The United States faced down authoritarian governments on the left and right. Now it may be facing an even greater challenge from within
It is hard to know exactly when it became acceptable for U.S. politicians to be antiscience. For some two centuries science was a preeminent force in American politics, and scientific innovation has been the leading driver of U.S. economic growth since World War II. Kids in the 1960s gathered in school cafeterias to watch moon launches and landings on televisions wheeled in on carts. Breakthroughs in the 1970s and 1980s sparked the computer revolution and a new information economy. Advances in biology, based on evolutionary theory, created the biotech industry. New research in genetics is poised to transform the understanding of disease and the practice of medicine, agriculture and other fields.
Yet despite its history and today's unprecedented riches from science, the U.S. has begun to slip off of its science foundation. Indeed, in this election cycle, some 236 years after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, several major party contenders for political office took positions that can only be described as “antiscience”: against evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, stem cell research, and more.
This interpretive archive, drawn largely from the resources of the Barrett Collection, focuses on how "Mark Twain" and his works were created and defined, marketed and performed, reviewed and appreciated. The goal is to allow readers, scholars, students and teachers to see what Mark Twain and His Times said about each other, in a way that can speak to us today. Contained here are dozens of texts and manuscripts, scores of contemporary reviews and articles, hundreds of images, and many different kinds of interactive exhibits. For a quick overview, you can go to "Sample This Site." If you'd like help navigating the site, start with "Piloting Lessons" in "About This Site."
Why is there so much division in the United States today? This question is one that I have constantly been exploring to try to find answers, and though I may have found cultural, religious or traditional reasons, I cannot understand why divisive and partisan ideas continue to grow even if they are proven untrue beyond any shadow of doubt.
Why hold on to these beliefs when all evidence points out they are incorrect?
While watching one of the videos that Annabel Park and Eric Byler released from their upcoming Story of America: A Nation Divideddocumentary, a white, southern man from Mecklenburg, Virginia states, “the Constitution tells us that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
Hearing this struck a nerve for me because in my area of Western Kentucky, this is a common theme being expressed by many people, and they are proud of their beliefs. The Virginian continues by stating, “We’re divided because we are intentionally divided. Okay? If you can divide a country, while you are fighting amongst yourselves, they can take your country over, just like what’s happening.”
When he was asked why there was so much rhetoric directed today towards President Obama in the last four years, he immediately began to bring up the same talking points that some of the national figures have been saying, “I’ll tell you why, because he has never pulled out his thesis paper from college. He borrowed money from the government. Okay? And he is not an American citizen. Okay? He’s a Muslim.”
I have heard these talking points many times, and when asked if any evidence could be produced to prove these assertions, none are found or given, except excerpts and quotes from far right media sources that also provide no proof.
It doesn’t matter if these ideas make no sense or are misinformed by the rhetorical talking points directed towards the President, because they are staunch in their holding on to these beliefs and will adamantly stand their ground against anyone that may question their ideology.
Just the other day, I was talking with one of my friends that is a republican, and somehow the conversation steered into my friend exclaiming in disgust, “Obama is trying to close down the coal industry in Kentucky, all because of this made up theory of climate change.”
I asked if she didn’t believe in the science and her reply was, “It’s not true and the only reason why Obama keeps talking about it is to give him more power by regulating things like the coal industry and losing everyone their jobs.” There was no doubt that she honestly believed that the President was intentionally doing this.
I began to counter but we both decided to agree to disagree, which has been our way for many years. We both understand we have major differences when it comes to the government and politics, as do all of my friends here in my area.
I still want to find an answer to this though. It perplexes me how people can stubbornly hold onto their beliefs, no matter the facts. Whenever I ask them for evidence, I am told that it is something they were told. It is like having a faith in an ideology so profound that it never matters about the facts. It just is.
I very much doubt there is anything that I could write or say that could persuade them to go against these beliefs. It will take more than that.
This is why I think an important step forward is the making of this documentary, The Story of America: A Nation Divided. Not only are they going around the country and interviewing Americans of all stripes and colors, but they have also setup, on their website, a place for everyday people to tell their own story of America, and hearing these stories can help promote an understanding of different people’s situations and beliefs. Watching and reading these compelling stories opens eyes and hearts where there may have been a self-imposed wall standing between people.
These are such crazy times in this country and finding any quick solutions to ending the division in America may never happen, but one thing is for sure, without dialog and understanding, it has no hope of being possible. It will require the nation to reflect on what it means to be American, and with one little step at a time, we all can begin to envision a day when all the hatreds and divisions are finally healed.
To do that though, it may just take one story at a time.
The great American conservative thinker Russell Kirk once observed that some disasters are so catastrophic they require a re-examination of first principles. On Election Day, the Republican Party suffered such an existential shock.
