Rachel Carson Had It Right

April 23, 2010

Rachel Carson 1940"s

I didn’t want to leave this Earth Day week, 2010, without remembering  the godmother of the save-the-earth movement: Rachel Louise Carson. Ms. Carson, born in 1907 in Pennsylvania,  began her career as a marine biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. She became well-known in the 1950″s with a series of well-received books on the oceans, particularly, The Sea Around Us. Her iconic expose, Silent Spring, describing the destructive capacities of the pesticide DDT on the chain of life within nature, gave rise to a widespread grassroots environmental movement, and a new concept of a government watchdog, The Environmental Protection Agency.

bird's nest with DDT

The chemical industry, often underwritten by the military, vociferously rejected the conclusions of Carson’s careful research, that pesticides could kill outright as well as accumulate within tissues of whole species and eventually lead to the extinction of species. Human Events magazine, a right wing megaphone featuring such columnists as Oliver North, Ann Coulter, and Robert Novak , included Silent Spring ( along with The Origin of Species) on it’s honorable mention list of the “most harmful” books of the 19th and 20th centuries. Ronald Reagan was an avid follower of the ideologies featured in Human Events.  Ronald Reagan gutted much of the infrastructure of regulation and environmentalism.

Ann Coulter corporate maven of "Human Events" magazine

Let’s leap fifty years ahead of Carson’s work to the first decade of the 21st century.  The situation is much the same for proponents of climate instability caused by greenhouse gases, burning of fossil fuels.  Once again, energy and chemical companies, fronted by right wing media platforms and religious charlatans, are waging a full-scale attack on the very idea of scientific method employed to regulate unfettered resource use and extraction.  The same right wingers that blamed hurricane Katrina on homosexuals,the eruption of the Icelandic volcano on the recent health reform legislation and bear an eternal hatred of the theory of evolution, now challenge science to prove the threat of climate instability beyond a doubt.  Activists against mountain-top removal for coal extraction, acidification of the oceans, rain forest destruction, are called atheists, communists and terrorists. Stephanie Hendricks, author of Divine Destruction, says this far right Christian views of nature:

Some of the fundamentalist Christians interpret the Bible to mean that, when God says you have to subdue the earth, it means you have to use up the earth in order for Christ to return. There’s evidence that James Watt, the former Secretary of the Interior under Reagan, believed this.  Gale Norton, who just stepped down as Secretary of the Interior, comes from this school of thought as well. And there’s a parallel in the “Wise Use” movement. Among certain right-wing Christian fundamentalists it is considered heretical to say that God does not provide unlimited abundance. To say that we have a contained ecosystem that’s in danger is to be anti-Christian.

The megaphones have gotten louder and the penalties more dire for taking on the destructive and omnivorous capitalist profit machine.

The right wing response to the environmental movement has been creation of a counter movement, a modern so-called “Wise Use” movement described here:

mountaintop removal coal extractionThe Wise Use movement consists of a range of groups, including industry, grass-roots organizations of loggers, mill workers, ranchers, farmers, miners, off-road vehicle users, and property owners. It also includes libertarians, populists, and religious and political conservatives. The movement became known as “Wise Use” after the 1988 Multiple Use Strategy Conference in Reno, Nevada. The movement includes or is supported by most anti-environmentalist groups, by companies in the resource extraction industry, by land development companies, and by libertarian and minarchist organizations. The movement was most active in the Western United States in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Some environmental activists describe the Wise Use movement this way:

Some critics of the Wise Use movement claim that the strong rhetoric used has deepened divisions between opposing interest groups, and has created a climate that has led to an increase in violence and threats of violence against environmental groups and public employees. “Many observers noted that Wise Use activity in some areas overlapped heavily with the 1990s formation and growth of militias, self-styled volunteer paramilitary organizations presciently committed to their own version of homeland security.

The Wise Use  movement, under the direction of the umbrella group, Alliance for America, has been able to marginalize direct action environmentalists with the charge of anti-Americanism and “eco-terrorism”.  Penalties for a second conviction on eco-terrorism charges can bring as many as twenty years in federal prison even when there is no harm committed against life or property. Since when have the worst polluters and wreckers of the environment spent even one day in jail?

Even in Rachel Carson’s day things didn’t look this bleak.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Serve

April 4, 2010

My mother used to tell me to not go where I wasn’t wanted. And back in the day there were plenty of places where people like us weren’t wanted.  This has been good advice in most cases. It saves a lot of humiliation and regret. As a result, I do not crash parties where I have not been invited; do not hang out with people who call me “fat” or “stupid”; do not attend KKK rallies where a cross-burning might break out. These are civilian social events-entirely discretionary. Large doses of of the inevitable disrespect or degradation in these types of uncomfortable social situations are sure to cause self-esteem issues, or even a contusion or two.  The same is true of the U.S. military.

The U.S. Armed Forces Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has made military service for gays and lesbians a profession where they are not wanted.  Thirteen thousand qualified members of the armed forces have been given the boot for being “outed” as homosexual regardless of otherwise stellar conduct. Many expelled soldiers have previously risked life, limb and psyche in combat situations.

