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Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word.

To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad Astra books, order Wendell Berry's book "The Hidden Wound," and read it. As Berry himself notes, it will be work. But you will be far better for it. In the interim, I offer my poor, feeble glimpse (inspired by Mr. Berry) into our "hidden wound."

Racism is not a racial problem. It is a cultural problem. An economic problem. An environmental problem. And most of all, a human problem.

The root of our "racism" is not racism. Rather, it is our desire to be superior to our condition. We whites brought Africans here for one reason: to exploit and dominate this New Earth. We discovered early on that living upon this sacred ground requires work. Hard work. Back-breaking work, at times.

Early on, we created a society which values 'beautiful people' who need not work. Picture old-time Plantation owners and Southern Belles. Fast forward to today. Whether buying vacation timeshares in order to make ourselves into leisure kings and queens once a year, or buying homes and cars we clearly cannot afford--or simply dreaming of it--we conjure a life vision devoid of drudgery. This remains the American Dream.

The back-side Janus-face of our forward-looking, hoped-for prosperity, however, is cast in a shadow of darkness. In our pride, we assigned hard work (deemed demeaning) to black Africans. We could only bring them here against their will, utilizing extreme force, by convincing ourselves they were inferior. By circular logic, they were inferior because they did the work--and they did the work because they were inferior. Thus did we become prisoners of our self-created fiction.

Separated from hard work and clear insight, we lost our connection to the land itself--a connection sustained by slaves we regarded as chattel. (Biblically, women were referred to as chattel. That status surfaces innumerably in tragedies such as the Bangladesh clothing factory collapse, death toll now nearing one thousand, where our "cheap, chic" clothes from Wal-mart and the Gap are made.)

Our lost earth-connections have caused us to create the term "nigger." A nigger was someone of inferior status, yet knowledgeable in the ways of the earthy world. Nigger street sense, however, escaped the effete sensibilities of masters in ivory towers. And it still creates a dynamic bond with fellow niggers, who get what the white mastuh has no clue about.

Thus a book well-read by the rebellious scholars of my generation was "The Student As Nigger." In an academic world controlled by administrative masters of various stripes, the metaphor was contagious and powerful. As a master text of 60's student movements, it challenged us to escape--or embrace--our niggerhood. We learned a lot about the world's realities in the process.

It approaches blasphemy to imply that those of us in the student movement encountered anything like the oppression visited upon our black brothers and sisters. But our awareness of nigger-ism, a sense of brotherhood with those "under the yoke," remains vital to this day. As the priorities of the powerful take ever-greater precedence over everyday citizens, we are now paying, and have perhaps always paid the price.

As blindingly stupid as it was for whites to enslave the black man, it took equal stupidity to fail the lessons of the indigenous about living in, on, and with this land. Our very structures, aimed at freedom, instead consigned us to our own prison. Elevating an assortment of minorities into a racially equitable distribution of college degrees and professional salaries has not elevated our understanding of the problem.

We could have kept our connection to the very ground we walk on.

But we did not.

Slavery came too easy, and we have been trying to shed its yoke ever since. If we completely accepted the black race's humanity, we would not accommodate an alien people--we would receive into ourselves a poignantly missing half of our own experience, vital and finally indispensable. We have so far denied that, at great cost to ourselves and everyone.

We are not able to 'set free' our red and black sisters and brothers, let alone any other fellow-creatures of whatever size, shape, or hue. Until we recognize in them their distinctive full strength and grace, we will not set anyone free--least of all ourselves.

Yes, the n-word holds power over us--but only because we have let it.

MCDOWELL CREEK, Kan. The conflict currently raging in Logan County over the compulsory poisoning of prairie dogs and the reintroduction of the Black-footed Ferret has a rich context.

In the 1940s, Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac and one of the founders of the modern environmental movement, argued for a "land ethic" that would expand our definition of "community" to include soil, water, plants, and animals. Such an ethic, he wrote, would "change the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it." He knew as he wrote that he was up against an opposing view, as evidenced by the soil erosion, water pollution, and plant-and-animal extinctions that were increasing, not decreasing, in his day. Nevertheless, he did everything he could to replace human self-centeredness with a morality sensitive to the rights of non-human creatures to exist and (in some areas) to exist in their natural state.

Leopold's embattled view was nothing new. The newspapers from the early days of Kansas are full of protests on behalf of wildlife. In 1872, the Hutchinson News

The Red-headed Stepchild of Politics


GREAT BEND, Kan. - The federal government is a punching bag for the frustrations that Americans have with politics.

The federal government is blamed whenever anything goes wrong in our country; it is the red-headed stepchild of America.

On the flip side whenever anything goes wrong, American's look to big brother for help and a bailout. We can complain as much as we want about the federal government being around, but in the end we also complain when the federal government is not around.

Natural disasters, insufficient funds, stopping terrorism, are all things we expect from our federal government; especially in this state, as Kansas has a sparse population and less of a tax base than other areas.

