Thursday evening, I went to Powell's City of Books to attend the lecture/booksigning of Thomas Frank, who wrote "What's the Matter With Kansas?" (which I still haven't read, though it's on my long list of books to read). As one who lived in Kansas from age 4 to age 7 and whose grandparents lived in Atchison for all of their adult lives, I can tell you a lot about what's wrong with Kansas. I have told people that one of the best things my dad did for his family was leaving Kansas! Had my dad not been an ROTC candidate during his college years at the University of Kansas, I probably would have grown up in Lawrence (which is my favourite town in Kansas, so that's not a bad place to live) and graduated high school there. But, because my dad became an Air Force officer, I got to live in diverse places like Pennsylvania, Utah, Nebraska, West Germany, and Georgia. I wouldn't trade my life for the alternative of living all my growing up years in Kansas.
When looking at colleges to attend, my dad suggested his alma mater. While I do think it's a cool university campus, living in Kansas (even for college, with my grandparents living about 60 miles away) just didn't excite me. The state is too red for me...but that's not necessarily a bad thing for a Democrat. Maybe if I had gone to college there, I would've gotten involved in state politics and worked on Kathleen Sebelius' campaign for governor and be an aide in her administration right now. Between Georgia (where I graduated high school) and Kansas, I think I would have fit in better in Kansas because I'm a Midwesterner at heart (confirmed after my Navy experience, when I did a post-enlistment assessment and realized that the closest friends I made in the Navy were all from Midwestern states--especially Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Missouri).
But this is not a post to knock Kansas and the baffling way that conservatives vote against their economic interests in election after election while getting riled up by cultural issues that serve as a sideshow distraction from the corporate looting of our federal government.
I've been in a funk since I've come back from Atlanta and this week hasn't been a particularly good one for the big simple fact that it marks the second anniversary of the worst mistake I have ever made (accepting a job for far less wages than my previous one in Atlanta, when I had a request for a job interview paying the salary I was seeking). Truth is, I'm sinking deeper and deeper into a depression the longer I continue to work where I work. When I accepted the job offer two years ago, I didn't expect to be there past December 2007. Had I known that it would've been this difficult finding another job and that I'd still be there on my second anniversary hire date, I NEVER would have accepted the job offer. I would have taken my chances on the interview for the job that paid the salary I was seeking. Stupid mistake. STUPID!
So, to cheer myself up from this dismal anniversary date, I did what I most love about my life...attending lectures by various writers (literary or political). I'm glad I went. It was really packed. Once again, I underestimated the turnout (because we're in the middle of our third heatwave of the year...and I figured that most people would prefer hanging outside in the balmy evening than attending some political lecture. WRONG! This is political Portland, after all). That meant that I showed up too late to get a seat and had to stand against the bookshelves.
What most impressed me about Frank's lecture is that he nailed everything on the head! He pegged the conservative politicians correct. His latest book is called "The Wrecking Crew" and the thesis is that conservative politicians have no intention of good governance. Conservatives (dating back to the Robber Baron era of the late 1800s) hate the middle class. They want a society with a small wealthy class and a large poverty class. The reason for this is that having concentrated wealth in few hands will keep them in power to continue deregulating businesses. People in poverty are often too busy trying to survive that they don't pay attention to the news and what's going on. This is a disturbing trend for our country and I don't understand why people in power think it's a good idea. The European Union is pulling away from America in terms of quality of life and affluence for a majority of its citizens. It'll be difficult to remain a world superpower if the majority of the population are ignorant, overweight, and forced to compete for poverty-wage jobs at chain stores and fast food restaurants.
It appears that the conservatives in power are following the model sure to bring America to complete ruin (economically, militarily, culturally): the Soviet Union. In the mid-1980s, Gorbachev sounded the alarm that communism needed to be reformed because it simply wasn't working. The old Soviet leaders were ideologues who refused to believe that communism couldn't compete with the capitalist west. What good is it to believe in ideology if it runs counter to the facts? If we truly care about our nation's place in the world, we all need to be concerned about the blind ideologues in our government who refuse to rule by facts.
