The Kansas Krusade (or Bloody, backlash, Kansas)

Kansas, Kansas. Why Kansas, I ask? I was born in Kansas. Lawrence. They have a University in Kansas. More than one! They have a really big one. KU! Home of the Jayhawks. Beat poets read there. You didn’t get Beat poets reading at Bible Belt southern universities in the 50s and 60s. But they were at KU. They have science at KU. Really, they do. They had science there in the 50s.

The last home of William Burroughs was Lawrence, Kansas. Beat poet Michael McClure, born in Kansas, wrote “The Mad Club”, which chronicled the Beat scene in Wichita, though the novel was set in Tulsa (I’ve not read it). Many in the Wichita scene met through a youth group at the UU church and were involved in segregation protests. LRY? Liberal Religious Youth? I was in LRY LSD (Lower Southern District) when I was 16 to 17 years of age, in Augusta. It had a knack for attracting uhm some different kinds of people. I had nothing to do with UU’s. I think it was about the last day of my junior year in high school someone said, “Hey, I bet you’d like LRY.” LRY? Liberal Religious Youth??? I was leary because of the Christian “Young Life”. But “Young Life” and LRY were nothing at all alike. Too bad that in 1974-1975 we were kind of left holding an empty bag, or so it seemed to a fringe person such as myself, which is what I was, one of the tassels. Plus too much tragedy. There was a lot of tragedy in the group. Way too many ghosts to leave much room for anything but mourning. Yet it was the one unique spot in Augusta at that time for teens of a certain mindset to gather together. It attracted artists and poets. Attracted, LRY as a whole, eventually too much controversy which is why it was, as an organization, ultimately dissolved and a new youth group instituted.

Ginsberg wrote the “Wichita Vortex Sutra” after a visit to Wichita in 1966. Of course, the Wichita Vortex idea, begun by the Beats when they were pre-Beat teens, was they were outlaws from Mars being held prisoner in Wichita, that at the time of the WU Homecoming game they were endowed with fabricated memories, and that nothing existed outside of Wichita which wasn’t an illusion of the Vortex. So, no, Kansas wasn’t exactly a friendly place. I’m not saying it was. But the Beat scene thrived there. Got some room there. Was at work there.

Why Kansas?

Maybe Kansas just wants a circus and the best one for the dollar is the one courtesy of the Institute for Intelligent Design, arguing Darwin in Kansas.

In the first of three daylong hearings being referred to here as a direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, a parade of Ph.D.’s testified Thursday about the flaws they saw in mainstream science’s explanation of the origins of life. It was one part biology lesson, one part political theater, and the biggest stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which posits that life’s complexity cannot be explained without a supernatural creator.

…If the board adopts the new standards, as expected, in June, Kansas would join Ohio, which took a similar step in 2002, in mandating students be taught that there is controversy over evolution. Legislators in Alabama and Georgia have introduced bills this season to allow teachers to challenge Darwin in class, and the battle over evolution is simmering on the local level in 20 states.

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The reason for all this? Make no mistake. It’s to make science=atheism=antiChristian or nonChristian which=enemies of a nation founded on Christian principles=liberals=Not a Member of God’s Kingdom.

“These people are going to obfuscate about these definitions,” complained Jack Krebs, vice president of the pro-evolution Kansas Citizens for Science, whose members filled many of the 180 auditorium seats not taken by journalists, who came from as far away as France. “They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism, so they can fight atheism.”

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Why Kansas?

What’s the matter with Kansas?

The same thing that’s been the matter with America for so many years: the culture wars. The cloud of inexhaustible right-wing outrage that hovers over so much of the country. Kansas, like many places in America, once had a tradition of progressivism and outright radicalism. Today, though, like many other places, the state’s political center just seems to move farther to the right in response to events. During the Nineties the state erupted in a sort of right-wing populist revolt, tossing out its old-school pragmatic leaders and replacing them with the most conservative Republicans available. It made national headlines when anti-abortion activists descended in massive numbers on Wichita in 1991, and it made world headlines when its State Board of Education took up the battle against evolution in 1999. Today Kansas is the sort of place where the angry, suspicious worldview typified by Fox News or the books of Ann Coulter is a common part of everyday life. So I went there to study the indignant conservative mindset up close.