Last year in the state of Kansas Medicaid services were cut by up to 10 percent. As a state we had to depend on the federal government to help us out and ensure seniors' services. So much for the federal government wanting to kill Grandma with death panels; the federal government helped out Grandma in our state.

YOCEMENTO, Kan. - Since the possibility of an industrial wind operation in Ellis County, Kansas, became a real possibility, I have been among those who have been very concerned about placement of these 400 feet tall tower and blade assemblies. The experience of a significant number of people living near industrial wind operations elsewhere has been a bad one. Though many people are not affected by the audible noise and the inaudible low frequency waves of pressure, a significant number of people suffer health problems from living too close to a turbine.

Warren Zevon, to my knowledge, though he commented on US foreign policy, werewolves, and headless Thompson gunners, never got around to singing about industrial wind turbines or the election of 2010. Of course, he died of cancer in 2003; maybe we shouldn't hold it against him.

But his prayerful plea, "Don't Let Us Get Sick," which continues with "don't let me get old / don't let me get stupid, alright," seems designed particularly for the election of 2010. Stupidity seems to be more infectious than H1N1 this year, and in Ellis County, at least, there do not seem to be enough doses of the vaccine to go around.

HAYS, Kan. - Kansas Secretary of State Chris Biggs will be on hand as the Ellis County Democratic Party opens its 2010 Election Headquarters on Wednesday, September 29 at 6 p.m.

The headquarters is located at 107 W. 10th Street in Hays. Please come and welcome the Secretary of State, take some yards signs to show your support for the candidates, and let the Democratic Party in Ellis County know how you can help.

Community Bridge Begins New Season

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Community Bridge, Manhattan's alternative to talk radio, is now entering its fifth year on the air with another season dedicated to informing the public debate on issues of interest to Kansans. Photobucket

When I started this program in June 2006, it was mostly to provide some balance to the other talk shows on KSDB 91.9 and commercial radio in the Manhattan area. Every talk show was presented from a rabid right-wing perspective.

For over a year, the K-State's Progressive Coalition had been trying to get a moderate to left of center show on the air waves, but were blocked by the executive staff of the station. Only after a talk show host had had a guest who on air referred to the film "Brokeback Mountain" as "bareback mounting" and used other expletives to describe gay and lesbian people, that resulted in a formal complaint being filed with the FCC, did space become available for an alternative to the toxic talk of Rush Limbaugh wannabes.

Community Bridge began with one goal: to provide community with quality programming from a progressive point of view. To that end the show has worked hard to inform the public debate and provide listeners with content that is not available on other local stations.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - A couple of weeks ago some friends started to ask me if I was interested in running for office again. "New election cycle, why not give it another go," they said. Several wanted someone "with new eyes" looking at how local government operates and work to make it better for everyone. I know others were disappointed when I did not run for city commission in April 2009.Photobucket
My previous experiences at running for elected office included a run for the legislature when I was 18, - that was many, many moons ago - and my 2008 bid to unseat Kathy Martin on the State Board of Education. Neither went in my favor, but both were great experiences.

So after thinking about it for a week, I walked precincts collecting the signatures I needed to file by petition in a bid to run for the Riley County Commission. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised when everyone I talked while walking the neighborhoods expressed their support for my effort.

CERT: Community Emergency Response Team

BASEHOR, Kan. - Congress has provided funds through the Citizen Corps to assist local communities in quick response to emergency situations--particularly when first responders may be overwhelmed. These local programs, called Community Emergency Response Teams, allow groups of trained citizens to literally "care for themselves" by being first on the scene when disaster strikes. They're able to self organize and provide immediate assistance to their friends and neighbors while waiting for first responders. A multi-part training program is available, free of charge, to those who are interested.

EMPORIA, Kan. - A recent Kansas Supreme Court decision upheld the Wabaunsee County Commission's decision to enact a countywide ban on commercial wind turbines. I don't fault the Court's reasoning -- I am very disappointed in Wabaunsee's elected officials and in the citizens of Wabaunsee who supported the restrictions.

TOPEKA, Kan. - A 72-year-old woman from the Wichita metro area has died from infection with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.

It is important to note that the number of deaths confirmed to be caused by pandemic H1N1 influenza under-represents the true number of deaths; many more deaths may have been caused by the virus in Kansas. Numbers are not complete because routine testing for H1N1 was stopped earlier this year because once a patient has acquired a flu-like illness, those with the swine flu are offered the same medications as thought with just seasonal flu.

The great majority of all influenza or pneumonia-related deaths that occur (pneumonia is the most common severe complication of influenza) do not have a confirmatory lab result associated with them.

Though the vaccine is not yet widely available in all counties to all Kansans, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Kansas State Health Officer, points out, "Healthy adults are susceptible to severe complications of the pandemic H1N1 flu virus."

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