Tuesday, July 05, 2005

ATHEISM IN NEBRASKA

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Socrates put to death for being an atheist.

An alert has been put out across the left spectrum of the web to grab a story and pass it on. In Nebraska, a slightly possible swing state, the march of the far right wing treads heavily upon the earth. They work endlessly and mindlessly to undermine the wall separating Church and State, desperately trying to conflate the two so they are one, indivisible, unfightable.

The insecurity of Christian ideologues forces them to pave over secularism so they can be comfortable in their private delusions.

This latest battle shows clearly why they are dangerous to democracy and the Constitution. From the New Nebraska Network:
Today, the Omaha World-Herald went ahead and revealed in a front-page story the name of the plaintiff in "ACLU Nebraska and John Doe v. the City of Plattsmouth," the local variant on a series of court cases nationwide challenging the constitutionality of displays of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments on public property.

They'd been itching to pull the trigger on this one for some time, getting into quite the verbal and legal battle with the ACLU over their planned revealing of "John Doe's" true identity. The ACLU lawyers in the case claim to have faced incredible harassment from the public themselves and wanted to shield their client from such pressures, including potential death threats.

After the World-Herald's uncovering the identity of "John Doe", the ACLU sought a court injunction to prevent them from publishing this information, but the effort failed. Ever since, the ACLU has been a frequent target of pithy editorial comments for their supposedly hypocritical attempt to impugn the rights of a free press by fulfilling their duty as lawyers protecting their client.

At the time, the World-Herald promised they only wanted to serve the public interest - not endanger anyone - while questioning the ethics of anonymous lawsuits that seek to influence public policy. Well, obviously, as evidenced by today's story, it serves the public interest not only to know the plaintiff's name but also to see his picture and that of his license plate. Otherwise, why would the World-Herald run these photos?
This is how the right operated in pre-Nazi Germany. They would target individuals and then proceed to harass and intimidate and even assassinate them. This public lynching style was done for years, earlier, in America. Cut a minority out of the herd and then make and example of them, violently and in the open.
Poor man. For someone who claims to have already "had threats to firebomb my house, to have my son beaten" this has to seem like a contract on his and his family's lives. Is this really the treatment one deserves for standing up for something they believe in against the majority? Pretty damn despicable of the World-Herald if you ask me. Shame on writer John Ferak, photographer Jeff Bundy, and the whole damn outfit for showing such a complete lack of sensitivity.

Hopefully, the good people of Plattsmouth will show more concern and compassion, keeping this battle in the courts where it belongs.

What's most pathetic about the World-Herald's running this article today, though, is actually its lead editorial which has the audacity to demand a federal shield law that protects the identity of anonymous sources in the press.

How hypocritical is that to reveal the identity (and so much more) of a man afraid for his life on the same day they demand reporters be exempted from ever being forced to reveal such things in a criminal investigation. Talk about a power trip - the World-Herald wants to be judge, jury, and executioner...above the law in every way.
The mainstream media is in full bellow...trying to protect Karl Rove from prison for sneakily outing an undercover CIA agent in an attempt at muzzling, intimidating and frightening off a Bush critic who was challenging the ruler's excuses for an illegal war.

Their inability to understand why the reporters must talk to the prosecutor and why anonymous plaintiffs in unpopular lawsuits should be protected is a deliberate trick designed to fool people. If that doesn't work then they wave the flag and yell "God Bless America."

I have something very personal in this fight. My grandfather, Edison Pettit, was born in 1889 and was named after the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison. He was born in Peru, Nebraska and went to college there and ended up teaching first at Washburn College in Kansas before going to the Yerkes Observatory (my birth place) where he met my grandmother, Hannah Bard Steele.

He left Nebraska for professional reasons, of course, but the main thing is, he became an atheist back then and this led him down the path of discovery to explore new worlds and to try to understand the mysteries of the universe without the blinkers and blindness of faith. Atheism and science go hand in hand. Even people who profess to be religious secretly hold doubts if they are true scientists.

In my own life, I have discovered various tests of scientist's ultimate faith for when I begin to discuss the origin of time/space and the paradox of impossibility of existence and the implications of what if the universe is collapsing due to increasingly deep gravitational pools and other fundamental stuff, if they wax enthusiastic with the discussion and are eager for more or to refute me, I know they can "think". If they cut this off and pretend none of this really matters, who cares? Then they are probably insecure or incurious (or bored, heh).

Socrates was forced by the Athenians to commit suicide because he asked too many questions that had a bearing on assumed religious modes. All great empires and cultures end up crushing dissidence and atheism to maintain a grip on power and to control minds and bodies so humans will willingly feed the Machine without questioning too closely what its purpose really is.

One side effect of killing off or intimidating or harassing atheists is, it kills scientific inquiry. One can see this across the Midwest as feebleminded monomental people try desperately to undermine the teaching of modern science. To keep humans separate from living things requires destroying the biological sciences and the information pouring into the astronomical world undermines the earthcentric, homosapiencentric universe and it, too, must be destroyed. Just as Catholic Spain destroyed the humanities and sciences during the 1600's reign of terror, or Galileo being forced to recant his own observations concerning the planets and the sun, truncating scientific inquiry has a downside: those who succeed end up being left in the dust, technologically. Poverty and loss of power follow close behind.

My grandfather left Nebraska and not only never came back, he seldom mentioned the place. It held no fond memories for him. He died in Tucson, his own observatory next to his bedroom. I used to live in it because when we moved him home with us, we ran out of bedrooms so I moved outside, nearby.

The Midwest complains about the loss of people. My grandfather's own town has half as many residents as in his youth and it is significantly worse off. Anyone with any gumption or talent leaves. And they don't go to some nice, Christian, intolerant, viciously patriotic place, they head for California or the big cities just like my grandfather left. And they don't come back, not even to visit, often.

Spreading this blanket of woe across the nation already is driving off people. Young scientists from abroad are rethinking the wisdom of relocating to America to study.

This is why the anonymous fight of the atheist in Nebraska is our fight, too.
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