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Commentary :: Kansas : Right Wing : Topeka
What's the Matter With Kansas This Week Current rating: 3
14 Nov 2005
This column has been in the back of my head for most of this year as different events transpired here in Kansas that have gone a long way to making Kansans the laughingstock of the world. This past week, the State Board of Education voted to change the science curriculum in order to force the religious ignorance of a few zealots on children attending Kansas public schools.
THE FRIDAY COLUMN

by Chuck Munson
November 11, 2005
Infoshop News (news.infoshop.org)

On this day, November 11, we observe International Anarchy Day by presenting two columns. On this date in 1887, four of the Haymarket anarchists were executed by the state of Illinois, for crimes they never committed.

What's the Matter With Kansas This Week

This column has been in the back of my head for most of this year as different events transpired here in Kansas that have gone a long way to making Kansans the laughingstock of the world. This past week, the State Board of Education voted to change the science curriculum in order to force the religious ignorance of a few zealots on children attending Kansas public schools. Kansans have also witnessed the right wing State Attorney General, Phill Kline, work his conservative madness on different matters, including an effort by Kline to force health care providers to report statistics on teenagers who get or seek abortions. The religious nuts in the state have also proposed a tax on pornography and other measures designed to use the government to force religious nonsense down the throats of other people. The surrealism of the actions of the Kansas Taliban have even gotten so bizarre when an anti-public school lobbyist was appointed to be the new Kansas education commissioner. The Wichita Eagle-Beaon noted that the new commissioner, Bob Corkins, “has never been a classroom teacher, never been a school administrator.”

More close to home, there has been an ongoing effort in the Blue Valley School District--a suburban school district south of Kansas City that this author graduated from—to ban and restrict certain books from the curriculum. Around 500 parents in the district signed a petition asking the school district to remove 14 books “because of vulgar language, sexual explicitness or violent imagery.” (Kansas City Star, October 11, 2005). The list of novels included Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Obviously, Kansas is filled with many ignorant people who have their feet firmly planted on the ground thanks to the “theory” of gravity. Are Kansans more backward as these news items suggests? Not really, as there are many Kansans who oppose this nonsense and there are similar campaigns being waged by religious conservatives around the country. On Tuesday, voters in Dover, Pennsylvania ousted a school board that had been trying to force “unintelligent design” into the curriculum there. There have even been book censorship campaigns initiated by liberals in the “blue states” for entirely different reasons. Ignorance, especially the religious kind, doesn't recognize many borders, although here in Kansas we have a smoldering manure pile of religious zealots.

Is there a groundswell of support among Kansans for the agenda of the Kansas Taliban? Fortunately, the answer is no. The campaign against evolution has mostly taken place at the state level, with religious fanatics using the State Board of Education as a vehicle for their ignorance. In 1999, they used the board to remove references to evolution from the curriculum standards. These nuts were voted out of office in subsequent elections, which forced the Kansas Taliban to go with the stealth anti-science and anti-evolution thing called “intelligent design.” While many Kansans believe that there is a religious reason for the creation of the universe, many of them do not want their children being taught religious dogma as science. The fact that Kansans have already removed religious nuts from the State Board of Education in two elections, it looks like this will happen again, if the state doesn't follow through with a proposal to make the State Board of Education a body filled by appointees.

The agenda of the religious right is being met by resistance from other folks, and also by derision and humor. The backward effort by parents in the Blue Valley School District has been criticized by many around Kansas City. The parents were even mocked and ridiculed by DJs on one local rock station. An anti-gay measure in Topeka, placed on the ballot for elections earlier this year by the infamous Reverend Fred Phelps, was defeated by voters there. Over in Missouri, religious opposition to stem cell research is threatening the state's efforts to court the biotech industry. The Stowers Institute for Medical Research announced this week the creation of a new $6 million organization which will fund stem cell research in other states. This decision was prompted by a two year effort by the institute to get a prominent researcher to relocate to Kansas City. He refused, citing the ongoing debates in the Missouri Legislature over stem cell research.

The recent events here in Kansas, such as the anti-evolution decision by the State Board of Education, should not be viewed as a sign that the right wing is resurgent. There is no clamor by Kansans to enact the agenda of the Kansas Taliban. The religious zealots understand that their ideas are unpaltable—even to Kansans—so they've had to resort to subterfuge and a change in language to promote their agenda. They are no longer trying to teach creationism in the classroom, rather they are trying to keep Darwin out of public schools. The Kansas Taliban will eventually be defeated by other Kansans who have more common sense and an understanding that the Kansas Taliban not only hurts the image of the state, but their agenda has economic costs and may prevent graduates of Kansas schools from getting into universities outside of the state.

The people of Kansas may be more conservative than most areas of the U.S., but every place around the country has its fair share of religious nuts and ignorant people. Kansas is not unique. What's the matter with Kansas? The religious nuts have stormed the stage and seized the mic. In a few minutes the audience will start pelting them with rotten fruit.

Supreme Boredom

Like precision clockwork, the email from Moveon.org arrived in my inbox a few hours after George W. Bush announced his new candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. I'm not very interested in supporting Moveon's agenda—in fact, I oppose it—but I follow their cyber-organizing efforts for research purposes. Their first email alert about the nomination of some white guy to the court was followed up several days later by another email. Evidently, the nomination of some guy to fill the Supreme Court is of urgent interest to American liberals and progressives.

Pardon me if I yawn at this point and say that I don't care one bit who is placed on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The whole premise of the U.S. Supreme Court is absurd in the same way the divine right of kings was absurd centuries ago. The king was picked by god? Why then is god such a prick by picking these kings? Why in the world do millions of smart Americans continue to believe that the Supreme Court is something natural and something that is good for our lives? Why should any group of nine people—wearing black robes—have power over our lives? Why should a group of mostly older white guys have power to tell the other 300 million Americans how to live their lives?

What's up with this court comprised of 9 wealthy, older people. Do any of these people look like people you know? OK, Clarence Thomas is like your creepy uncle, but the rest of these judges? Do you see any people on the court under the age of 40? How about women of color? Last time I checked there are millions of women of color in this country. Are they supposed to obey rulings handed down by a court that doesn't include any members that look like them?

Even if the Supreme Court included a diverse group of people, it's still absurd that nine people—none of whom are elected—should have this kind of power, including life-or-death power over the lives of death row inmates. The Supreme Court is an authoritarian anachronism which should be abolished as soon as possible. Progressives, radicals, and anarchists should consider themselves not bound by anything decided by the court. We also should ignored efforts to get us interested in who is no the court. I don't want a nicer, kinder executioner, I want a world without any state executioners.

The first thing a liberal puppet will say in response to this column is to raise a cry: “What about Roe v. Wade?” What about it? The Democrats have been scaring people for years that the Supreme Court would overturn that decision. To this date, that hasn't transpired, but the liberals continue with this nonsense. Even with another conservative on the court, it is unlikely that the court will overturn a decision and create problems for the Republicans. The Republicans don't want to really overturn Wade because they know that it would cost them crucial women voters. When your party mostly consists of older, white guys, you need all the friends you can get. And let's not forget that most of the damage done to women's reproductive rights have been done via new laws and budget changes, many of which happened under Bill Clinton, that liberal crusader.

The Supreme Court should be abolished, but let's face it, the institution is just boring and absurd.
See also:
http://news.infoshop.org

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