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?
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
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
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
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
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 halfway 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 unfazed. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
[*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
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
Subjecting the nation to a civil war to accomplish the abolition of
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
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 1950s and 1960s, 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
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
sweatshops, and bow before the oppressive regimes which accommodate our
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
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.
Viral war criminals like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John
Negroponte continue to infect our political institutions and act with
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
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!”
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
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
is a 39-year-old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts
and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for
reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter
of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at
or comments on his blog,
Thomas Paine’s Corner.