Agitate, America!: The rebirth of the John Birch Society
By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary
Not often do you stumble upon one piece of information that explains a vast array of life’s baffling mysteries. Mysteries such as these from Jim Dean, by e-mail: “According to House Republicans, big oil companies raking in huge profits still deserve government subsidies. Millionaires and billionaires can’t be asked to pay their fair share in taxes. And the Wall Street banks that crashed our economy deserve our support.
“But college students trying to pay for an education and launch their careers? Republicans think raising their loan interest rates is the ‘responsible’ thing to do — so they passed a bill that would hike their rates up immediately.”
Today was one of those days. Through a shared YouTube link, I learned of the 50-year rebirth of the shady and reprehensible John Birch Society, and how it has shaped what currently eminates from Tea Partiers, evangelicals, Libertarians, big business, the gun lobby and too many conservative House Republicans.
The link was Claire Conner sharing her firsthand knowledge of the Birchers growing up, who they are and why they have such impact on our divisive political climate today (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR5tunQ8C_0).
My own connection with Birchers began (and ended) in 1963 when I was a freshman at a small fundamentalist college in New Jersey (my father’s choice for me). I was crossing campus one day with a friend when an upper-classman, a Bircher, who ordinarily wouldn’t even speak to freshman girls, ran up blurting, “Have you heard the good news?”
“No,” we said. “John Kennedy’s been shot!” he gushed, and raced off to spread the news. His glee over the death of our president told me all I needed to know about the John Birch Society.
And it is why I am not at all surprised to learn now that JBS has become what Conner calls the “ideological fuel cell” for the radical right.
Has Congress passed, or even debated, one jobs bill — our country’s No. 1 need — since Barack Obama’s been president? The fastest-growing jobs in our economy are low-paid fast food, retail, home health, child care and security jobs, seldom paying enough to cover even basic necessities like food, clothing and rent.
And you can forget unions. Instead of worker representation for better pay, wages are being depressed, benefits eliminated and hours extended without overtime pay. And yesterday, Congress cut food stamps for needy families.
All this, Conner points out, was the desired outcome of what JBS founder Robert Welch called, at the turn of the 20th centery, “healthy poverty.” It seems to be what this Little Shop of Horrors Congress has in store for America.
Conner shares her story in Wrapped in the Flag, a Personal History of America’s Radical Right, due out July 2. In it, she “serves up keen insight into the impact of extremism on one woman, her family and, if unchecked, on our country.”
Her eye-opening tale proves we’ve never been more in need of the American Anti-Corruption Act!
Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.
From the June 26-July 2, 2013, issue