Monday, July 27, 2009

The complete guide to understanding the radical right

A few days ago, my brother showed me a video of Glenn Beck, bloviating hatefully about the world for a good seven minutes or so. He asked me, "Good God, Carl, Glenn Beck is crazy! We need some sanity in the news! Why do people listen to him?" I've been wondering the same thing about the right wing in general. Why has the extreme right taken the reins of conservative dialogue everywhere? Why are they moving further to the right, and why are they growing more hateful and intolerant by the day? Why do people listen to such hateful lies every day?

I’ve just read “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” by George Lakoff, and it’s really opened my mind to understanding both conservative policy, foreign and domestic, and how progressives can communicate more effectively in a public forum.

But more than that, it’s a clear-cut guide to how the conservatives break down their arguments into framing their values- this is the edge they had for forty years, as think tanks shaped the way they communicated and networked with one another. It’s a guide to understanding what ties their value and belief systems together, and explains quite clearly why progressives have only just started to get their perspectives out in the open.

Lakoff shared one moment with the reader that I identified with personally- he talked about how mystified he was at why the conservative position on gun control was the same position held on abortion, gay marriage, health care, the war on terror, tort reform, global warming, and others. And he wondered to himself, how does one’s position on gun control have anything to do with their stance on the environment? Or on fiscal responsibility or abortion? Then he suddenly realized that he was just as mystified at why his own positions all coincided with other liberal stances on the same issues. The question was why? Why does one identify with one ideology that has the same positions on all the issues? And why did conservatives get so many people to vote this way?

Basically, conservatives don’t win voters by convincing them to vote with their self-interest, but rather by aligning their values with the people through a very intelligent, long and arduous 40 years of framing their policymaking based on values, with the help of the mainstream media. Values and frames hold the key to winning votes and support, not giving people the facts.

Lakoff explains just how people think in frames and metaphors, rather than ideas, interests, and programs, like progressives believe the people think. Through aligning their value system in a simple philosophy (strong military, small government, lower taxes, free markets, family values) and by effective metaphor use (a nation as a person—a la rational actor theory—a clear interpretation of what is good and moral versus what is evil and immoral) the right wing has won the hearts and minds of the people by selling these metaphors and frames to the media.

For example, take into account Bush’s use of the phrase “Tax Relief.” This implies that taxes are an affliction, and that Bush is the one providing the relief from the affliction. Therefore, those getting in the way of relief from such an affliction are hindering relief, and being counterproductive to efficient society. Through this way of framing, those opposed to “Tax Relief,” or Bush’s tax cuts for the top 1%, were labeled as traitors, un-American, and the like.

Lakoff proposes a new way of framing taxation; taxes are the price we pay for effective government, a strong military, and efficient infrastructure. Without taxes, there would be nobody to maintain these programs, and our nation would tumble into despair. Thus, taxes are indeed patriotic, as every person pays his or her fair share to reap the benefits of good government, national security, and quality infrastructure. Hence, America is like a club, and everyone needs to pay their dues. If someone skimps on paying their dues, then they are mooching off of the hard work and payment of everyone else. Thus, those who refuse to pay taxes can be labeled as traitors, un-American, and the like through this type of frame.

I’ll be citing Lakoff frequently in this piece, and sometimes paraphrasing heavily from this book, because he spells it out so simply. I highly recommend this book to any progressive who wants to understand how conservatives think, and how to beat them. I’m interested particularly in feedback from my conservative readers on how accurate of an interpretation I’ve made of right wing values, and from my progressive readers on how this may have reshaped their perception of conservative thinking and progressive strategy.

Metaphors for each distinctive value system
Lakoff states we think and talk in metaphors. One which we rely on heavily is the family metaphor—our nation was created by the “founding fathers.” We “send our sons” to war, and our planet must be preserved “for future generations.” Family hits a note with any person, regardless of ideology.

One of the models Lakoff frequently refers to in his book is that of the parent models he has constructed for both right wing and left wing thought, originally from his book Moral Politics. The two models are the Strict Father model and the Nurturing Parent model. You can pretty much guess which one corresponds to which school of thought. I’ll explain Lakoff’s nurturant parent model and progressive values in my final piece of the series.

Throughout the book, Lakoff reminds readers that the Strict Father model does not represent all conservatives, but rather the most fundamental as opposed to the more moderate. Just as there are different types of conservatives, there are different kinds of progressives (social, spiritual, environmental, etc.) and the nurturing parent model does not reflect all progressive thought, just the fundamentals. Lakoff writes if one conservative happens to adhere to strict father, but can still understand an episode of The Cosby Show, then he also has a nurturing parent model of understanding, just passively. Likewise, a progressive could understand a John Wayne movie while still being a nurturing parent. This means some progressives have a passive strict father model.

The Strict Father model
(Here is the outline for conservative policy in a nutshell. Think of how a tough dad raises his kids. This is taken directly from the first chapter of George Lakoff’s book. He cites the writings of the right-wing Evangelical pastor James Dobson for the basis of the model.)

The world is a dangerous place, and it always will be, because there is plenty of evil in the world. The world is also difficult, because it is competitive. There will always be winners and losers. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. Children are born bad, in the sense that they always do what feels good, not what is right. Therefore, they have to be made good through discipline.

What is really needed in the world is a Strong, Strict Father who can—

1. Protect his family in a dangerous world.
2. Support the family in a difficult world.
3. Teach his children right from wrong.

What is required of a child is obedience, because the strict father is the moral authority over what is right and wrong. It is assumed that the only proper way to teach children obedience is through strict discipline and painful punishment after any wrongdoing. Authors on conservative child-rearing advocate the use of belts, switches, and wooden paddles on a child’s naked rear end. While some suggest this starts at birth, the Rev. James Dobson is a little more considerate--

”There is no excuse for spanking babies under fifteen or eighteen months of age.”
–James Dobson, the New Dare to Discipline, 65

This is the rationale behind corporal punishment-

When children are physically disciplined after doing something wrong, they know not to do it again. This means over time, a child will develop internal discipline to keep themselves from doing wrong, so in the future they will be obedient and act normally. Without such punishment, the world is bound for hellfire. There will be no morality without strict discipline.

This internal discipline carries with it other secondary effects; an internal discipline is required for personal success in a competitive world. If people are self-disciplined and pursue their own self-interest in America, the Land of Opportunity, they will turn into prosperous, self-reliant individuals. Therefore, prosperity and morality are thus intertwined in the Strict Father model; the discipline needed for morality is the same needed for prosperity. The link connecting these two is the pursuit of one’s self-interest. With enough opportunity and the proper discipline, pursuing one’s self-interest equals prosperity.

According to James Dobson, the Strict Father worldview is very clearly linked to Free Market Capitalism. The link is the morality of self-interest, kind of like Adam Smith’s economic philosophy. If Smith is right, then the pursuit of profit by all will maximize everyone’s own profit individually. He theorizes that pursuing one’s own profit will benefit everyone naturally, assuming everyone does the same.

This is linked to a metaphor that views general well-being as wealth. For example, if you do a favor, you say, “I owe you one,” or “I’m in your debt.” Doing something good for someone is metaphorically like giving someone money. He “owes” you something. And he says, “How can I ever repay you?”

Living by Adam Smith’s claim that it is moral to pursue self-interest as it maximizes the good of all, there is a name for those who do not live to pursue their own self-interest. Rather, there are some people who try and help others pursue their self-interests instead of their own. These people are referred to as “do-gooders.” A do-gooder tries to help someone other than themselves, and thus get in the way of those trying to fulfill their own individual pursuits. In other words, do-gooders screw up the system.

