I am preparing this article from a rather intimate point of view; by including my Op Ed News readers in a local conversation in my home town. It is appropriate to bring others into this local conversation, as it has national and global implications. Since we are speaking as friends engaged in conversation in this article, as the Author, I will introduce myself. I'm Michael Richards. Some readers will be familiar with my writing, as I contribute to Op Ed News on a fairly regular basis. Op Ed news is a bastion of free speech in a nation that is ruled with fear and mis-information.
There is often a common thread that weaves through the various articles that I write that are published by Op Ed News; I write about sustainable economics, effective citizen governance, and non-violent conflict resolution as an alternative to the wanton waste of war. This article is about bully behavior in the school yard, in the board room, on campus, and on the global battlefield. In this article I connect the dots of how bully behavior damages many segments of society.
My home town is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We have a population of about 125,000 citizens here. We have about a dozen town bosses that think they have a divine entitlement to run the city as they see fit. That is also bully behavior. As long as I write about issues as they relate to the national or international scene, my point of view is seen as alternative to the mainstream norm, but expressing my status quo challenging point of view is usually considered with Midwest courtesy and tolerance. As soon as I speak or write about these very same issues as they relate to the local economy and political gaming in my own home town, I am met with belligerent resistance and disdain from the tight knit local power structure. Unfortunately, the local power structure is dominated by bully behavior. They apply the Golden Rule here. Those with the big bucks dominate local government... -You know, the old 1% -- 99% rule. The bullies always attempt to bring me to the common state of citizen silence, complacency and conformity. I do not stand down in the face of bully behavior.
Speaking truth to power seems to be a bit more palatable, as long as that power is generalized, far away power. When I turn my focus to the specific actions of the local power structure, there is a personal price to pay; the local social hierarchy does all they can to marginalize me and at times engage in outright attack or intimidation to silence my voice of local dissent. We have bullies at every level of power in the USA. Bully bankers want private profit and demand that citizens pay the cost. The biggest bullies on the block are members of the corporate war making cartel.
As one example of this local circumstance, when I was interviewed on a state wide radio talk show based in our State Capital of Des Moines" -before I even got back in my car to start the 120 mile drive back to Cedar Rapids, I had an irate Cedar Rapids City Council member call my cell phone and demand that I retract my statements and publicly apologize to the power bosses in my home town. My radio interview simply mapped out the local economic and political power structure and pointed out recent abuses of such power. On the radio interview, I openly invited any of the local power bosses to engage in open public debate, either in a town hall meeting or on a local news broadcast. No one in the local power structure will step forward with facts to dispute the uncomfortable truth that I had presented, they just demand my compliance and obedient silence.
Since compliance, obedience and silence is the behavioral norm of at least 99% of the citizens in Cedar Rapids, I am expected to uphold the local norm. When I continued to speak out and write about local misuse of power and public funds, one of the local power bosses contacted the President and board members of a local art and cultural district where I've served on the Board for almost ten years. The power boss demanded that I be removed from that board, or the local crew of bully bosses that control the local economy would see that no one in this town would direct funding to the art and cultural organization. When the vote came before our art and cultural district Board, I simply reminded my fellow board members that the only place where artists and writers are silenced and banished are fascist, authoritarian states. With the exception of one board member with a direct financial connection to a local power broker, my fellow board members stood up to the demand of our local bully bosses. My board colleagues unanimously voted for my extension with another 2 year term of office, -and also elected me as a board officer. With that act, my fellow board members restored my faith in our local community, and they did their part in maintaining free speech and open civil comment in an increasingly closed society in the USA.
The personal experience that I share above relates to my topic in this article; bully behavior from school playgrounds, corporate boardrooms to global battlefields. There are growing initiatives in school districts all over the U.S.A. to counter bully behavior in the classroom and on the playground. There is a total lack of social context, as this "anti-bully" movement is taking place in a nation that behaves daily as a very violent planetary bully. As a nation, we demonstrate through our ill-advised foreign policy, and then blunt force military action that violence is the "American Way" of dealing with global political and economic challenges. If adults behaved with mature methods of non-violent conflict resolution in the global community, they might have credibility with "anti-bully" initiatives in school. Adults can only really teach by example. Kids smell hypocrisy and reject BS.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa we have a close-up look at the operations of the global military/warfare economy. The problem is, almost everyone in town wants to put on blinders and refuse to look at this at all. Our town is the headquarters of Rockwell-Collins, one of the most active economic players in the global military industrial complex. Rockwell brings home the bacon to our home town from the global economic battlefield; 4.8 billion dollars in annual sales. Half of that is derived from military contracts. They provide the paychecks that keep 7,000 families with homes, cars in the garage and dinner on the table. Rockwell is by far, the largest employer in the region. Rockwell Collins is thus the sacred cow of the local belief system. All bow in reverence. No heretics are allowed to question the faith. This is the Gospel of Global Military Domination. It brings jobs to town, so it has to represent all that is Good about God, Mom, Apple Pie and everything that Makes America Great" and beyond reproach.
