Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Calling All Kansans!

Know why I call this site Buttered Toast? You think: hey, that girl must really love toast, and you’d be correct in that assumption. Gluten be damned, I really think toast with butter is the perfect food. But that’s not why I refer to writing as Buttering Some Toast.

Buttering Toast is what I call it when I have a cool, hard thought that I want to warm up a little bit to see where it goes. Buttering Toast is how I refer to my ability to make sense of, to make human, the tablespoons of chilled inspiration that are otherwise only thoughts in my head. Sometimes I Butter Toast and the thought won’t soften, won’t melt into the soft pores of the page, and I just shove it around a while until all I have is a torn up slice of bread with some cold butter clumped on top. Then I say to myself, well, that was shit, and I delete it all.

Kansas, today we need to Butter Some Toast. Let’s just see where it goes, shall we?

Our tablespoon of butter is House Bill 2366, which is in its formative stages, and hopefully won’t make it to the point of amendment in the house, let alone the state senate floor, but it is a pretty nice example of how politics in Kansas operate right now.  HB 2366 prohibits (outlaws!) the use of public funds to promote sustainable development. It states:

“No public funds may be used, either directly or indirectly, to promote, support, mandate, require, order, incentivize, advocate, plan for, participate in or implement sustainable development. This prohibition on the use of public funds shall apply to: (1) Any activity by any state governmental entity or municipality.”

It was introduced by this guy:

Hey Kansas, meet Dennis Hedke. He chairs your committee on Energy and Environment. He’s a geophysicist who contracts for big oil, and Koch Industries is listed as one of the top contributors to his campaign. Representative Hedke denounces global warming as a hoax perpetrated by environmental extremists. In his book, The Audacity of Freedom, Hedke asserts that we need to permit and build as many modern, coal-fired power plants and nuclear power plants as possible in the next two decades, open the oceans to offshore drilling, open the Rocky Mountains to gas and oil exploration, stop subsidizing renewable energy, and end the absurd concept of trying to manipulate greenhouse gases. He’s closely affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, you’ve probably heard it called.  ALEC is a Koch funded think tank that relies on junk science and economic studies to convince legislators behind closed doors to allow them free access to our rivers and skies as their dumping grounds. But don’t get hung up on that, he’s here to serve you, Kansas. And he doesn’t see a problem with the fact that he contracts for big gas and oil. When asked if there wasn’t a conflict of interest in his proposition to outlaw any state or municipal funds for sustainable methods of energy production, Hedke replied "I can't see why. I didn't think about that. It really never crossed my mind.” See there, Kansas? Nothing to worry about. Oh! In addition to chairing the House Energy and Environment Committee, he also sits on the Taxation and Education Committees, so I’m sure he will do a bang up job of making sure that those same big oil corporations that are being allowed unfettered access to frack up and down our state are also being properly taxed. Oh, you betcha! And that the money is then fairly allocated to the citizens of Kansas and used to fund our public schools. One little thing, though, Hedke enjoys a tea party, and not the kind with crumpets, so we won’t be seeing any textbooks on the history of the Earth or the age of the Universe or anything that might not jive with the Bible.

The thing about the language of this bill that really hit me in the gut wasn’t the part where it makes it illegal for the State of Kansas to invest in any renewable resources. They don’t do that anyway, so it might as well say that it’s illegal for the state to invest in any gumball machines. It was the municipal ban that got me. Does that include battery powered buses? How about solar panels on public schools? Want green energy at City Hall? You could go to prison for that.

Yesterday, when this Bloomberg post exposing HB 2366 began making its rounds on the social media sites, Kansans everywhere hung our heads in shame. We muttered words like: unbelievable, embarrassing, I’m so ashamed, I gotta get out of here. I didn’t read anything with even a dose of outrage. The last two years of legislative idiocracy has beaten us down to the point of not even being surprised when we read something like this.  Seriously, you guys, you gotta read this bill. It’s really short, and you will swear it’s a joke. Except then you’ll remember this is Kansas, and it’s not a joke. Even the conservatives had to be palming their faces. You people who hate big government, how do you feel about Brownback telling your town what you can and can’t do when you build municipal structures?

