Tag Archives: presidential elections

The Preachers of Fear and the Winds of Peril

Donnie Swaggart. Photo source, Catch The Fire.The other day I had the misfortune of coming across Donnie Swaggart on a channel surf. He is the son of the disgraced, fire and brimstone televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. I never thought anyone could be more horrifying of a preacher than Jimmy, but his son appears to have successfully surpassed his father in being a completely repugnant and hate-filled lunatic. It seems the progeny of televangelists strive to excel at medievalism and vitriol. One look at Franklin Graham should confirm this to almost anyone.

I ran across the blustering extremist Chuck Hagee on another day and had to question my own ears. His sermon sounded more like a war room briefing for Dr. Evil in an Austin Power’s movie. He “educated” his congregation, with the measured cadence of a a traveling snake oil salesman, on Iran’s nefarious plans somehow known only to him. He warned his followers of the perils of not “blessing” the state of Israel even though this smacks of idolatry, a grave sin in his religion.  But the camera panned out to his megachurch filled with saucer eyed congregants applauding when he talked about bombing the Islamic Republic in a pre-emtive strike.  My skin literally crawled.

John HageeThe same was true of Donnie Swaggart’s tele-church. Applause and “praise the Lord’s” rang out after each screaming rant against Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, or marriage equality and transgender people, or “abortion” doctors and “lukewarm Christians” and all I could do is feel a deep sense of grief and dread. Is this emblematic of a dying empire?  Are they a foreboding sign of the Dark Ages we stand poised to enter given our planetary trajectory towards ecocide and climate chaos?  With a bombastic egotist, proud of his racism and misogyny, running for the highest office in the nation against a promoter of military aggression and defender of the corporate plutocracy, could this portend a dystopic landscape in the not too distant future?

As the Mayan civilization died their leaders became even more fevered in their bloodlust for scapegoats. Human sacrifice was amplified to frantically stave off the ravages of crop failure and drought. Life in the cities became a living hell for many. And in ancient Rome the plutocracy became more obsessed with bread and circuses to distract demoralized masses from their misery as they feasted on whatever remained in their dying empire.   The megacity of the 21st century appears to be setting itself up for similar horrors but on a global scale, with those on the margins of empire suffering the greatest and most immediate pain. And in the midst of this I see preachers like Swaggart, Graham and Hagee gleefully celebrating apocalypse and ushering in a new era of “Inquisition” where anyone “otherized” is fair game for scapegoating. It would be unfair and inaccurate to paint all evangelicals with a broad brush, but it is a fair conclusion that after each coming drought or flood certain zealots, like the aforementioned televangelists, will jump up to point a finger of blame at the refugee, or those who oppose war, or the gender non-conforming person, or the immigrant, or the socialist, or the woman wearing a hijab.  This is not so far fetched a scenario when one considers that one front runner in US Presidential elections spews racist xenophobia to cheering crowds and a sycophantic media, and the other has a long history of warmongering and reactionary policies.
Mayan Civilization. Image from Storify.Americans have a remarkable capacity to think theirs is a society that is exceptional even with mountains of history to demonstrate otherwise. And they have been fed a steady diet of pablum to sate any thirst or longing for knowledge about the world in which they are a part of.  Consumerism is the real religion of America, and it is the greatest threat to all life on the planet.  How, then, will they react when their world begins to disintegrate in this new epoch of ecocide and the Anthropocene?  When climate change becomes the unbearable reality? When the infrastructure that is taken for granted begins to fail?  History has dark lessons to teach us on how that might very well look.   If allowed, those who peddle fear and those who revel in authoritarianism will marry each other at the first winds of peril.

World under water. Image from Adweek.And with daily reports of temperature records being broken, drought and crop failure expanding, the oceans dying and fresh water waning, I cannot help but fear that those winds are beginning to blow in earnest.  If they are, God help us all.

Kenn Orphan  2016

No Happy Ending

Chukchi Sea Getty ImagesIn May of this year, the fate of the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean was placed in the hands of a corporation responsible for decimating the once biodiverse Niger Delta. President Obama, barely a month after giving a speech that lampooned climate change deniers, gave the green light to Royal Dutch Shell to proceed with drilling operations in the remote, frozen and biodiverse region. Of course all the usual empty assurances accompanied this announcement; but history tells a different story. Countless oil spills and ravaged ecosystems around the world provide a litany of facts to easily dispel the industry’s hubris. Bird in Oil Spill Source Greenpeace

The Niger Delta is one of the most important wetland regions on the planet. Millions of people depend upon its migratory fish. But since Shell moved in the Delta has been systematically ravaged. Gas flares contaminate the air with benzene, causing birth defects and cancer among the indigenous communities. Over the past fifty years an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has spilled in the ecosystem. In fact there is a long list of devastation around the world wrought by Royal Dutch Shell and it can be accessed here: http://www.corp-research.org/royal-dutch-shell.