The corporate wing of the GOP was decisively rejected by the voters because it offered nothing but obsolete ideas driven by a bankrupt libertarian ideology that would actually exacerbate the problems America is facing. It cravenly serves the interests of the rich through an agenda composed of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation for large corporations, crony capitalism, and climate change denial coupled with attacks on the existing social contract. These outmoded, unappealing, elite-friendly policies are marketed to mainstream Americans mixed with a toxic stew of nativism, misogyny, racism, and fear.
The time is ripe for a new alternative — progressive conservatism. Progressive conservatism would offer a fresh perspective- a synergy of populist economics, social justice, environmental stewardship, communitarianism, and traditional values that addresses the concerns of the common people.
The re-establishment of a progressive conservative voice in American politics within the GOP would create a true opposition capable of keeping the Democrats honest, the rest of the Republicans sane, and the plutocracy firmly in check.
Although many are loath to admit it, a class war has been raging in America for decades. The rich have been the aggressors and, so far, they are winning. America’s working and middle classes have been the victims of an unprovoked assault — a massive wealth and power grab fueled by boundless greed. As a result, our economy has been looted and hollowed out, our environment imperiled, our civil liberties curtailed, and our political process captured, by a rent-seeking elite whose only concern is to increase its own take from, and special privileges in, an increasingly rigged and corrupt system. [MORE]
President Obama’s opponents have unwittingly come up with a brilliant plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” They want to secede from the union.
If Obama were serious about being a good steward of the nation’s finances, he’d let them.
The White House, in one of those astro-turf efforts that make people feel warm about small-d democracy, launched a “We the People” program on its Web site last year, allowing Americans to petition their government for a redress of grievances. Any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30 days is promised a response (though not necessarily a favorable one) from the Obama administration.
And so a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede. They should be careful about what they wish for. It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States and create [their] own NEW government” (the petitions emphasize “new” by capitalizing it).
Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.
Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 28,000 signatures at midday Tuesday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 20,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (26,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (22,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.
Since the effort gained attention this week, copycats in all but a few states have joined the petition drive. To be fair, White House officials could refuse the secession petitions of states Obama won, such as New York (which gets only 79 cents on its tax dollar), Michigan (85 cents) and Colorado (79 cents).
What would be left is a Confederacy of Takers, including relatively poor states such as Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. One of the few would-be Confederacy members that pays more than it receives is Texas, which because of oil money is roughly break-even at 94 cents of benefits for its tax dollar. (The statistics, from an analysis of tax and revenue data by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, were published in 2006, but the broad pattern doesn’t vary much over time.) [MORE]
You know how you and your best friend took a vow that you'd move to Canada if the presidential candidate you couldn't stand actually won? (Except, of course, you really wouldn't do that?) Now states are getting in on this game ... except states can't move to Canada. So instead, they want to become their own Canadas, sort of. The "secession movement," as posted by petitions on The White House's We the People site, now involves 21 U.S. states— many of them using the same "peacefully grant ... to withdraw" language below.
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Peacefully grant the State of ______ to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government. As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
"...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government..."
Despite an apparent eagerness to conform to one another in terms of the language used in their individual petitions to secede, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas (whose language is different), Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Montana, and Missouri are among those apparently fired up enough to start petitions claiming they want to go it alone.
So, which state wants it the most? We looked at numbers of signatures on a state-by-state level to create the following chart ranking states on a desire-to-secede level. Note: There are two different Georgia and Missouri petitions. In those cases, we've taken the petition with the highest number of signatures. [MORE]
Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties:
1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.
2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests.
In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, liberals and serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, whigs and tories, republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object.
The last appellation of aristocrats and democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all.
Thomas Jefferson Letter to Henry Lee (August 10, 1824)
This is a story about my 5th great grandfather David Cashon and how he served under General Marquis de Lafayette in the Revolutionary War. David was 18 years old when he enlisted to serve as a minuteman serving out of Chesterfield Country, Virginia in 1775, and how, at the end of the war, had the fortune of serving under General Marquis de Lafayette.
Program: American Masters Episode: John Muir in the New World Preservationist, naturalist, author, explorer, activist, scientist, farmer, John Muir (4/21/1838 - 12/24/1914) was all these things and more. Explaining his impact then and now, this 90-minute documentary delves into Muir's life with reenactments filmed in the majestic landscapes he visited: Wisconsin, Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra Valley of California, and the glaciers of Alaska.
Will Rogers had a way of speaking, through his storytelling, that instantly made people smile. His humor gave comfort to the millions of ordinary people that were struggling through the Great Depression.
I have found three videos on You Tube that highlight his life and his philosophizing. He had a wisdom that was recognized by politicians and millions of Americans alike.
Teddy Roosevelt was a wise man. These are videos and recordings of Theodore Roosevelt’s speeches on the internet to gain insight into his thinking and how his points could have been spoken today. Each includes the transcripts from the Library of Congress to read along while listening.