According to this model, there is a definition of what it means to become a good person. A good, moral person is someone who has learned to be obedient, learn what is right, do what is right and not do what is wrong, and to pursue their own self-interest in order to prosper and become self-reliant. A good child under a strict father will learn to become this way. Bad children do not learn internal discipline, nor do they do what is right or function as a moral person. Thus, they do not become prosperous and instead continue to remain dependent and not be able to take care of themselves.

The bottom line is this- when good children mature, they have either learned discipline and thus prosper, or they don’t learn discipline and become dependent. No matter the outcome, the strict father doesn’t personally meddle in his children’s lives at this point. Politically, this means no government meddling.

The strict father model for social programs
In the strict father model, it is believed that social programs encourage habitual dependence, and are rendered immoral as they exist to give people things they haven’t earned. As long as one lives this way, the model’s logical conclusion is that those who remain dependent won’t ever learn self-discipline, learn good morals, and prosper.

This means the mere promotion of social programs is immoral in conservative ideology. And if there are progressives in congress who vote for such programs, it is the goal of conservatives to stop the encouragement of immorality from immoral people.

To achieve this goal, conservatives believe you have to reward the good people—the ones with enough moral capacity and self-discipline confirmed by their prosperity—with a tax cut. The tax cut must be big enough that to compensate for the loss of revenue, social programs have to be cut across the board. By Grover Norquist’s far-right logic, this “starves the beast,” and thus makes the deficit a good thing for those who are wealthy enough.

In the 2004 State of the Union address, Bush addressed the economic crisis through his commitment to “cut wasteful spending.” As we’ve seen, that translates to even more deprivation of government funds to social programs. For the far right under the strict father model, this means deficits are beneficial in the long run.

One of the most clever frames used by the far right is the hatred of what they call “big government.” Conservatives regularly emphasize deregulation of businesses, multinational corporations and financial institutions. They say less government is better. But the far right is a big fan of “big government.” Ask any conservative if they are against funding for national defense, the justice department, the finance department, or border security, or government subsidies for multinational businesses. They like these programs; this type of big government is permissible. Conservatives value subsidies that reward the good, moral, prosperous people in those corporations, and their investors.

However, conservatives continuously stand against nurturing and care, and the social programs that provide it. This is seen as wrong according to strict father values. And on moral grounds, the far right seeks to eliminate these social programs. Lakoff says this is why liberals are wrong about the right merely being scary, or greedy, or elitist, or selfish; indeed, the crusade against social programs is a cause championed by the majority of conservatives as well as their massive bloc of supporters. Conservatives believe their mission is a morally responsible one. Thus, people with a strict father perception of morality will strive for the government to rule this way.

Foreign policy from a strict father perspective
If one is a moral authority, how does one deal with their children? Would they be asked how to behave or how the father should behave, or does the father tell them how to act? He tells them. No back sass. Communication is one-way. This was the policy of the Bush White House—he decides, the people and the government act. If a moral authority has power, he knows what is right and will use that power as he sees fit. It would, in fact, be immoral to not govern in such a way.

There is also a prevalent metaphor for viewing nations as individual people; this is called the rational actor theory. It is a theory that implies nations are like people acting for their own personal self-interest. There are “rogue states,” “friendly nations,” and so on. Bush lumped the countries against American interests into the “Axis of Evil.” Countries like North Korea and Iran were considered “rogue states.” And, of course, our “friendly nations” like Germany and France weren’t supportive of the Iraq war. That means in this theory, they are fair-weather friends—not there when you need them.

This is why you see backward, third-world countries labeled as “underdeveloped,” much like a young child that has yet to learn the proper internal discipline. “Developing” nations are countries that are beginning to industrialize and gain military strength. “Developed” nations are the top-tier countries that have strong national defense and are economically prosperous. Thus, in the rational actor mindset, military strength and industrialization are measures for prosperity. And in the strict father worldview, prosperity is morality. Thus, the developed nations are the disciplined ones that have earned their place, and the underdeveloped countries are like the bad children who have yet to learn good and need to be disciplined—in short, they deserve to languish until they adopt the proper values and develop.

A strong GDP and a strong military means a strong country. It isn’t so much that the people are individually healthy, but that the corporations and businesses are. As long as the country has a whole lot of money, that’s the general idea. Now, the bulk of the countries in the United Nations are underdeveloped or developing, so that means these countries are metaphorically children. A strict father would discipline these children and tell them how to develop properly—tell them what rules to follow, punish them for wrongdoing, or otherwise use the policies of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

Using this frame of mind for foreign policy, and you end up with a state that cannot give up its sovereignty. The United States is the moral authority, being that it is the best, richest, and most powerful country in the world. We know the right thing to do. We shouldn’t be asking anyone else. It’s like when George W. said we didn’t “need a permission slip” from the United Nations to go to war in Iraq in his 2004 State of the Union Address. That evokes a frame, where there is a student, asking a teacher (a moral authority) for permission to leave the classroom. Just through that one phrase, Bush evoked powerful imagery; the United States is the moral authority, and we don’t need to be asking for permission from the underdeveloped states to do the right thing. Conservatives understood this imagery right away.

What conservatives want
Using this view of the world and the framing that goes with it, conservatives thus have a set stance on all issues based on the strict father perspective. I’ll go through each issue as Lakoff did and explain just exactly what the issues mean for people following this worldview.

God is the ultimate strict father; the main moral authority. As God sits at the top of a natural hierarchy where morality is linked with power, this makes conservative ideology seem natural and good. God rewards virtue with power, as He wants us to be in power in our world. Thus, God installs moral authorities on his behalf for people to obey and follow.

God makes laws and commandments telling people what is right and wrong. Following the Ten Commandments takes strong internal discipline, and those who do not follow them are punished. Those disciplined enough to keep them will be moral, and will eventually prosper because of their moral capacity.

The moral order
There is a natural moral order- God above man, man above nature, adults above children, western culture over non-western culture, America above other countries. For many conservatives, this can also lead to man above women, whites above non-whites, Christians over non-Christians, or straights above gays.

Preserving this moral order is of utmost importance for conservatives. Conservative morals come with a set of values, laws, and commandments. Those with enough discipline to follow the rules will prosper. Those without it will suffer from punishment until they learn proper discipline. Right wing morals are thus maintained in a system of rewards and punishments.

Resources are scarce, and competition for these resources is good, as only the deserving get to use them. This imposes discipline and morality, as only those moral enough to win competitions can do so.

Wealthy people are the good people—a natural elite. Poor people are poor because they lack the discipline to be moral and prosper. They will not become prosperous until they learn the proper discipline.

This means that the poor deserve to be poor and serve the wealthy. And the rich deserve to be rich, and need poor people to serve them. The increasing gap between rich and poor is thus seen to be natural and good. This is why, for example, conservatives support the private health insurance lobby and stand vehemently against public coverage for all.

In this model, free markets are seen as the mechanism for the wealthy, or stereotypically “good” people, to prosper using their discipline to amass as much money as possible. This is why free markets are considered moral—if we all pursue our own profit, everyone will benefit. Competition is moral, as it encourages the disciplined to pursue scarce resources and rewards the most disciplined people.

Corporate regulation is seen as bad, as it gets in the way of the free pursuit of profit. Wealthy people serve society by investing and giving jobs to poor people who make their money by serving the rich. This division of wealth is inherently good, as it rewards the disciplined and forces the moral, undisciplined masses to learn morality or struggle.

Social programs are seen as immoral, as they give undisciplined people things that they haven’t earned. In the conservative mindset, this removes the incentive to gain discipline, which is needed for prosperity and morality. Therefore, social programs must be eliminated. Anything that can be privatized and owned by a wealthy few instead of the general public should be. The only roles government has are to protect the lives and property of wealthy (moral) Americans, to make profit-seeking as easy as possible for the disciplined, and to promote conservative strict father ideology and religion.