The reason I say there’s something “the matter” with all this is that, in becoming more and more conservative, Kansas is voting against its own economic interests. Large parts of the state are in deep economic crisis—in many cases a crisis either brought on or worsened by the free-market policies of the Republican party—and yet the state’s voters insist on re-electing the very people who are screwing them, running up colossal majorities for George Bush, lowering taxes and privatizing and deregulating, even when these things are manifestly unhealthy for the state.

Source: Questions and Answers with Thomas Frank, author of “What’s the Matter with Kansas”

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Thomas Frank, who was a Reagan youth, calls it “The Great Backlash”:

By “backlash” I mean populist conservatism of the kind pioneered in the Sixties by George Wallace and Richard Nixon, perfected by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and crafted into an entertainment form by Fox News. Instead of selling conservative politics on economic grounds, it imagines conservatism as a revolt of the little people against a high and mighty liberal elite. Its object is to fight back against artists who dip crosses in urine, Hollywood stars who wear outrageous clothes, Ivy League journalists who slant the news, and snob judges who remove Ten Commandments monuments from the parks, and so on. The “Great Backlash” refers to the long ascendancy of this style of conservatism, ever since 1968. The “backlash mentality” refers to the culture of the movement, to the way its members view the world we live in.

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Yeah, well, ok, maybe, and so Kansas hates the pre-Beat, Beat and post-Beat Generation. Ok. Big gripes there I imagine.

Great Backlash, certainly.

Bless her itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny heart, Phyllis Schaffly wrote back in 2001,

Liberals have long realized that, if they can win the battle over what is taught in schools, they will win elections. While they claim to believe in free speech, they often have little tolerance for alternate points of view in the schools. In 1999, a popularly elected Kansas Board of Education changed its science teaching standards to allow students to make factual scientific criticisms of evolution. This created a national uproar in intellectual circles and the media and, last November, the pro-evolution forces elected their allies to the state School Board…If you are baffled as to why the liberals pursue the dogmatic teaching of evolution, a clue might be found in the recent election. Of the 13 states that allow dissent over evolution, George W. Bush won all but one and, of the 10 states that impose the strictest pro-evolution requirements, Gore won all but three.

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The Kansas Board of Education battleground.

Still? Why Kansas? I keep thinking back earlier. Maybe rightly or wrongly. Maybe totally wrongly. But I do. As in maybe too it’s some weird “battleground” legacy, as in Kansas, Bloody Kansas. The state that got away from the pro-slavers and went free. Who knows? Sure, John Brown, pro-abolition, gave the state its Bloody nick-name, executing five men at Pottawatomie Creek in retaliation for the pro-slavers’ raid on Lawrence Kansas; you hear a lot about John Brown but there was the Maria des Cygne Massacre as well, when pro-slavers from Missouri went over, took 11 free state Kansans, lined them up by a ditch and shot them down, including two brothers, one of whom survived and married one of my ancestor’s sisters.

Kansas is soldily Red. Still, it’s a battleground state. It was pre Civil War and I wonder if part of the problem with Kansas is that bloody battleground itch.

The Institute for Intelligent Design of Shawnee Mission, Kansas says they’re fighting for nothing less than free speech. Y’know, that’s because Christians have been beaten down hard. Forced into hiding in the sewers of Topeka.

Now, let me ask you? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of…a bird? Y’know, what’s the beauty of a bird? When you see a bird, what do you, as a creature of intelligent design want to go out and do, guided, in a sense, by the intelligent design of birds?

