The Spectacular ‘White River Red

Coming April 2 — AROUND THE COUNTY: Histories of Washington County, Arkansas

As the legend goes, by 1931 when Forrestina Magdalene (Bradley) Campbell settled in Washington County, Arkansas, she had run away from her “well-to-do” family as a teen, joined the circus, married “Big Broad Tosser” Keyes, and lost a pregnancy after falling from a trapeze. Local historian Phillip Steele described her as “a beautiful woman…with long gorgeous red hair.”

Beauty or not, her husband Keyes abandoned her when medical complications of her miscarriage cost her the ability to ever bear children. Maybe he would have left her anyway. No records of him have been found.

This was just the beginning of Forrestina’s fascinating life story which would continue into the 1970s from Head’s Ford and Springdale to the West Fork area along Highway 71 as she forged her unique path in local lore.

This article won the 2022 Washington County Historical Society’s Walter J. Lemke Award for the best article on Washington County History outside of Fayetteville and was published in the Spring issue of the WCHS quarterly journal Flashback. [This image of her appeared on the cover of Philip Steele’s booklet about her, circa 1970.]

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Skating Rinks

Roller skating took the public by storm in the years following the Civil War. Other than the cost of skates, all a person needed was a smooth surface and a modicum of courage in order to enjoy speeding along with the rush of wind through his or her hair. Fayetteville didn’t lag behind in embracing this novel sport. Crowds flocking to the rink to try their hand at this challenging new recreation must have been aware that their activities would be fodder for onlooker commentary including wiseacre sketches which made their way into the local news announcing prizes awarded for “the most graceful lady skater” or “the awkward squad.”

Fayetteville led the state in offering roller rinks to an eager public. As the sport took its various twists and turns through the years, the community met the demand with a total of (so far) twelve roller rinks. One that stands out in recent memory was the fond dream of Dayton Stratton, a visionary businessman who saw the potential of a rink to accommodate much more than roller skates. It was Stratton that put Fayetteville on the national map of live music concerts, sponsoring local performances of breakout acts like Conway Twitty, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks (later to become The Band).

Read the history of local (and state) roller rinks in the forthcoming AROUND THE COUNTY: Histories of Washington County, Arkansas.

The Tragic Trajectory of the “Freedom” Party

In political science, a reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which that person believes possessed positive characteristics absent from contemporary society.

Increasingly since the 1960s, terrified conservatives and the power brokers behind them have pursued increasingly extreme political efforts to turn back time. What terrified the people were the changes wrought by new technologies and ideas of personal liberty. Suddenly women had legal access to effective contraceptives and by 1973, to abortion. To many, even more upsetting were the ramifications of the Civil Rights Act.

What terrified the power brokers were the Baby Boomers who rejected corporatism and the war machine. Young people from all kinds of families turned to the counter-culture in its denunciation of the war in Vietnam and the draft, its embrace of psychoactive substances that expanded consciousness, and a revolutionary denial of consumer culture.

The shock and horror was met by a series of efforts meant to reclaim the past. Called everything from the Silent Majority, Tea Party, and now the so-called “Freedom” Caucus, these political mavens proclaim their ‘freedom’ to not accept progress, to hang by their fingernails clenching the coattails of a vanishing way of life.

The effort puts the nation and humanity at risk.

Fundamentally, the resistance stems from love of money coupled with extremist religion (always a useful tool). Only God knows how viruses work. God doesn’t want people to question His will. God will take care of us. Et cetera. Fear drives these knee-jerk reactions, fear of learning enough to question certain religious beliefs, fear of having to think for oneself. Fear of personal responsibility.

Fear incited by behind-the-scenes power brokers.

Take, for example, the reactionary refusal to vaccinate. Science tell us that the availability of unprotected humans gives viruses fresh grounds in which to breed. And clever viruses reproduce with slightly altered offspring (mutations) that make them more likely to succeed—more virulent, or more resistant to medicine, or less likely to be stopped by the vaccine. Sadly, many reactionaries are unaware of this because they are not well informed on the nature of viruses, or of the nature of biological entities overall.

That’s because many reactionaries resisted the lessons of science that were offered in public schools. Either underpaid, overworked teachers failed to connect with the student or, more often, the student refused to allow the information to process in his/her mind. The resistance had been long taught at home through parental dismissal of science, passed on through generations.