As preserving the moral order is of utmost importance for the far right, education should serve that intent. This means conservatives should gain control of school boards and curriculum to make sure this happens. Teachers should be strict moral authorities so children can be disciplined as much as needed through rewarding the moral ones and punishing the immoral ones. Because there are right and wrong answers, uniform testing, a la No Child Left Behind, is the ultimate standard for intellectual discipline. If schools pass these tests, they are rewarded with more federal funding. If they do not pass, then they deserve punishment by having funding taken away.

As immoral and undisciplined children can lead the good ones astray, parents should be able to choose which schools their children attend. This means money should be taken from schools that are being “punished” and given to the affluent (moral) parents in the form of private school vouchers. This will help the wealthy (the moral elite) send their children to private or religious schools that teach conservative values and use strong disciplinary methods. Vouchers given to poorer, less moral people will not be sufficient enough to pay for private schools, so they will be forced to send their children to unruly, underfunded public schools.

This way, the natural moral order (rich above poor) will be reflected in schools. The good, moral parents can send their kids to private schools to learn the discipline necessary to be moral and prosperous. Simultaneously, the poorer, undisciplined children will attend low-quality public schools. Students who show exceptional discipline and morality will gain scholarships to the “good” schools, maintaining the social and class elite as the natural, deserving elite.

Health Care
Parents are responsible for caring after their children, not the government. If they cannot afford to care for their children, then they aren’t living up to their individual responsibility. Nobody has the responsibility of doing other people’s jobs for them; thus, pre-natal care, post-natal care, and health care for children, the aged, and the infirmed are seen as immoral. Health care is an individual responsibility, not a right. Taxpayers should not be burdened with caring for other people.

Tort Reform
Tort reform in a nutshell involves putting caps on how much settlement money one can receive in a lawsuit. While conservatives dress up this issue to suggest that it’s made to stop people from suing frivolously for spilling a cup of hot coffee on their lap or eating too much fast food, the issue itself is much deeper. A vast majority of lawsuits are corporate, meaning an employee, a client, or someone otherwise disaffected by a large corporation is suing the company for wrongdoing. It should also be known that lawyers who win these types of cases are a major source of campaign contributions for democrats. Thus, tort reform is a strategic issue for conservatives—this means people are less likely to sue corporations for wrongdoing against their communities or the environment, and a major funding source for the left is cut off. The right wing wants corporations to be free to walk on whomever they please in order to make the most profit, as profit-seeking in a free market is seen as a moral and good thing. In reality, tort reform has nothing at all to do with frivolous lawsuits.

Gay Marriage
Gay marriage doesn’t fit into the strict father worldview; as Lakoff writes, it goes squarely against it. A lesbian marriage has no father to impose discipline. And a family with two fathers is seen as unnatural, being that a gay man is not a “real man.” Because preserving strict father morality is so important for conservatives, gay marriage must remain illegal, as it openly attacks all forms of conservative ideology. It is also seen as personally offensive to those following a strict father worldview.

Abortion works the same way as gay marriage does for conservatives. The two most stereotypical cases of women needing abortion are unwed teenagers who have been having “illicit” sex, and career women who want to put child-rearing on hold. Both of these cases fly right in the face of the strict father mindset. Pregnant teens have violated the commands of the strict father, and career women are challenging the power and authority of the strict father. Thus, both should be punished by being forced to have the child. Neither one should avoid the consequences of their actions, and must learn discipline through punishment.

Pro-lifers on the right are largely against prenatal care, postnatal care, and health care for children, which all have major causal effects on a child. Basically, by this standard, pro-lifers aren’t really about protecting babies at all, but rather about making sure that those who violate the rules are punished accordingly. It is a culture war strategy to gain and maintain political power.

Gay marriage and abortion, according to Lakoff, are both stand-ins for all of the strict father values in which conservatives identify themselves. This is why these are such hot-button topics for right wingers.

This is not to ignore the extreme pain and difficulty most women face when they are given the choice of keeping or terminating a pregnancy. For anyone who cares about children, this is a choice that is anything but easy to make. The far right uses and exploits this pain when they use the termination of a pregnancy as a wedge issue to gain political influence in the culture war against progressives that they have been waging for decades.

Now, those who are genuinely pro-life, like progressive Catholics, do care about the health and well-being of children, and understand that the choice to end a pregnancy is always difficult, and show empathy and support for these women. They believe that life begins with conception, that life is the ultimate gift, and support prenatal/postnatal care, health care for children, early childhood education, and who oppose the death penalty, war, genocide, and the like.

God has given man dominion over nature, and the earth and its resources are here for man to use for profit. Nature is seen as a resource for prosperity. Those who seek to protect it are hindering the personal pursuit of self-interest by others, and are thus considered immoral and undisciplined.

Strict father morality defines what is considered a right and what is not. That being said, abortion does not count as a right, nor does quality health care for all. Or any kind of government assistance via social programs. There are no rights to how the administration (the moral authority) decides policy, no right to a living wage, and so on.

Foreign Policy
As Lakoff has stated, in the strict father worldview, America is the moral authority as it is the most prosperous and strongest nation. It is a superpower because it deserves to be. America’s values (the only right ones) are defined by strict father morality. Thus, if there is to be any sort of moral order in the world, American hegemony, sovereignty, wealth, and power must be maintained. Conservative family values, free markets, privatization, elimination of social programs, dominion of man over nature, and other right wing values must be spread across the globe.

The Cultural Civil War
Because the strict father moral system is the definition of what a good society is, progressive values and programs must be treated as threats and fought at all costs and on all front. To conservatives, the very fabric of society is at stake.

As Lakoff writes, these are just the basics of how conservatives view their country and the world—through these values. The ideas and values that the right wing wants to establish require a radical revolution in our government and our populace. This is why conservatives today have taken the warrior banner given them by warrior conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and those like them. For strict father morality to gain and maintain political and social influence, there must be a disunity. Economic disunity (the moral, deserving rich vs. the undisciplined, immoral poor) is key for the system to flourish.

This means that to achieve their goals, conservatives, who represent the political and social elite, needed a good number of the uneducated poor and middle class to vote against their own economic self-interests. In doing so, they have branded progressive values as elitist, and conservative values as populist, even though the reverse is true. While truth wasn’t on the conservative side, the strict father worldview was; the basis of that being that the wealthy deserve their money as they have done what is necessary to earn it.

So how do they achieve such a lofty goal? Through the vast right wing conspiracy, as I’ll discuss in detail in the next piece of this series, the right has very carefully seized control of the national dialogue through meticulous organization and heavy publicity. Right wing conspirators work through heavily funded think tanks using money given through grants fro private industries that support their ideology. For example, the Heartland Institute is funded heavily by Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest oil and gas company. Taking that into account, it’s easy to see why they exist primarily to produce studies that dispute global warming, as environmental regulation would hurt the profit potential of Exxon-Mobil. It’s also noteworthy to know that 80% of the news pundits on cable TV are intellectuals from conservative think tanks. This means Americans will gradually become inundated with right wing values and perspectives the more they are exposed to it.

To further insure conservatives are on the same page strategically, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, holds a weekly meeting each Wednesday with representatives from each branch of conservative ideology—from the Christian Coalition to the Bush/Cheney administration. Through intense organization and funding of conservative values and interests, the far right has managed to control the national dialogue very well. As Lakoff says, they do this mainly through cleverly framing issues that evoke their values. And they maintain control by waging an intense cultural civil war against progressives. Thus, progressives are labeled as threatening the way of life and cultural, religious, and personal identities of conservatives.

Through forty years of careful organization, lots of private funding, media time, and think tanks, George Lakoff states the right wing has branded the left wing as a bunch of effete elitist, unpatriotic spendthrifts—there are limousine liberals, Hollywood liberals, tax-and-spend liberals, latte liberals, East Coast liberals, wishy-washy liberals, the liberal elite, and other such nonsense.