I posted before on the “Institute for Intelligent Design”. I even read through part of one of their Intelligent Design plays. I couldn’t read the whole thing. Maybe I should have. But the writings was oh so bad.

I went back today to take another look at the Institute for Intelligent Design website. And this time for some reason I took note of the illustrator they highlight on their links page, whose “art provides a conceptual illustration of a design inference based on her Maching-Living System Analogy.”

Here’s what Jody sees in the Intelligent Design of birds:

When I look around at the amazing world of birds and animals that God has created I see the creatures that have inspired many of man’s greatest achievements. The relationship between creature (life) and machine (non-life) holds many interesting similarities and differences, and much of my inspiration has come from this study. Throughout my life I have been fascinated with flight, so my works of art are an expression of the wonder and curiosity I have for both the birds and the flying machines.”

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Ok, for Jody, bird beauty has inspired what great achievements worth illustrating?

The raven becomes a black avian knight, SR-71! “No more perfect partners could be found for this vision of art. From the winged creature put here by God to the miracle plane of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, Metamorphosis VI: Blackbird pays tribute to two big, black, highly intelligent birds.”

The Bald Eagle becomes an F-15!, Jody says, ” For example, my artwork here shows a symbolic relationship between the F-15 fighter jet and a bald eagle. There is no question that the F-15 was designed. To suggest that an infinitely more complex living system like the bald eagle was not designed, but was the product of undirected random processes, is to suggest that those processes had more sophisticated design capabilities than did the engineers at McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft Corporation.”

A flacon becomes a Falconfyre!. “‘Falconfyre’ expresses that irresistible association between a flying creature and a flying machine, suggesting what is logically obvious to all: they are both the products of intelligence and design.”

And finally, a good Crusade!

Metamorphosis II: A Mighty Fortress Cold War meets George Washington’s “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace,” meets the B52 as a mighty Medieval fortress of the sky, referring to “times when kings ruled and knights defended the liberties of their kingdom.”

The Crusades! What did the Crusaders do? Right. Wahoo, and now the knights are back defending the liberties of their kingdom first in Afghanistan and then Iraq! And no doubt the same association is made with fighting the Good Fight here at home.

Which brings me back down to this. When I started writing I was thinking mainly of Jody and how Jody delights in those things of the kingdom which she sees as associated with, well, war. Undeniably, war. No pigeon-feet Orville Wright airplanes. It’s war for Jody. And then as I began writing I thought about the Beat Generation and Kansas.

There’s a very interesting paragraph at “Against the Grain”. Jody is not from Kansas. Her bio for the US Air Force Art Collection gives her as born in Ohio and places her at no time in Kansas. Still, the quote from David Quick on Wichita and the Beat Movement is an interesting one and kind of says something about the difference between Intelligent Design booster Jody, and the Beats.

David Quick, a photographer, filmmaker and WSU lecturer, stresses, “The fact that one of Wichita’s primary industries, aviation, was related to death wasn’t lost on at least some of the city’s youth. They knew they were living, symbolically, in a pit of death…Against that backdrop, McClure met another eighth-grader, Lee Streiff, at Robinson Junior High. It was Streiff who passed on the science-fiction tale of The Epic of the Martian Empire, written circa 1937 by his older brother, James. No one knew it yet, but within the epic’s cycle of stories was the germ of the Wichita Vortex, a concept that would shift shape and meaning and grow into, as Johnson puts it, ‘the story that became both a description of dire circumstances and the name of a place.'”

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Evolution? Yeah, right. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about war. The big C Crusade. The Rapturous battle. It’s about “times when kings ruled and knights defended the liberties of their kingdom”.

When you look at birds and grease spots and see everything in the language of war, and it’s a happy, positive thing, then I think you’re kind of forcing the issue there, but then that’s what it’s about. Forcing the issue.

War. That’s the bottom line. Damn war.

I search for the language
that is also yours —
almost all our language has been taxed by war

Allen Ginsberg, Wichita Vortex Sutra

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