Rockwell Collins CEO sits on a State Economic policy council established by our Republican Governor. Rockwell does not pay a single dollar of state taxes on almost 5 billion in annual revenue. To the contrary, the Citizens of Iowa pay Rockwell Collins $14 million in annual tribute to keep the Rockwell jobs in town. Polite Iowans rarely use terms such as influence peddling or conflict of interest. Obedient taxpayers just pay the bill. Intimidation works on most people whether on the playground, the political scene, the global marketplace or on our now endless global battlefield.
I first realized just how entrenched the sacred cow status of Rockwell Collins was in our home town about ten years ago. Rockwell was the economic hero for hiring more people to pump up more war contracts. As the very first bombs dropped in the endless "War on Terror", a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women in town formed Cedar Rapids Women for Peace. They asked if I would donate use of an historic building that I own in the "art and cultural district" noted above. As a life-long advocate of non-violence and peaceful, sane economic and political alternatives, I was pleased to do so. My family living space was in the apartment above "The Peace Center". For years I heard words of protest and inquiry about the insipid evils of war, and the especially vile, constitution trashing, international law violating concept of "pre-emptive" war downstairs in The Peace Center.
When we all found out that the "War on Terror" was launched through the use of outright lies, the contempt for war and the distrust of our corporate controlled government escalated. Still, no one seemed to connect the dots back home to Rockwell military contracts. A professor at an Iowa university that is a world renowned authority on war profiteering and the economic political patronage that rages in the military-industrial complex was kind enough to travel and speak to Cedar Rapids Women for Peace. The good professor presented detailed documentation on how our nation went from a pre-war federal treasury surplus to trillions of dollars in federal deficit. He showed how a large part of war is about wealth transfer from us, to them.
Along with other massive national frauds such as the housing/financial fiasco, the military-industrial cartel was raking in trillions, and not providing any measurable improvement in the actual security of the United States; in fact a very strong argument can be made that we have seriously eroded the international respect of the USA with torture, extra-legal assassinations, massive collateral damage to person and property, and other negative consequences of this senseless, endless war. We are much less safe now. We are Bully Nation. The rest of the world had better respect our entitlement to total control as "The Only Global Superpower". If the boss speaks, the servants need to be ready to jump fast or at least get out of the way. We could use our Superpower status to model intelligent conflict resolution. That would actually improve our security.
Thousands of well intentioned, but highly misinformed U.S. soldiers have sacrificed their very life to an idealized, but never realized American Dream. We sell the empty image of democracy abroad, as U.S. Congress destroys it at home. Millions of refugees in war zones have been displaced. Hundreds of thousands on far away battlefields have been maimed or murdered by the mindless march of war. Hundreds of thousands of physically and mentally damaged US military personnel return to broken families. The cost is absolutely enormous. The only winners are the military industrial corporations that master the military economy. Whenever I mention the role of our hometown hero, Rockwell Collins in this whole sad story, no one wants to acknowledge the obvious connection. There's still a void of awareness on the local connection with Rockwell. Silence is Golden, when Gold Rules.
Rockwell-Collins is a major player in the war economy... As noted above, it is somewhat okay in this town if we protest far away-generalized issues, but bring it close to home, and a deathly pall of silence falls over the room. How dare I speak out about a local business that employs so many? I am seen as an infidel, an iconoclast of the sacred local belief system. The belief system that jobs rule all is a core tenet of the National belief system as well; we can rape the environment, carry on global military empire building with no conscience, and it is all okay, as long as the jobs are delivered. Are we so lacking in real intelligence and innovation that we could not create just as many jobs within an ecological and just economy? The brilliant engineers at Rockwell could lead the way in this economic paradigm shift with visionary engineering and innovative retooling. Instead, as a nation we still take the low and easy road, when the high road would lead to a much more vital economy, an economy that would actually be sustainable.
Childhood experience with the "Bully thing"
Since I mentioned that this article is written on a more intimate level, as a conversation among friends, I will share a bit of personal history that provides me with insight on bully behavior from the playground to the battlefield. Bullies are always insecure people. Bully behavior is not an expression of real strength. Bully behavior is rooted in deep, irrational fear. Bullies use violence and intimidation to try to force their way.