They have also branded conservative ideology (which benefits the elite) as populists through clever language. There was Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush’s smirky down-home boyishness—W. had his John Wayne-esque “Bushisms” and “Bubbaisms,” while taking on the language style, dialects, body language, and narrative of rural Americans. Right wing talk radio is polluted with warrior conservatives who use such incendiary rhetoric and shouting similar to those of hellfire and brimstone preachers.

However, as Lakoff states, the message has been the same for decades. The “liberal elite” is poisoning American culture and family values, and serve as a threat to the right wing way of life. This means they must be fought viciously on every front to ensure that right wing ideology remains supreme. They label progressive thought as the key threat to the very security of the United States, as well as the threat to morality, religion, and the family values conservatives hold dear. Conservative positions on wedge issues like abortion, gay marriage, guns, school prayer, taxes, and the flag reflect the “treachery” of the liberal left. These issues are not important in themselves, but serve as a fraction of the strict father morality conservatives strive to force onto the rest of the world.

In short, without the cultural civil war, conservatives cannot win.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit (by Bill Maher)

My dad told me about this article, so I looked it up. And Maher is so right-on with this one. I relate especially to the section about broadcast media. The link can be found here-


How about this for a New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. It used to be that there were some services and institutions so vital to our nation that they were exempt from market pressures. Some things we just didn't do for money. The United States always defined capitalism, but it didn't used to define us. But now it's becoming all that we are.

Did you know, for example, that there was a time when being called a "war profiteer" was a bad thing? But now our war zones are dominated by private contractors and mercenaries who work for corporations. There are more private contractors in Iraq than American troops, and we pay them generous salaries to do jobs the troops used to do for themselves ­-- like laundry. War is not supposed to turn a profit, but our wars have become boondoggles for weapons manufacturers and connected civilian contractors.

Prisons used to be a non-profit business, too. And for good reason --­ who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition you're going to have trouble with the tenants. But now prisons are big business. A company called the Corrections Corporation of America is on the New York Stock Exchange, which is convenient since that's where all the real crime is happening anyway. The CCA and similar corporations actually lobby Congress for stiffer sentencing laws so they can lock more people up and make more money. That's why America has the world's largest prison population ­-- because actually rehabilitating people would have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Television news is another area that used to be roped off from the profit motive. When Walter Cronkite died last week, it was odd to see news anchor after news anchor talking about how much better the news coverage was back in Cronkite's day. I thought, "Gee, if only you were in a position to do something about it."

But maybe they aren't. Because unlike in Cronkite's day, today's news has to make a profit like all the other divisions in a media conglomerate. That's why it wasn't surprising to see the CBS Evening News broadcast live from the Staples Center for two nights this month, just in case Michael Jackson came back to life and sold Iran nuclear weapons. In Uncle Walter's time, the news division was a loss leader. Making money was the job of The Beverly Hillbillies. And now that we have reporters moving to Alaska to hang out with the Palin family, the news is The Beverly Hillbillies.

And finally, there's health care. It wasn't that long ago that when a kid broke his leg playing stickball, his parents took him to the local Catholic hospital, the nun put a thermometer in his mouth, the doctor slapped some plaster on his ankle and you were done. The bill was $1.50, plus you got to keep the thermometer.

But like everything else that's good and noble in life, some Wall Street wizard decided that hospitals could be big business, so now they're run by some bean counters in a corporate plaza in Charlotte. In the U.S. today, three giant for-profit conglomerates own close to 600 hospitals and other health care facilities. They're not hospitals anymore; they're Jiffy Lubes with bedpans. America's largest hospital chain, HCA, was founded by the family of Bill Frist, who perfectly represents the Republican attitude toward health care: it's not a right, it's a racket. The more people who get sick and need medicine, the higher their profit margins. Which is why they're always pushing the Jell-O.

Because medicine is now for-profit we have things like "recision," where insurance companies hire people to figure out ways to deny you coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying into your plan for years.

When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what's in it for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

If conservatives get to call universal health care "socialized medicine," I get to call private health care "soulless vampires making money off human pain." The problem with President Obama's health care plan isn't socialism, it's capitalism.

And if medicine is for profit, and war, and the news, and the penal system, my question is: what's wrong with firemen? Why don't they charge? They must be commies. Oh my God! That explains the red trucks!

Friday, July 17, 2009

An Unexpected Moment of Spirituality

I don't really consider myself a religious person, neither do I identify nor affiliate myself with any organized religion or church. That being said, I still personally acknowledge some spiritual force, although my belief in free will leads me to believe this spiritual force doesn't personally meddle with life or individuals. I have no expectations of any afterlife or reincarnation, positive or negative. As Mark Twain said, I do not fear death. I hadn't existed for billions of years beforehand and wasn't inconvenienced in the least.

However, I experienced an unexpected spiritual moment on Tuesday.

My summer job right now is teaching Upward Bound at Jackson, which is about an hour's drive away. I'm teaching Spanish to high school kids and actually having a great time with it; the kids are learning, they get excited about class, and are very personable in between classes. The commute isn't so bad; the pay and my love for the job is plenty of compensation for the fuel costs. However, by the time I get back to Morehead by late afternoon/early evening, I find myself worn out from a day of teaching.

While crossing the county line on Tuesday, I expected to come home to my usual bike ride, to cook dinner for myself, and to maybe call a friend and spend some time visiting. But when I saw the turnoff for one of my favorite places to observe the mountains of East Kentucky, I felt a pulling toward the road. Something was tugging at me to go check out Lockegee Rock. At a last-minute impulse, I took the left turn onto the road that leads to the mountain.

Lockegee Rock is located down this road, up a hill, around the side of a cliff, and down a side road made of gravel and littered with potholes. A car must tread carefully and slowly, and drivers usually steer their vehicles all over the road, trying to place each pothole in between the wheels to avoid too much banging around. My car kicked up plenty of dust, but I managed to miss most of the potholes. I drove on until I found the parking spot next to the trail that leads to Lockegee. The spots were all empty, so I parked without any trouble, and immediately closed the door and walked with purpose to the trailhead.

The trail winds through a forest, and quickly upward to a patch of rocks and cliffs after a sandy section. On this day, the trail was particularly overgrown; vines crawled off of trees and covered the trail, making hikers walk with their arms over their heads and in front of their faces, constantly pushing away branches and bushes. Occasionally, growth on either side would converge, making a pleasant archway of green for travelers to walk underneath.

I walked around the path to the right, which led away from the trail and toward several cliffs. Climbing up a series of rocks, I found myself in between two tall rocks; one of them was a steep climb that led simply to a small summit. This rock used to have a a rope attached to a tree root, courtesy of Morehead State's ROTC. (Two years ago, I climbed that rope all the way up to the top, and then nearly died after a tumble and some injuries on the steep way down)

On the right side, one would see a step to another rock, followed by the lip of a rock just slightly out of arms' reach. While the more conventional route to the top of Lockegee Rock is the trail just to the left, I chose the cliff path on the right. The lip of the rock can't be climbed to, but one must lift him/herself by the forearms and chest, then scale up to the lip on their knees and elbows. After I reached the lip, I crouched low and crawled on my hands and knees, so as not to bump my head on a cliff just above me.

I stepped out into a sunlit ledge overlooking the adjacent forest. The crawl opened up into the sun, and just ahead I saw a section of the Daniel Boone National Forest bathed in sunlight. Vultures began to circle over the trees some distance away. I could hear the slight chirping of birds and the sound of the wind breezing through trees, but nothing else. After taking in the scene, I continued on around the back of the rock.

