Of the Empire
Or Fealty To Humanity?
By Jason Miller
21 July, 2006
“See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get
Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over.”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
I accept no money for the
publication of my essays and no advertising for Thomas Paine’s
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”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.