans and the theft of most of their land.
Enslaving a race of human beings to raise the United States to economic heights.
Subjecting the nation to a civil war to accomplish the abolition of slavery.
Imperial conquest of Mexico resulting in the theft of Aztlan.
The slaughter of as many as 600,000 Filipinos when we replaced Spain as their colonial master.
5% of the world’s population consuming 25% of the world’s resources
Neoliberal economic policies enabling multi-national corporations to manufacture their goods through grossly exploiting foreign labor and resources.
Egregious, unpunished war crimes committed by the United States at Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki
AIPAC and wealthy US benefactors ensuring the continued parasitic existence of Israel and its ongoing ethnocide.
The existence of decaying urban cores populated by heavy concentrations of Blacks who are often isolated, poor, limited in employment opportunities, and offered substandard public educations, creating an environment which naturally spawns and perpetuates crime.
The formation of predominately White suburbs (and initiation of “White flight”) through the FHA excluding most Blacks from home ownership in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the construction of the interstate highway system with federal funds, suburban cities’ use of federal and state taxes to subsidize the creation of infrastructure, and the suburban use of zoning laws to keep “economic undesirables” from building homes in their White havens.
Instead of attacking the root causes (i.e. poverty and inadequate education), the United States solves its “negro problem” by imprisoning them. With a prison population of over two million, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Blacks represent 13% of the United States population but account for 50% of those incarcerated.
$600 billion of our annual federal budget goes to feed a bloated, corrupt, and malevolent military industrial complex. 50% of the world’s military expenditures go to “protect” 5% of the world’s population. Imperial conquerors? Us?
Over three million Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians died, 58,000 Americans were sacrificed, US bombing enabled Pol Pot’s genocide, Agent Orange and incalculable numbers of bombs ravaged the Vietnamese countryside, and hundreds of thousands of people were physically and psychologically shattered by the US imperial incursion into Southeast Asia.
The United States has chosen to defy international law and the Geneva Conventions by torturing and denying justice to “enemy combatants” and by invading and occupying Iraq preemptively.
The United States is responsible for the death of over a million Iraqis (many of them women and children) through the genocide it has committed via the Gulf War, US driven UN sanctions in the 1990’s, and Bush’s illegal invasion and occupation.
The Bush Regime continues to push for an end to the inheritance tax, permanent tax cuts (which primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations), more deregulation, and further reductions of “entitlement” programs to ensure that corporations and the owners of capital continue to increase their wealth, income, and profits, thus creating a “robust economy” at the expense of the working class. Concurrently, the wealth gap widens, 46 million Americans are uninsured, two to three million are homeless, layoffs mount, higher wage jobs are dwindling, benefits are decreasing, the minimum wage remains frozen at its miniscule 1997 level, and 13% of Americans live in poverty. But the plutocracy and the denizens of gated communities are getting fatter and happier. Shall we cut the widows’ and orphans’ social security so the elite can afford to buy more yachts? Yes, let’s.
The United States military is afflicting generations of Iraqis and our own soldiers with cancer and birth defects through the continued use of depleted uranium.
Allegedly, the United States is engaged in a “War on Terror”. Terror is a tactic often used by desperate people to evoke political change. It is not an ideology or a nation. If we are at war, it is with Islamic Arabs and Persians, some of whom the United States originally funded and trained to antagonize the Soviet Union. We also provoked this “enemy” with our ongoing imperial foreign policies and unwavering support of the murderous Israeli regime.
Over 3 billion human beings live on less than $2 per day and lack access to basic necessities. Our multi trillion dollar military and avaricious corporations ensure that they toe the line, work in the sweat shops, and bow before the oppressive regimes which accommodate our corporate leviathans.
Corporate personhood has evolved to the extent that behemoth profit-making entities which exploit humanity and the Earth enjoy the rights of a human being while bearing few of the responsibilities.
Abundant evidence abounds to demonstrate that the United States is a nation guided by predatory, narcissistic leaders and institutions. Yet the most malevolent aspect of this nation is how it portrays itself as a benevolent guardian of human rights, freedom, and democracy while perpetrating and enabling some of the most heinous crimes against humanity.
Ronald Reagan, now heralded as one of our great presidents, was at the helm as the United States murdered over 200,000 Central Americans to protect the Capitalist pyramid scheme from the possibility of the rise of more equitable economic systems in “our” hemisphere.
Virus-like war criminals like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Negroponte continue to infect our political institutions and act with impunity.
Despite working hard within the limitations of my context and circumstances to contribute more to the solution than to the problem, I felt a sense of guilt as I was enumerating some of the more blatant aspects of United States turpitude. But then again, if I hadn’t corrupted my programming, I wouldn’t perceive these repulsive events and circumstances to be gross violations of humanity and the Earth.
In his recent searing satirical indictment of the American system, the inimitable Joe Bageant wrote:
As Cotton Mather might well have said, had he the benefit of blasting down America’s new interstates with a Chesterfield dangling from his lips and a cold Pabst in his pale Protestant claw, “BRING IT ON!”
(Click here for Joe’s complete essay:
If being a patriot means embracing or supporting the history, institutions, and leaders of such a hypocritical, deceitful, bellicose, and avaricious entity, count me out. I refuse to go to my grave owing my soul to the company store of America’s bloody corporatocracy.
Beyond paying my taxes (which I have chosen to continue to do because some of my money still goes to socially beneficial programs and because the consequences of refusing to pay would impede me from fulfilling some of my higher purposes), I will do little or nothing on behalf of the Empire and as much as I reasonably can to oppose it. Label me a traitor if you will, but my loyalties lie with the Higher Power, my family, humanity, and moral ideals.
Given my personal history, I believe in the possibility of redemption. I have no intention of leaving the United States. Perhaps my fate will parallel Captain Edward John Smith’s, but I have not resigned myself to our ship plunging into the depths of the Atlantic. If enough of us keep bailing, there is still hope.
Here’s my non-alcoholic toast to the awakening of the masses to the moral depravity of the United States without the necessity of a catastrophic event, the arrest and imprisonment of the war criminals in the American and Israeli governments, the rise of a socio-economic system concerned with the welfare of the collective rather than the enrichment of a relatively few elites, the implementation of a political system that is truly by and for the people, the death of imperialism and Neoliberalism, access to health care and basic necessities for Earth’s 6.5 billion human beings, the implosion of the obscenely corrupt American Duopoly, the extinction of environmental abuse, and the end of United States financial and military aid which enables Israeli crimes against humanity.
Pipe dreams? Perhaps. But I am enough of an idealist to humbly persevere in my efforts to help make them a reality.
I know it is antithetical to the American Way to oppose war, but I will close with this valediction:
May justice and peace proliferate around the globe. And God bless humanity.
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