This part of the cliff path stops, and one must continue upward, scaling rocks and hugging the side of the mountain. I made sure to step over and around groups of ants and ladybugs on the rocks as I stepped up. Before reaching the top of the rock, A tree stood in the way, and climbers must wrap their arms around the tree, step on a root, and step around until they can climb atop the cliff. As I was doing this, I turned my head around to see the view in front of me, now a little farther down as my ascent up the cliff progressed. The trees were now low enough that I could see the Appalachian mountain skyline miles and miles ahead. I finished my path around the tree after taking it all in, and climbed to the summit of the rock.

Now at the top of the cliff, I could follow the trail the rest of the way around until I reached the big overlook. I walked near the edge of the cliff, admiring the bird's eye view I had of the path I had just followed, as well as the alternate path I had skipped in favor of the cliffs. Finally, the trees overhead stopped, and the path opened up as I reached the overlook.

Pictures from the top of Lockegee Rock don't do justice to the majestic view one is rewarded after the hike. The picture is slightly different each time you reach the top; later in the year one would witness a sea of gold and red to a modest temperature of fifty degrees. In the early parts of the year, The view is more dramatic, as one is privy to a view of vast deadness. In April, the view from Lockegee can be splashed with yellow and white buds amidst the greening forest canopy. This time, in mid-July, the colors are the greenest of green until it meets the bluish gray of the mountains at the horizon. From above the horizon and all around is a vivid cerulean blue, dotted with white cirrus clouds far up above. In the darkness, Lockegee shows a view of the lights of Morehead to the north, supplemented by a symphony of chirping crickets and other critters. Other than the forest and cliffs behind, the view from the summit of Lockegee is breathtaking and endless at any time of the year, day or night.

On Tuesday around 6 PM, the sun was just beginning to color the skies as it set to the west. In the summer, the stars aren't yet out and the moon hasn't revealed itself, so there's still plenty of sun to illuminate the lush green all around. After walking around the top, I noticed the same pulling feeling that tugged me toward the road to Lockegee was tugging at me again. This time, it led me to the tip of the rock, where I carefully crawled down the edge in order to step onto a lone cliff; equally as high up as the overlook, but small enough for just two people. Here, I was at the very front of the view, with nothing but endless flora in front, to the left, and to the right of me. the sun shone warmly above, and a bird cawed from a tree down below. I looked up to notice the clouds moving quietly forward. I watched the skies twirl as the planet rotated, and slowly followed my gaze down until it reached the horizon. A rising feeling of vertigo suddenly sets for a brief spell.

Here, sitting cross-legged on a tall rock, I set my arms down, relaxed evenly on my lap. I closed my eyes, let my shoulders down, and breathed in fresh mountain air through my nose before exhaling it slowly through my mouth. My head got light and a warm sensation spread through my chest. I opened my eyes, and let myself grin. I meditated this way for a few minutes, and said a quiet prayer to an unknown spiritual force, thanking it for the gifts of the world and its life. I closed my eyes, breathed in, and imagined a quiet "you're welcome" in the back of my mind.

When I stood up, I spread my arms and felt the peace around me, as well as my own sense of peace inside. When I made my way back to the main cliff, I looked upon where I had meditated. I realized that Lockegee was a temple, and that rock was its altar. At the altar, all around you was God. God was the beauty of the trees, the wind, the birds, and the peaceful silence all around. It then dawned on me that I had just experienced a spiritual confrontation; I had, in my own way, met God. As I had always met God when I admired the beauty from the top of Lockegee, or from an overlook on the Sheltowee Trace, or from the shores of South Carolina and Florida, or from the high, rocky beaches of Northern Maine. All of the natural beauty surrounding us all the time is the very presence of God. And places like Lockegee were altars on which people could personally spend time in the presence of this spiritual force.

As I drove back down the road to go home, I took that memory as a token of this spiritual experience, and promised to sit down and write about it. And read it later, to remember.

There is no right or wrong belief to take, there is no right or wrong church or religion, and there is no heaven or hell. There is here, and now. The beauty of the Earth is our gift to enjoy and to treasure. Rather than build points for an imagined afterlife after one dies, the people of this planet should stop for a second and look around them. There is heaven all over the Earth. It's our job to enjoy it, recognize it, and thank the forces yet unknown to us for giving us such bountiful riches of nature.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Lonesome Death of George Tiller- Preface and Excerpt

I've started a short story project, and that project has since expanded into a novella. It's nowhere near complete, and could become a novel by the time I'm all the way through.

The name of the project is "The Lonesome Death of George Tiller," and is based upon true events that have been documented in various media outlets. You may recognize the name; George Tiller was the Kansas abortion doctor who was shot to death in his church by a man named Scott Roeder.

I didn't fully realize the significance of both Tiller's death, the subsequent closing of his clinic, and the actual shooting until I did my own research on the case. I've found that Tiller was at the literal end of the line for women all over the world seeking late-term abortions. I've also learned that Scott Roeder, the alleged murderer, was reportedly involved in several extreme anti-government, anti-minority, violent groups like the Montana Freemen and the Army of God. He was also a tax protester, and once proudly declared himself a sovereign citizen on his license plate.

More than that, it's been speculated via some very fishy behavior that Roeder was also a member of Operation Rescue. The reason this is so significant is because Operation Rescue's leadership split int two groups; one group, Operation Save America, maintained Rescue's original location in California, and Operation Rescue kept their original name and moved to Kansas. You may ask yourself at this point why they chose to do this.

Because Dr. George Tiller practiced out of Wichita. Essentially, Operation Rescue split because they wanted to go after George Tiller specifically. They wanted him out of commission. And from what it looks like so far, it's very possible Operation Rescue recruited a wild man liked Scott Roeder as a pawn to do the actual dirty deed, then leave him for the sharks (law system, media) described as a "lone gunman."

Operation Rescue's president, Troy Newman, then put on the halo for the papers after the killing and talked about what a sad day it was. And how he hopes Tiller's family will eventually come to Jesus to help cope with their loss. This is after he wrote a book with Operation Rescue Senior Policy Advisor Cheryl Sullenger about how not just abortion doctors deserve to be executed, along with all women who get abortions.

Above all, he made sure to tell the media that he had never heard of Scott Roeder, and that he was never a part of their organization. This is obviously false, as a member of their forums named "Scott Roeder" had been posting there for years about how the organization should infiltrate Tiller's church to confront him about abortion. And it looks even fishier, since Google cache has shown that Operation Rescue has been scrubbing the organization's forums of Scott Roeder and anything mentioning him.

The fishier part of Operation Rescue's involvement in the Tiller murder, as I believe they were Roeder's key financial supporters, was particularly the aid given to Roeder by Cheryl Sullenger. When her number was found in Roeder's car, she initially told police her number is freely available online, and that she had never talked to Roeder or had been contacted. Then she suddenly changed her story. Roeder had called her, but it was only to ask her when George Tiller's trial dates were.

Essentially, there are signs all over that point to Operation Rescue being complicit in the recruiting and financing of Scott Roeder to murder George Tiller. And my book aims to both point out and condemn the tactics of the extreme right-wing movement- provoking desperate terrorist attacks, and then not being held accountable for their unbridled hatred by the media and law enforcement.

Here is the preface and the first chapter for the book. I'll also preview the first chapter here.

The Lonesome Death of George Tiller
a novelette by Carl Gibson, in memory of Dr. George Tiller

What you’re about to read is based on true events. The actual names of people involved are used, and extensive research has been done on each and every person, place, event, and organization described. Additionally, all of the research I’ve conducted has been the result of other research gathered by a great deal of curious journalists, bloggers, and other investigators to whom I will give full credit in the appendix and acknowledgements section in the back.