Shell’s ecological destruction goes hand in hand with its brutal suppression of human rights. Its presence in the Niger Delta has brought deforestation, water pollution and poverty. Nearly 85 percent of all oil revenues go to less than 1% of the population in a country where, according to the African Development Bank, more than 70 percent live on less than one US dollar per day. Shell has had a long history of assisting and directing the Nigerian military in the violent suppression of dissent and protest; and Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa presented a problem to the oil giant in that he organized defiance of their destruction of Ogoni lands. On November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa was among nine other Ogoni activists murdered after being convicted in a kangaroo court at the behest of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria. Ken Saro-Wiwa Nigeria

Oil from a leaking pipeline burns in Goi-Bodo, a swamp area of the Niger Delta in Nigeria October 12, 2004. Oil company Royal Dutch Shell said the leak was caused by unknown saboteurs on Monday who used a hacksaw to cut open a major pipeline feeding oil to an export terminal at Bonny, southern Nigeria. The fire was still raging on Wednesday, but the company said the impact on oil output was minimal. Picture taken October 12, 2004. REUTERS/Austin Ekeinde Pictures of the Month October 2004 TA/RSS/WS - RTRDAI9

Niger Delta Oil Flaring Royal Dutch Shell Getty Images But this is by no means limited to this one corporation. The fossil fuel industry is the most profitable business in human history. And it is accountable to no one. It funds the massive smear campaigns against climate change science, yet in its quest for Arctic oil it ironically dispels this denialism with its actions. As climate change accelerates the Arctic Ocean is melting. It is estimated to have ice free summers in just a few years, something that has never happened since humans stood upright. And now its reserves of oil and gas are being seen by the short sided, the powerful and the greedy as an unprecedented opportunity for exploitation. Oil Executives Source Chip Somodevilla Getty Images North AmericaThis story has no happy ending as it stands right now. When the first spill happens there will be no way to clean it as no technology exists. There will be no one who will be able to stop the gushing of the earth’s toxic blood into the sea. The wealthy will jet away to their seclusion and count their money while the planet burns; and the poor of the world will shoulder the hardest burdens our civilization has wrought. Countless species, some yet unknown, will die silent deaths in obscurity.  And after the Niger Delta, the Alberta Tar Sands and the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, it will become one more visible lesion our species has inflicted on the flesh of the earth.

Kenn Orphan 2015 Polar Bear in the Chukchi Sea Sounce Reuters Greenpeace-Beltra Indigenous People of the Chukchi Sea Source Before They Pass Walruses in the Chukchi Sea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gonsu2WgXog

State Sanctioned Amnesia

Memorial DayMemorial Day and Veteran’s Day are the days the empire has set aside to remember the fallen soldiers of American wars and those who have served in its armed forces.  They are also opportunities for state sanctioned amnesia.

war

It is chance for politicians to go on ad nauseum about “duty” and “sacrifice,”  foreign  concepts for most of them to say the least.  It is an opportunity for corporations to make a quick buck off of the follies of their imperialistic wars of plunder.  It is an opportunity for Americans to once again ignore the statistics of homeless veterans and those who return with horrific injuries and PTSD, and the neglect they endure from an inept and inadequately funded Veteran’s Administration.  An opportunity for social media to explode with meaningless memes extolling “freedom and liberty,” two meaningless words that serve to distract the public from the slow and steady erroding of the most basic civil liberties and rights ordinary citizens have left.

Defense Policy Journal
It is also another opportunity to forget about the NDAA indefinite detention “option” that allows the government to spirit away any American citizen to an undisclosed location, away from family or legal counsel, potentially kept there forever, to face a military tribunal for charges that need never be disclosed to the accused.  An opportunity for Americans to lie to themselves about the whole scale destruction and occupation of other nations, impoverished and far less sophisticated than us in military might, and generally already destabilized by the CIA.  An opportunity to minimize the loss and value of the lives of foreigners and soldiers of other countries who fought just as valiantly for the lies their government told them.  An opportunity for Americans who dissent from these lies to be shunned and shamed, demonized and ignored.

Iraq Civilians  Getty Images

Homless Veteran NCH

Brendan Marrocco, a 23-year-old Iraq war veteran from Staten Island, N.Y., watches as his physical therapist, Luis Garcia, takes off his prothetic legs after practicing walking at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, on May 5, 2010. Marrocco lost his arms and legs to a bomb in Iraq. A year later, he is walking again and has become an inspiration to hundreds of fellow veterans. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times) -- STANDALONE FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH YEAREND STORIES --

If America really honored the fallen and those who have served, it would condemn the war criminals in Washington who continue to goad the nation into endless wars.  If it really paid respect to veterans it would give adequate funding to the VA, treat PTSD in those who come home from the horrors of war, and house the nearly three hundred thousand homeless that line the streets of every major American city.  It would pay them an living wage so that they need not go on food stamps.  If it really hoped to spare a child the loss of a parent to a senseless war, it would take to the streets to protest any new war or intervention.  If it really believed in freedom and liberty, it would understand that neither of these are possible in a time of war and that is just what the elite want in order to maintain their control and keep their wealth.