Petitions for secession from the United States of America have been submitted to the WhiteHouse.gov site from 22 States including my grand state of Kentucky. As a historian, I am having a case of deja vu. I keep thinking I have seen this before. Oh yeah, the Civil War. I almost forgot.
To those that are so quick to call for secession, I have a question for you. Concerning our soldiers fighting overseas, who are they fighting and dying for? A red state? A Blue? Let's say they are from Kentucky but their mother's family is from New York. This brings up too many difficult questions to answer. I find it not very realistic when there are bombastic, ignorant calls to break over two hundreds years of history and tradition, all for some deluded illusion of a world without government in their lives.
Imagine what would happen if small local municipalities decided they did not want the State Government intruding on their lives with a tax collector, and decided to secede from the State. Unquestionably, the states would have to tax more because there would be no central government backup.
Imagine if a catastrophe occurs that is beyond the scope of that state government to cope from the damage. Calls for help could go unheeded. Maybe alliances with other states could be drawn up for these contingencies or better yet, another confederacy. My how history has come full circle.
I wanted to get a sampling of some the thoughts from those advocating secession so I went to my local television station website and found the national story about the secession petitions, and they asked the question of where the people stood on the issue.
I found a wealth of material. There were many that were advocating for secession but I would like to highlight, first and foremost, the fact that there were plenty of people that had common sense and most importantly, factual comments. I loved it. There are other dissidents in these Republican lands where I reside.
For privacy, I am going to paraphrase the most ludicrous ideas expressed to the community and I noticed that they fell into the following categories: Race, Religion, Ignorance and Ideology.
Regarding race, with the comments that began right away by declaring they are sick of people telling them they are racist just because they think the President is a Kenyan born Muslim that wants to take away their guns, methinks they doth protest too much.
As for religion, many of the comments mentioned that President Obama was 'Godless' or better yet, the 'Antichrist'. This did not surprise me because I had already heard this many times from people that I know.
I am from the Bible Belt where it is a very important part of many people's lives and I see no problem with this at all, but this seems to be taking things too far. Historically, there was definitely a separation of church and state in the days of the founding of our country, and this has been forgotten, either conveniently or truthfully.
Let's use the motto 'In God We Trust'. There has been a lot of confusion saying that our country was founded by using this motto, but it became the national motto in 1956 and was printed on paper money in 1957 at the height of the Cold War. The communists of the Soviet Union promoted Atheism and the United States wanted to highlight our differences by showing that our culture was a Christian nation that believed in capitalism. This was the time of McCarthyism after all.
Originally, money was printed with the motto 'E Pluribus Unum' which means, "One from many." Some translate the phrase as, "Out of many, one." This referred to the forming of a single federal state from all of the colonies that later became the states, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson created the first design for the Great Seal of the United States that contained this motto. This design was rejected by the Congress in 1776, but the motto was used in the design that was accepted in 1782 and printed on some of the federal coins in 1795.
Ignorance was the theme of many others. These included references to terribly high taxes that do not exist or the liberal lies about global warming, even when all evidence to its existence is wailing from the storm sirens over their heads screaming, "it's real!"
Many had a far right ideology and they are angry because there are so many of the liberal takers that voted for President Obama. They are also angry that there are people that live off of welfare and food stamps while not having any intention to looking for a job, and the money to pay for all of this is coming out of taxes taken straight from their paychecks. Also, I can't leave out the fact that President Obama is flaunting his disregard of the Constitution of the United States with his socialist program 'Obamacare'.
In conclusion to my musing on secession, I find it very interesting that when one leaves comments, sometimes there is nothing hindering their compulsion to spew hate and derision. There is no little voice is in their head saying, "be nice", or maybe there is. I don't know.
I believe the same may be the case when people so easily advocate secession. They have no understanding of the ramifications of what they calling for. But then again, maybe they do.
They don't want to take their country back. They just want to leave it behind.
As the dust settles in the wake of President Obama's decisive reelection last Tuesday, the White House petition website has been flooded by a series of secession requests, with malcontents from New Jersey to North Dakota submitting petitions to allow their states to withdraw from the union.
Most of the petitions submitted thus far have come from solidly conservative states, including most of the Deep South and reliably separatist Texas. But a handful come from the heart of blue America - relatively progressive enclaves like Oregon and New York.
All told, petitions have been filed on behalf of 20 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Many of the petitions invoke the Declaration of Independence's dramatic assertion that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government."
The petitions have been submitted through the White House's "We the People" website, which aims to give "all Americans a way to engage their government on the issues that matter to them." The White House promises that "If a petition meets the signature threshold, it will be reviewed by the Administration and we will issue a response." The threshold is 25,000 signatures in 30 days and, at the time of this article's publication, none of the secession petitions have reached the threshold (the Texas petition has received over 22,000 and needs to hit 25,000 by Dec. 9; Louisiana, with just under 15,000 signatures, needs to hit the threshold by Dec. 7.) [MORE]
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