All that being said, I should note that this is told through imagined first-person perspectives of George Tiller, Scott Roeder, (pronounced ROW-der) and Operation Rescue leaders Randall Terry and Troy Newman. While my depiction of the actual shooting comes first, the rest of this book is a timeline of the events that shaped the lives and careers of both the alleged murderer and the victim, dating back several decades. I never personally met George Tiller or Scott Roeder firsthand, so while I’d hope this would be classified as True Crime, Historical Fiction could also serve as an adequate classification. As such, I imagine quite a few people will take offense at the depictions of the radical right in this story.

While I originally undertook this project in memory of Dr. Tiller, this is also an expose of the hostile, brutal actions and extreme rhetoric that has mostly gone unchecked throughout the years by the press and by the more moderate members of the right-wing base. By the time you’re through reading this story, I hope I have incited enough animosity against the radical religious right’s ideology of hatred and violence that readers will be moved to take action.

For much too long now, law enforcement and the media has dismissed actions of the far right as isolated acts of random violence, perpetrated by lone wolves with their own personal ideologies and convictions. The mainstream media has chosen their language too carefully; violent people of color and foreign religion are called terrorists, while equally violent Christians and whites are politely deemed “gunmen.”

Most news organizations have failed to investigate beyond the surface; to find the motives for the countless acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by natural-born Americans, or to seek their financial backers. They have failed to take the heroes of the far right to task on their encouragement and praise of these cowardly acts of violence. As such, this story is just as much about finally exposing the fanatical religious right-wing terror cells in America for what they really are, as it is telling the story of a man who was senselessly murdered in cold blood, simply for doing his job.

At the beginning of each chapter, you will find another purveyor of extreme right ideology giving one of countless quotes that support or condone acts of violence and hatred in the name of the Christian religion or neoconservative politics. These quotes come from prominent voices in media, government, education, and religion alike. All these quotes speak not of the true Christian values of love, tolerance, and equality, nor do they speak of the core American values of unity, democracy, and individual freedom. Their words reek of closed-mindedness, anti-intellectualism, elitism, chauvinism, racism, and unadulterated, vicious hate. The more these voices are allowed to freely broadcast such repugnant and divisive words to the masses, the more we can expect sad cases like George Tiller’s to repeat themselves over and over again throughout the nation. This book is a memorial to a brave man who did what he believed was right in spite of fierce adversity, but it is also a testament to the brash and disgusting encouragement of zealous violence. I hope you, the reader, will be aware of both of the goals I had in mind while writing this book.

Chapter 1- Sunday, May 31, 2009, 7:32 AM
"We are engaged in a social, political, and cultural war. There's a lot of talk in America about pluralism. But the bottom line is somebody's values will prevail. And the winner gets the right to teach our children what to believe."
-Gary Bauer, American Values

The ringing alarm stops in the distance. In the cloudy realm between the land of dreams and wakefulness, George Tiller feels a hand grab his foot and shake it gently. Then he feels the wet sensation of lips on his forehead. He wakes.

“You getting up, George?” She pokes him playfully.
“Mm. Morning, Jeanne.” George Tiller yawns and sits up. As consciousness slowly returns, George’s 67 year-old back reminds him that today is Sunday. Today is his day to spend with his family, and this is also his week to hand out bulletins and collect the plates at the Reformist Lutheran Church.

Tiller liked Sundays. They were meant to enjoy one more day of leisure before returning to another grind. Truth be told, Tiller missed the hours of his Sunday afternoons that were otherwise dedicated to football in the wintertime. Major League Baseball and Golf were poor substitutes, he felt. Unlike football, they failed to quiet the foreboding that surfaces in everyone’s mind on Sunday afternoons; that of the inevitable return to the office the following morning. The kids didn’t have to worry, though. They all got to take a long vacation until late August.

Sunday was George’s day off, along with most other Americans. George was a doctor. And that was all. The nature of his medical expertise was perfectly within Kansas law, despite all of the hatred, the protests, the death threats, the bombings, and the shootings. Work was becoming more and more like a war zone, and he had hired Mike, the bodyguard, to accompany him everywhere he went. His medical profession was more stressful than most, simply for the work environment that came with it. And that went double for red states. Tiller smiled at the thought of the quiet career in dermatology he nearly chose.

George was a longtime doctor, but he was also a faithful Christian, which usually surprised most people he told. He loved sleeping in on Sundays every now and then, but he loved going to church just as much. The people there provided a warm, peaceful atmosphere that Tiller never got to truly experience in his career. And every Sunday, it revived his faith that plenty of true Christians still existed in this country. True Christians were these very people he saw most every week. True Christians regarded you as a brother in Christ. And of course, they loved their neighbor, regardless of their occupation, or how their political beliefs told them to look at certain things. Tiller was thankful for his church and their support.

George Tiller knew that true Christians didn’t detonate bombs at medical facilities that were full of innocent people; average working stiffs just trying to scrape by like everyone else. And they didn’t line up before sunrise each morning to shout curses and death threats at 15 year-old girls. True Christians most certainly wouldn’t dream of driving trucks around with blown-up pictures of bloody abortion procedures for all the world to see. Dr. Tiller couldn’t fathom why people with so much hate in their heart could call themselves Christians.

But Tiller had been practicing his field of medicine for quite a long time. He knew true Christians were hard to find these days, most especially in the endless plains of the Middle American Bible Belt. George chuckled to himself at the irony.

Then, as he approached his dresser to put on his Sunday best, George stopped chuckling when he looked at the flak jacket. It really was a silly old thing. The FBI told him he needed to wear it eleven years ago. As George knew firsthand, there were people out to kill him who didn’t like what he did. George balked at putting on the bulky vest under his clothes, but he did it every morning, because you never know.

He never liked having to put on that ridiculous, heavy thing. Maybe today, just for church, he’d leave it at home. He was ushering this morning. He wanted to look good in a suit, standing by and cracking jokes with the other ushers before the service, and feel like a normal American churchgoer just this once.

Then George looked down at his arms, and he saw the scars on each one. He remembered back when the crazy bitch shot him while he was in his car. George hated that woman, and was glad to know she was rotting in prison, where she belonged. And strangely, part of him felt the smallest bit of empathy, because nobody could be born that wicked. Tiller figured the woman had been brainwashed by one of those fanatical pro-life groups, and convinced that an act of senseless violence was what God wanted to be done. The bitch was crazy, but she was also just a victim of sad circumstance. His field of work attracted horrible people like that to his door on a daily basis.

George remembered that poor girl who worked at the abortion clinic, the Wiccan with the cat. The girl didn’t do anything wrong to anybody. And those monstrous, cowardly people went after her pet, while waving the Christian religion around as their flag. They held the poor cat down while they slit the animal’s throat, ear to ear. Then they nailed the cat to the young girl’s front door, by its paws. Just because the girl happened to worship a different god and work at an abortion clinic. Some people give Christianity a bad name. Some people are just cruel bastards. That’s the way of the world.

George Tiller sighed, and put on his flak jacket. You never know.

7:59 AM
A baby was kicking deep inside his mother’s belly, praise the Lord. Just a couple more months of feeding, and the little tyke would be kicking his way into a glorious, bright new world.

But something wasn’t right.

The little tyke felt his young mother’s legs open. A little sliver of light bathed him in an unfriendly glow. There were intruders in the womb; two massive, pointed metal things. They enveloped him completely. His tiny little beating heart wouldn’t stop pounding away. His cute little toes curled away in fear. He wanted to scream, to cry out. But nobody would hear him.

Then it was bright. It was too bright. The little tyke felt his legs get pulled through the light. Then his belly. Then his arms. He continued to be pulled outside of his mother by the pointed tools. They pulled him all the way to his neck.

Now the little tyke, the unique, precious, special little gift of life was suddenly was ripped away from his mother. He had no way to feed, to keep warm, to grow into a healthy little baby boy like the good Lord intended him to, can we say glory. The Lord might have intended the little angel to be a brave soldier, or an airline pilot, or a deacon. Maybe even the President.