Frank's lecture answered a lot of questions I've had, because since elementary school, I've always wanted to work in government. I'm a believer in government. I inherited the Kennedy idealism of public service as a noble calling. Thus why I believe my depression over being in a job that I hate with a passion (that I never dreamed of ever working in such a place) stems in part from the events of 2000, when I ran out of money before I landed a job and had to return home with the last $50 I possessed. Then the election defeat of my candidate and the return of this "conservative era" pretty much killed my chance of working for the federal government. Thomas Frank confirmed this when he said that for the past seven years, the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress appointed and hired people who promised loyalty to Bush and the conservative agenda. It was a sharp turn from standard operating procedure, where politics and governance are kept separate and the government couldn't ask a potential hire who they voted for. Frank said that this movement has pretty much drained the federal government of liberals and moderates. He said that we no longer have a government of "the best and brightest" and that concerns him a great deal. He told the audience that we need people in government who believe in government and want to make it the best it can be. But that runs counter to the ruling philosophy of Bush and his cronies. They hire corporate hacks to re-write various laws and policies before they return to their positions in the corporate world that benefit from the changes. This is cynicism at its worst (having corporate polluters write clean air laws, for example).
That's one thing I don't undersand about conservative people who hate government. If they hate government so much, why do they keep running for office? And why do people vote for people who hate government? To understand how ludicrous this is, think about this: What if the Catholic Church decided to appoint Pat Robertson to be the next Pope? He has made some statements regarding the Catholic Church that indicate that he believes it to be "the Great Abomination" mentioned in the Bible. Even more absurd, it would be like electing Osama Bin Laden to be President of the United States. So, I ask again...why on earth would you elect to serve in our government people who hate government? It does not make sense. Maybe they should allow people who hate corporations to become CEOs and people who hate schools to be teachers and people who hate the military to run the Defense Department. Understand how ludicrous this idea is? Yet, for some reason, people think electing candidates who hate government is a good thing and then wonder why we have all these scandals involving gross negligence and incompetence and corruption.
It would be like me working on Wall Street. I have no interest in the stock market or corporations, so why would I want to work there? However, I love government and want to be a part of making it effective in improving the quality of people's lives and society's. Yet, I'm still unable to find a government job. I feel like I'm blacklisted all because I have a Clinton White House internship on my resume. But I'm the kind of guy you want in government. I loved my time as an intern in D.C. I was in my element and loving the work. When you love the work, time flies by and you don't even notice. I could easily work 60 hours a week in a government job because I'm a policy wonk who thrives on facts and figures, assorted data, and how to use that information to make things work better.
Most disturbing of all, Frank mentioned in the lecture what I've come to believe about Bush running up the largest deficit in U.S. history. It was not accidental, but part of a larger plan. Looking at recent history, we can see that when Clinton came into office promising universal health care, improvements in infrastructure, and establishing a national service corps, the Reagan/Bush-era debt meant that Clinton was forced to abandon his big ambitions and pay down the debt. In the last two years of his administration, the government finally ran a surplus, which Gore would have used for good. Instead, Bush used it as an excuse for a tax cut to his wealthy supporters. He will leave office having amassed a huge debt to leave to his successor, and if we end up with President Obama, he will be in the same predicament as Clinton...unable to achieve an FDR/Truman-style "New Deal" for Americans because Wall Street executives will tell him to pay off the debt. Conservatives see this amassing of debt as a good thing because they can force Congress to cut popular social programs that would most likely not be cut in surplus times. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, for Cheney had said that "deficits don't matter." It doesn't matter because they don't have to pay it back. Our great-grandchildren will.
So, if you're one of those evangelical Christian voters who vote Republican because you love that your favourite Republicans (like Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Larry Craig, David Vittel, Mark Foley, Jack Abramoff, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter) are always talking about Jesus, I urge you to read the Bible more closely. Jesus warned that some of his followers would be fooled by charlatans who love to talk religion, thus why we must look at the fruit of their actions. And by fruits, what have the above named shown us? All of them have talked about how great Jesus is...but their actions reveal lies, hypocrisy, sex scandals, bribery, drug addiction, hatred, divisiveness. Do you honestly think they would be hanging out with Jesus if he were walking among us today?
I don't want to wait until heaven when I'll say, "I told you so!" I want you conservative evangelical Christians to wake the fuck up and realize that you're being duped by people who don't give a shit about you or your religious views. They just want your vote and if you vote for them, you are basically raping Jesus and everything he stands for. And you will have that on your conscience when you meet God someday and have to answer for your willful ignorance in supporting the very people who do the things you claim to find most offensive. If you can't stomach voting for a Democrat for whatever reason, then do the world a favour and don't vote. Otherwise, you will have to answer to God for voting against what you claim to believe.
And if you hate government, fine. Don't seek a government job. Let people like me who love government and its potential to do great things have a chance at government employment! I promise you that I'll be competent, non-ideological, and work to serve those who need government the most (rich people don't need government). America will not become a better nation if we continue to elect anti-government radicals to loot our treasury and incompetently manage our bureaucracy. Let them destroy big business while we only allow idealistic and energetic pro-government people to serve.