How are we not outraged by this blatant disregard for our state’s resources and economic well-being? Why am I not protesting topless outside this man’s office right now? They wouldn’t put up with this shit in Vermont! Welcome to Kansas. We passed outrage miles back, just before we hit incredulity and disgust. Now we have slowed down for a tour through disbelief, then on to weariness where we will finally shrug our shoulders, sit down, and wait to die. Those who have already defected to more progressive locales watch these posts fly around the web and sing to themselves, that’s why I don’t live in Kansas anymore. I heard more than one friend yesterday proclaim: that’s it, I’m leaving.

I fell for it too, at first. That familiar feeling of shame and fear of being associated with my state’s backward politics. Then a buzzer went off in my head and it said: WRONG FUCKING ANSWER.

I’m making a u-turn back to outrage. I am not ready to sit down. I don’t want you to sit down, either. We can’t spare a single soul who would be a voice of opposition against corporatocracy taking control of our state legislature.

This is an open call to all Kansans, past and present, who ever loved this place for even a second, to come home. Not physically, of course, but you can help.  I’ll get to that, let me just put a little more butter on this toast.

Regardless of our positions on the reproductive rights of women, regardless of our positions on human rights and equal protection under the law for gays, we have to come together to vote these people out one at a time until we have a truthful representation in place at the state level. By truthful, I mean representatives who are running on the donations and votes of people who believe in their ability to lead and who give thoughtful consideration to the best interests of their constituents.

In the interest of self-preservation, in the interest of the preservation of our state’s beautiful natural resources, in the interest of reclaiming our economy... these single- issue-mother-fuckers the Koch boys financed have got to go. They’re not even smart enough to know that they’re being played by a corporation that doesn’t give a flying fuck what happens to a child, born or not. What’s that? My language? Why yes, it is offensive. I’ll apologize for that when you admit to selling out to corporate interests in exchange for getting your crazy abortions-give-you-cancer legislation through.

It won’t do a lot of good to make abortions illegal if there is no way to educate or feed children. Look deeper, please. Members of the house, this preoccupation with women’s bodies is really getting old. If I just come down there, get naked, and let you all poke at me with a stick for a while, would that satisfy you? Because I would do that if it meant you’d give some thought to preserving Kansas in a condition that my kids might be able to enjoy it.

I don’t expect the same level of outrageous commitment to get naked in Topeka from all of you. But how about this: Kansans everywhere, stand up. You there, in Florida, in Missouri, in California, stand up. You are in the land of milk and honey now. Hey, super for you, but you took your good sense and your moderate-mindedness away and now there’s just this hole that the crazies are filling in. I know you’re not coming back, but you can help.

These days, you can’t win any office if you ain’t got that do-re-mi. Oh-voh-di-oh-doh-doh!  We are going to have to buy back our prairie. Those of you who read this blog frequently can infer that there is no amount I won’t spend, no humiliation I wouldn’t endure, to reclaim my beautiful flint hills from the clutches of the Koch boys and their flying monkeys. Next election cycle, I will thoroughly research which candidates are being financed by big business, and send a couple of bucks to a challenging candidate. Even in other districts. Even if he or she doesn’t necessarily align perfectly with my views, at least I’ll know they’re in the race for the right reasons, and for the right people. Thanks to the Citizens United decision, there is no cap on the amount of money a candidate can receive from corporation, because corporations are people, too. I will never out-spend them, but I can try to out-maneuver them.

This is where you native sons and daughters come in. If we are going to overtake the dynasty that is systematically deconstructing civil rights, education and environment in our state, we need everyone who loves Kansas to weigh in. Remember what you love about this place: tall grasses, friendly faces, a genuine appreciation for a slow life. Don’t be ashamed. This is your place more than it is theirs.

And if you’re asking yourself Why? Why would I do that? Why should I try to save Kansas? Let me butter your toast for you: because my friend, Kansas right now is the very picture of small-minded government, bought and paid for by big business. And if we can save Kansas, we can save anything.

Just for good measure, here's a picture of me and a cute kid on the prairie.