The gay and lesbian response to this monumental and singular snub by the U.S. military and political establishment should be an easy call: stop begging-if you’re not wanted, don’t serve. Currently, service in military is voluntary. Let the recruiters fill their quotas with people they appreciate.

The fact that discharges for “telling” someone you’re gay have declined since 2006 indicates the hypocritical military can look the other way when it wants to, when there’s a need for more boots on the ground in some foreign hellhole or an expendable body to take a round for god and country.

African-American lesbians enter the service a 11 times the rate of heterosexual white women and are discharged under DADT at three times that rate. Why is this true?  Do African-American lesbians “out” themselves at these astonishing rates or are they just more expendable.  A person discharged under DADT is not eligible for pension or other benefits.

Enlisting in the military to prove one’s equality or good character by signing up to slaughter some third party currently on a national  enemies list, leads nowhere.  Black people sought to give proof of their worth by taking up arms on behalf of the nation for nearly one hundred years, from the civil war through WWII. They helped a Negro-hating government, with the aid of African-American “Buffalo Soldiers”, corral Native Americans onto reservations, fought Filipinos, Mexicans, Germans and Italians in segregated ranks and returned home to sometimes face lynching while still in uniform,

When Wilbur Little, an African American soldier, returned to Blakely, Georgia from service in World War I, a group of white men met him at the train station and forced him to strip off his uniform. A few days later he defied their warning not to wear the uniform again in public, and a mob lynched him (Dray 248). His lynching sent the message to all African American soldiers returning from the war that their sacrifices for the cause of liberty in Europe would not lead to racial equality in America. A number of literary texts by African American writers published between 1919 and the 1930s, however, inverted that message by invoking the trope of the lynched soldier to make the case for civil rights. Carrie Williams Clifford’s poem “The Black Draftee from Georgia” (1922), for example, alludes to the lynching of Wilbur Little:

What though the hero-warrior was black?
His heart was white and loyal to the core;
And when to his loved Dixie he came back,
Maimed, in the duty done on foreign shore,
Where from the hell of war he never flinched,
Because he cried, “Democracy,” was lynched. (219)

In South Carolina, another veteran complaining about Jim Crow
transportation had his eyes gouged out
with the butt of the sheriff’s billy club.

In Louisiana, a black veteran who defiantly
refused to give a white man a war memento was
dismembered, castrated, and blow-torched.

all to demonstrate a fitness and worthiness that they shouldn’t have had to prove.  Then, as now, a tough and discriminatory civilian job market was the real driver of African-Americans and other minorities and poor whites into the ranks of the military.

Nowadays, the only good reasons for a gay or lesbian to volunteer for the armed forces is poverty or protest.  Fighting as a second class citizen to support the nations imperial wars doesn’t make sense.

Barack Obama, who claims to be a “fierce defender” of gay rights, (but a good friend of homophobic Pastor Rick Warren) proposed, once again, in his 2010 state-of-the-union address that congress should abolish DADT. Obama says he wants a one year military review of the policy.  John McHugh,  Secretary of the Army said on Wednesday (March 31, 2010):

he was essentially ignoring the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy because he is against discharging active-duty service members who have candidly told him that they are gay. He has been discussing the sensitive issue with enlisted soldiers as part of the Pentagon’s review of DADT.

But wait just a fat minute,

By Thursday, McHugh was apologizing for his comments:

“Yesterday, in response to a series of questions from reporters regarding ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ I made several statements that require further comment.

“First, while President Obama has asked Congress to repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ it is and remains the law of the land …

“Second, I was incorrect when I stated that Secretary Gates had placed a moratorium on discharges of homosexual service members. There is no moratorium of the law and neither Secretary Gates nor I would support one.”

“Third, with regard to the three soldiers who shared their views and thoughts with me on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ I might better have counseled them that statements about their sexual orientation could not be treated as confidential and could result in their separation under the law.”

At the same time, the Defense Department has suddenly discovered a major snag in its DADT study. Officials came to realize that talking to gay and lesbian soldiers about their experiences and opinions breaks the first rule of the existing policy: Don’t ask.

In other words, the Defense Department broke the rule, asked the questions, the service members answered the questions, and now those who said they were gay or lesbian can be drummed out of the service.

Sorry to say this, but it looks like Barry O is playing three card-Monte with the LGBT community. Again.  By the end of 2010 when the DADT review is presented to congress for possible repeal, many more conservative Republicraps will have been installed, and voila! Obama will have to make a serious compromise of justice to get the legislation passed.  It will be deja vu of the Insurance Reform bill and coastal drilling allowance giveaways, all over again.

Just like all of BO’s other constituencies, Blacks, teachers, industrial workers, pro-choice women, single-payer advocates, environmentalists, Obama will say about them, “let them eat cake!”

Until Obama, congress and the military establishment repeal the disgusting and humiliating DADT law it should be an honor and perhaps a duty to  just say  hell “no”.