But none of that will happen on these days, or any other day of the year, because in the land of the free, dissent is the enemy, and nationalistic jingoism reigns supreme.

Kenn Orphan  2014


Looking South

Mural in Bogota Columbia Commemorating the Banana Massacre     There is no justice for the victims of western imperialism, at least not in the American courtroom.  This year, a U.S. court of appeals ruled in favor of Chiquita Brands International who admitted to funding the United Self-Defense Committees of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group, that slaughtered scores of Columbians in recent years.  It underscores a long history of corporate impunity that is drenched in the blood of the poor.

On December 6, 1928 thousands of Columbians were massacred in the town of Ciénaga on behalf of the United Fruit Company, now Chiquita Brands International.  The slaughter of these workers was at the behest of the US government who threatened to invade Columbia to defend UFC’s interests.  This was only one example of this company wrecking havoc and subverting democracy throughout the hemisphere with the assistance of the US government.

Cover for Chiquita Music SheetIn 1954 a mercenary army hired by the United Fruit Company and assisted by the US government, staged a military coup which overthrew the democratically elected, reform oriented government of Guatemala and replaced it with a fascist, military dictatorship and, essentially, neo-feudalism. When some Mayans protested their oppression all Mayans in the country were collectively punished, culminating in the genocide of nearly 250,000 people and creating at least 1 million refugees.

Israel was also complicit in the genocide, supplying arms and training mercenaries.  General Rios Montt, the military general who is largely blamed for directing the slaughter, gave his personal thanks to both the US and Israel for assisting him in the rape, torture and slaughter of the country’s indigenous population.  Montt was an evangelical Christian minister and a personal friend of both Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. He was also unquestioningly supported and praised by President Ronald Reagan.

Rios Montt and Ronald Reagan juxtaposed to the Mayan Genocide“President Ríos Montt,” Reagan said, “is a man of great personal integrity and commitment . . . . I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”

According to a 2004 report on the massacre by the Inter-American Court on Human rights, Montt’s forces:

“separated the children and the young women aged from about 15 to 20. Then the massacre began. First they tortured the old people, saying they were guerrillas, then they threw two grenades and fired their guns. Finally they sprayed petrol around and set fire to the house… [The next day, Buenaventura Manuel Jeronimo] emerged from his hiding place to see the destruction they had caused. Along with Eulalio Grave Ramírez and his brothers Juan, Buenaventura, and Esteban, they put out the flames that were still consuming the bodies. Those that weren’t totally charred showed signs of torture, as did the naked bodies of the youngest women.”

Rios Montt with his victims in the photos behind  Photo Credit  Gabriela Alvarez Castaneda

Another account was from a survivor:

“After having killed our wives, they brought out our children. They grabbed their feet and beat their heads against the house posts. I had six children. They all died, and my wife as well.. All my life my heart will cry because of it.”
– sole survivor of San Francisco massacre in Huehuetenango, Guatemala

General Mott was charged with genocide, but his monied legal team has successfully stalled due process of the trial on technicalities.

Indigenous Maya witness and testify at former Guatemalan dictator Rios Montts genocide trial  Source ReutersUnited Fruit Company (Chiquita Brands International) was also complicit in aiding the Honduran dictator General Oswaldo López Arellano into power, later deposed, in 1972.  Fast forward to 2009 it is not too difficult to connect the dots between the coup that removed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, who proposed a 60% raise in the minimum wage, to Chiquita, who vehemently opposed such a move.

We are seeing the tragic repercussions of neoliberal economic policies that allow US corporations to spread tyranny and terror abroad in the name of profit.  Now thousands of child refugees are flowing over the border, sent by their families in a desperate attempt to escape the hellish conditions that are a direct result of US foreign and economic policy.  If the American government was serious about stemming the flow of immigrants to the US it would begin by holding corporations accountable for their crimes and abuses.  But despite the catchy slogans, imperialism is about dominance and plunder, not democracy and human rights.

Mayan mother and child, Guatemala

There is hope to be found, but it does not lie in the kangaroo courts of oligarchs or corrupt governments of US supported banana republics.  Several South American nations, spurred on by the courageous persistence of the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, have mounted laudable opposition to US imperialism.  But their struggle does not come without consequences.  They may not suffer the unjust isolation that Cuba has, but they face a tide of belligerence from the corporate media and undoubtedly covert subversion from Washington.

Nevertheless their struggle against corporate tyranny should stand as testament to the persistence of social justice.  And Americans may soon need to look south for inspiration as we face what is fast becoming a corporate police state here at home.

Kenn Orphan   2014