February 26, 2013 – The 1960s scared conservatives worse than I knew – worse than a lot of us knew, I guess. Certainly I lived through that period. Certainly young adults found their voices, and had the nerve to object to being put through the meat grinder called Vietnam. Black Americans continued to seek justice and equality in their adopted homeland. Change was inevitable. It’s understandable that conservatives wanted a say in what those changes would be. Their fearful reaction was – and is - badly overblown. Others’ happiness is nothing to fear. These longed-for changes cost conservatives nothing but their unearned, self-satisfied atrophy. Young people went on dying, even so.
It turns out all of that change scared the socks off market fundamentalists. Determined to return the country to its previous perceived state of inertia, Lewis Powell wrote a memorandum for the US Chamber of Commerce, urging a shift in power away from progressivism. Powell, a corporate lawyer for the tobacco industry, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971, just two months after writing this landmark document. Once on the federal bench, Powell acted in concert with other conservative jurists to re-interpret American law in favor of corporations. (As a result, corporate lobbying became a major industry in its own right. Valued at $100 million in 1975, it now budgets $3.5 billion per year for its oft-times fraudulent activities.)
Pro-corporate politicians enjoyed increasing prominence, commensurate with the new-found campaign funds their corporate masters lavished on them. Their rise in power has continued, unabated. Now, a study by the National Institute of Medicine reveals that the Tea Party Movement (conservative politics and politicians’ most recent manifestation) was, in fact, orchestrated over a decade ago by groups with ties to the tobacco and fossil fuel industries. There was, in other words, nothing spontaneous about its origination. The Tea Party is part of a long-term, conservative strategy to promote anti-science, anti-government thinking. In league with the Tea Party’s vehement science skepticism is ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC and its members busy themselves with producing “model bills” which are then introduced into the legislatures of conservative states.
For instance, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Oklahoma have passed bills requiring that teachers question the scientific basis of global warming. Kansas will soon join this select, albeit antediluvian, group of states. National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott says that “the only effects of enacting such a misguided bill would be to discourage responsible teachers from presenting climate science accurately, and to encourage irresponsible teachers to misrepresent it as controversial.” Because climate science is exactly that – a science - and because 97% of American climatologists uphold research findings in global warming/climate change, teachers’ time would be much better spent teaching our children how best to prepare for the extraordinary changes they will experience.
Fear is reactive, unproductive, and unthinking. It relies on the prehistoric, “fight or flight” part of our brains. Its motto is “You can’t make me.” Its essence is at the core of our Congress’ current conduct. The “other,” whatever or whomever it may be, is to be ignored, then derided, then vanquished. At least, that’s what Republicans convince themselves will happen time, after time, after time. Better they would remember Schopenhauer’s admonition: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Some people never learn.
With thanks to algore.com and thinkprogress.org.