But a demon in a lab coat and a treacherous little Jezebel had intended him to go in the incinerator. And the little tyke’s arms and legs kicked out in fear. He had no way to see what was happening with his head was still in his mother’s belly. With a sharp, cold piercing sensation, a drill ripped through the flesh in the back of his neck. A vacuum tube was attached to the oozing hole at the top of his spine, and the little tyke’s brains were sucked away, just like that. In one instant, the baby went from a healthy growing little boy to a bloody bundle of flesh. Tossed aside carelessly into a never-ending heap of other bloody bundles of flesh in a furnace.

The little tyke was crying out his last moments. Never given a chance to be loved by a good mother. Or the chance to know Jesus and be saved. All the little tyke knew was the pain, and the blood, and the light. He died scared, alone, and unclean.

The incinerator kicked on, the fire consumed the flesh, and all that remained of the little tyke turned into ash.

The clock changed to 8:00 and screamed its greeting into Scott Roeder’s ear as he woke in a cold sweat. He then promptly scrambled to the toilet and threw up. He wiped the tears from his face as he dry-heaved over the commode. Another one of those awful dreams. Roeder had been having more and more of those lately. And he always cried each time, say amen. Those poor, helpless little children.

How would the Good Lord, in all His infinite glory and power, allow such atrocities to happen? How could this country, a country blessed by God (say hallelujah) that Roeder had been told time and again had been founded by men filled with the Holy Spirit, not take action against such injustices?

Scott Roeder knew that wasn’t the way of the world today.

Today’s world was entangled in war; it was the holiest and most pertinent of all of the almighty campaigns of the Israelites, gimme amen. The few good people left on this planet, the true people of God, were being persecuted and oppressed by a tyrannical government and its sheep citizens. A government fully conscious of its countless injustices and crimes against humanity. Men and women today were trained, licensed, and paid to murder God’s children before they even had a chance to survive in this cold world. Roeder could never fully stomach that people had made a career out of babykilling.

Then there were the government’s institutions of manipulation and treachery which indoctrinated unholy beliefs into the minds of young adults. These places were quite literally breeding grounds for alcoholism, rampant drug abuse, and premarital sex. The government liked to call these places public universities; institutions of higher learning. These were demonic places full of Satan’s spawn that encouraged children to leave their families and hometowns to embrace a life of sin. Public schools daily taught liberal lies like socialism, global warming, and evolution to susceptible children who had yet to experience the real world on their own. And thanks to these institutions, there were, God help them, people with the audacity to stand up for these oppressors and murderers!

How did things get this bad? Where did the good old USA go wrong? Why didn’t the Lord choose righteous judges to overturn Roe v. Wade? Why didn’t the Lord stop a commie Muslim nigger from putting his hand on the Good Book and swearing the highest oath? What else was to happen, if things kept getting worse and the people chose not to repent? Judgment Day was coming swiftly to Sodom; Scott Roeder could feel it deep in his gut.

The Lord punishes sinners, say amen. The book of Revelations will be realized, and the imminent apocalypse was upon the Earth. God’s Wrath will come again for the Sodomites as it did thousands of years ago. Scott Roeder will gleefully watch the sinners suffer after his own glorious rapture. The rest were damned.

And all praise be to the Father, for today was finally the day of reckoning for this Christian soldier. God indeed had a plan for Scott Roeder, as he did for all of His children. He was going to be a martyr, just like the Lord Jesus, say glory. Except Roeder wasn’t praying for this cup to be taken from his lips. The Good Lord was giving him the ultimate chance to prove his mettle on the battlefield, on this very day, in the very House of God himself, gimme hallelujah. Scott Roeder was going to witness the worst babykiller of them all get sent to hell this morning. And he had been hand-picked by the Holy Spirit to be the man to do it. He had been waiting for this day to come for far too long now. How lucky he was to be God’s Chosen, to be a holy crusader of justice! A champion of God’s Will!

Scott Roeder grabbed his car keys, picked up his piece, stuffed it in his waistband, and headed on out the door. Glory to the Father, to the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

8:33 AM
Leaning back in his chair, the doctor sipped on his morning joe. His wife always made the best coffee every morning, bless the woman. George watered his plants as NPR chattered along in the background. Jeanne was humming to herself as she heaped two pancakes on her husband’s plate.

“It’s real sunny out today, hon. We should go on a picnic after church. Just us.”
“Perfect weather for one. Radio said it’s gonna be 78 and sunny all day.”
“So how about it?”
“Picnic? You bet.” Tiller smiled at his wife. She kissed his cheek.

George Tiller loved his home in Kansas, and he loved his wife. He especially loved her voice. She sang like a robin in Spring. A picnic sounded pretty good. He could run by the Wal-Mart and pick up some lunchmeat and some bread. Maybe a bottle of wine. Maybe he could call the kids too, see how they were doing. Tiller especially loved to dote on his grandchildren, even though the kids scolded Tiller for being too much of a spoiling grandpa at times. No matter, they would understand once they were grandparents. Doting on the youngest of the family is a part of life when you’re old.

Just a lazy Sunday in May. No big plans. A day off with his wife. Today was George’s to do as he pleased. And according to the local announcer on the radio, today was just about as good as it could get. George smiled and sat down to his pancakes and coffee. It was going to be a real good day.

9:51 AM
In a powder blue 1993 Ford Taurus with the Jesus fish on the back, Scott Roeder waits. The anticipation grows unbearably heavy, and a deep sense of willful duty sets in his stomach, say hallelujah. His senses are acutely aware, tense to release as soon as he gets the signal from inside. A Wichita police car has driven by once already, and Roeder was starting to feel as if he was attracting too much attention.

Roeder has been here before. This is where the doctor goes to church. A babykilling man's church. Funny how that works out. Can we say amen.

Scott Roeder has cased The Reformation Lutheran Church enough to know that the brick building is much too large, the sanctuary is too open, and those pews and all those people hid George Tiller too well. He’s seen pictures, has watched Tiller enough to know the man by sight, but it's too risky, firing into a crowd. The mole from the organization told Roeder that the old man is ushering today, by God, which means he'll be back in the vestibule in just a few minutes. Just beyond the front door. As soon as he gets that signal, Roeder will open the door, find Tiller alone, and open fire. This was his one shot. Error was an option that Scott Roeder couldn’t bear to live down this time.

The past few weeks have been agonizing. Minimum wage at KFC isn't enough to keep driving to Wichita all the way from the Kansas City area, say amen. Nor is it enough to keep gas in the Taurus. Or for all those drive-thru burgers or sub sandwiches he’s been living on the past few months. The seats were getting crammed to the brim with sandwich wrappers. If Scott Roeder didn't have this job, he'd starve. $10 in your wallet and a 1993 Ford Taurus don't go very far, gimme hallelujah. Certainly not the 400 miles to Wichita from Kansas City and back all those times for the trial and the proper recon.

The mole agreed helped him out, after Scott Roeder threw out the idea on the forums a couple of years ago that somebody could maybe infiltrate the church, or at least get him alone. If somebody got in Tiller’s face and questioned him and his actions, he would have no choice but to answer for his sins. It wouldn’t hurt. Roeder wasn’t convinced that enough people were fully aware of the scope of the doctor’s actions, and the potential harm of the consequences if he were allowed to continue. Roeder had warned the organization several years ago on their message boards about the doctor’s nefarious practice; if somebody didn’t stop Tiller’s hands soon, judgment day was coming for all of us.

Roeder’s trigger finger itched. He was starting to get anxious for that signal.

Church services can vary when they start; maybe it's ten minutes early, maybe later. And there's only a two minute slot where Roeder can get to the doctor before he’s gone again. If you go in too early, it's too crowded. If you go in too late, the old man's gone and you've missed your shot. He might not even be ushering next week, or maybe for the rest of the month. That's at least another month of babykilling. 30 days of babykilling that Scott Roeder can't stop. Piles and piles of more dead children, torched by the flames of the incinerator.

The resemblance between Dr. George Tiller and Dr. Joseph Mengele was too eerily similar in Roeder’s eyes. Tiller was to babies what Mengele was to the Jews. And like Tiller, Mengele went after the children. He had recalled the stories of how Mengele would line the little boys and girls up against the wall, and if they didn’t meet a certain height, they were shot dead, right there. 6 million Jews were killed at the hands of Hitler. 60,000 unborn children of God were destroyed by George Tiller. But this wasn’t Nazi Germany; this was 2009, in the American Midwest. Roeder couldn’t go back to the concentration camp and shoot Mengele for his crimes against humanity, but he was here now, in front of Dr. Tiller’s church. And he had a gun. Just how many young lives would be spared with the death of George Tiller, the babykiller? If Scott Roeder pulled this off, he’d be a national hero for decades to come.

Scott Roeder fumbles his piece around in his hands, and wipes the beading sweat from his bald head. His bowels are heavy with uncertainty. Nausea is starting to overwhelm him. He feels his adrenal gland standing by, waiting to start flowing with power as he pumps the trigger. He waits for his signal. Not much longer, by God’s glory.

9:55 AM
The sun illuminates the stained glass on the wall. It’s a beautifully warm late spring morning, still before noon. George Tiller has just collected the last of the offering plates and walks back to the vestibule to stand quietly with the other ushers. The organ and the choir finish the offertory. Dr. Tiller remembers at the last moment, and pitches a five from his wallet into the plate. The usher next to him gives a pat on the shoulder. He looks at Jeanne in the choir loft. She sings sweetly,

Father, who the light this day
Out of darkness didst create,
Shine upon us now, we pray,
While within Thy courts we wait.
Wean us from the works of night,
Make us children of the light.

That woman always had the grandest voice. Maybe they’d just skip the picnic today and make love. Tiller grinned at the thought, and then felt his face grow red, at thinking about such things during a church service. The hairs on the back of his neck began to stand on end. George Tiller has the weirdest feeling all of a sudden. Standing there in front of the vestibule door, he shivers all the way down his spine, like when his grandmother told him when somebody was walking on his grave. It was probably just the draft from the air conditioning vent above him.

9:56 AM
Roeder's heart is beating wildly inside his chest. He feels himself radiate with the Holy Spirit. The holy moment is almost within grasp. Roeder knows to shoot the babykiller in the face. Partly because of the flak jacket, and partly because he doesn’t want the babykilling bastard to have an innocent-looking face at the funeral. Shoot Tiller in the face, drive away as fast as you can. It was almost time, praise be to God.

He'll be caught, sure, but he'll have done God's will; and Roeder will surely see his reward in heaven. He knows the drill well. Under no circumstances is he to mention Troy or Cheryl, and especially not the organization. He'll request a public defender so the organization doesn't have to risk their money and their image to get him a good trial. Roeder knows bail will be set pretty high, but Cheryl assured him that his work will be rewarded, and he won’t have to sit in the Man’s cell for a moment longer than necessary. Everything will go seamlessly, and babykillers like Tiller will all get their judgment in the end, if the organization continues to work as effectively as it has in recent years.

Scott Roeder is doing holy work. In the Lord’s own home. A church. Maybe that’s why something’s nagging at him in the back of his mind. Roeder puts that thought away. Sending a man to hell in the House of God isn’t proper, sure, but there’s just no other way to do this one. Tiller’s been on the list for too long. Roeder has been in this too long to turn around now, say amen. It’s almost time. Just a few more minutes before the signal comes. It can’t be much longer. Maybe two minutes. Roeder hopes it’s just two minutes. He doesn’t know if he can keep sitting here with his piece for much longer. The enormity and importance of the task is starting to get to him. Scott Roeder sends a silent prayer up above, thanking God for letting him be His warrior.

Right before the sense of foreboding becomes too much to bear, give glory and praise, the signal comes. Scott Roeder takes the gun out of his waistband, steps out, and shuts the door, say amen. No looking back.

Tiller is alone and unguarded. It's time to move.

9:58 AM
As Dr. George Tiller stands there, one of the only places where he isn't surrounded by a throng of people in pews, or federal marshals, or the gated community, or an armored car, or bullet-proof windows, or even Mike the bodyguard, the song in the Sanctuary ends with the sound of quiet applause.

Tiller starts to walk forward to open the vestibule door into the church when he hears the sudden sound of a door sliding open. The blow of wind from the breezeway as it tosses the tails of his jacket comes immediately afterward. The morning sun peeks through a slit coming from behind him. Tiller turns around, and sees the door is standing open. Light is coming through. There is a warm draft of May air, but Tiller feels his spine shiver again. Suddenly, a bald man whom Tiller has not seen before enters the vestibule. His face is sporting a look of determination, mixed with fear.

George Tiller has seen that face before; it was the same expression worn by the woman who shot him 16 years ago. But Tiller doesn’t have a car to protect him. The other ushers have already walked back inside. The bald man is holding a handgun.

Plans for the beautiful day have now been turned upside down, and all feelings Tiller had of peace and serenity are gone and replaced with a gut-wrenching sensation of absolute terror. Time slows nearly to a standstill. As the seconds tick by, George Tiller becomes more frightened. He isn’t even safe in church. Nothing seems to be sacred anymore. George Tiller realizes that the next four seconds of his life are about to be his last. He thinks of his grandchildren, and the impending anguish that will be felt by his family and his colleagues at the clinic. This is how it will end.

Adrenaline rushes staggeringly through Tiller’s bloodstream as he helplessly watches in slow motion; the gun in the man's hand has a barrel that's rising ever upward, until it stops in line with Tiller’s head. The flak jacket only protects his torso. As this thought crosses Tiller’s mind, his brain also processes a muzzle flash. Before the deafening boom, Tiller hears a hot thump as his head is thrown backward by an unbelievable unseen force. Searing pain has now consumed all of Tiller’s senses. His vision is going. Blood is streaking into his eyes. His heart pumps rapidly to replace the steadily ebbing flow of blood from his head. He hears a .25 caliber shell casing land softly on the carpeted vestibule floor. As George Tiller ekes out his last bleeding moments, he hears his wife scream. God hope Jeanne doesn't see him like this.

George Tiller dies alone, in a spreading puddle of hot blood on the floor of the vestibule in the Reformist Lutheran Church.

9:59 AM
The doctor slumps to the floor. Smoke rises from the barrel of the gun in Scott Roeder’s trembling hands. It is finished. A great burden rises from his shoulders. The world is now free of the babykilling hands and the ruthless, prying forceps of Dr. George Tiller

Was that really him? It had to be. The signal told him when Tiller would be alone in the vestibule. Scott Roeder's been here enough to know the man by sight. Was it that easy? He didn't even run or duck or cry out. Scott Roeder briefly wondered if Hitler’s death was as quick and anticlimactic as Tiller’s.

Damnit, there’s no time to lose. Get out of here before all those people see you.

Roeder’s blood is running hot. His adrenal gland is still pumping away. He feels his legs float to the Taurus. He watches his shaky hands put the keys in the ignition, feels his hands pull the wheel to the right, his foot now on the gas. Now it’s time for the ride home, which Roeder senses he may never see again. It’s time for the cruel world to mire him deep in its oppressive, demonic, bureaucratic system. But he is satisfied. The babykiller is dead. He’s going to be a hero to the world for the rest of time, praise God. He’ll be forever remembered as a crusader, ever true to the cause of Life. The world is safe from judgment for another day.

Thy will be done. Amen.