Yet, remarkably, the same reactionaries usually turn to science when they fall ill. Vaccine refusers end up in hospitals partaking of the latest technologies and therapies science has to offer. And it doesn’t take a virus to incite their embrace of the latest scientific-medical interventions. Or take cancer, for example. Few if any persons facing a cancer diagnosis are interested in waiting for God to heal them. They rush to embrace chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

But perhaps I overstate the point.

Reactionaries’ views on the financial world progress much faster than their views on advances in the social order. The proliferation of the extremely wealthy resonates in reactionary minds as a promise of what they might themselves gain if they play their cards right. Conditioned by clever propaganda put forth by the rich, the reactionaries wait for the ship to come in, much as a serf waited for the lord of their domain to grant a favor, perhaps by granting an extra field to plant or a new wagon in which to haul the harvest–which coincidentally largely lined the lord’s pockets, not their own.

This faith in the wealthy stems from several religious concepts, that God grants wealth to the virtuous and that people who are rich are God’s favored children. Therefore, in reactionary logic, by accepting and respecting the excessive wealth of a few, they are acknowledging God’s plan. If they’re extra good, God might also reward them with a windfall.

Never mind that the same teachings embraced by reactionaries state that wealthy men cannot expect to be accepted by God.

A darker side of this primitive thinking is the compulsion to protect those things so honored by God. If material goods of the wealthy are threatened by angry mobs, the appropriate reaction by God’s people is to kill the mobs. Hence Kyle Rittenhouse. Hence the thousands who believe young Kyle did the right thing. But this is apostasy: valuing material things over human life is a big NO in Scriptural teachings.

Another favorite mindset among reactionaries is the accumulation and embrace of multiple prejudices. Supported by twisted interpretations of Biblical bits and pieces, the religious reactionary becomes a racist, sexist hater ready to take up arms against any effort to bring them in closer, more accepting contact with people of different color, ethnicity, or gender. The actual cause of these prejudices is not religion but rather fear—fear of the unknown, the Other–as well as the urgent need to cling to what is known.

Ironically, eliminating fear is a fundamental objective of religion. Except, of course, fear of God. In theory, if a person is suitably fearful of God, and therefore religious in following God’s rules, then God will take care of everything else. This is called faith.

For many people, this narrow faith doesn’t quite get them past that man’s dark skin or that woman’s clever mind or that ‘person’ who pretends he’s a woman when he’s probably a man. Faith doesn’t provide any assistance in dealing with people who don’t have the same religious beliefs, or who speak a foreign language.

Faith has no suggestions on how to deal with sexual desires toward a person of same sex, so the default response is to call it sin and try to ignore it. But the desire never goes away and to compensate, the person in this quandary may direct his sexual frustration in other ways, such as child molestation.

Trapped in their unquestioning religious beliefs and narrow-minded view of the world, these folks hardly experience the ‘freedom’ their mantras espouse. And the power brokers don’t hesitate to play on their ignorance to enhance their financial opportunities. Not only are conservatives bound up in their tunnel vision of the world, their every effort is to restrict the freedom of others—banning books, restricting speech to avoid words they don’t like, forbidding medical care to women—there’s a long list of freedoms the Freedom Party would eliminate from American life.

WHAT THEY FEAR

Upon reading stories about people serving forty (or more) years sentences in prison for the crime of selling marijuana, one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that something is missing from the picture. People who commit rape or murder serve less time.

What was/is so terrible about selling marijuana? Especially now that multitudes of people are making lots of money selling marijuana LEGALLY.[1]

At least in the 22 states that have legalized marijuana, shouldn’t all the previous such ‘crimes’ be dismissed and their ‘criminals’ be pardoned?[2]

Why is the boot of the government still on the necks of marijuana users and traffickers?

Historically, the first notable enthusiasm for marijuana prohibition came from law enforcement.[3], [4] It was no accident that the big push to criminalize marijuana came exactly at the moment alcohol prohibition ended. It gave fresh hope for employment to all the ‘revenuers’ who’d been busy tracking down and destroying bootleg stills. After Nixon declared a war on drugs, particularly marijuana, pot users became a nest on the ground for police looking to boost their arrest numbers, hence the money they could gain for the department. It didn’t hurt that arresting a pot head meant, in many places, police pocketing whatever money the hapless victim might have had in his pocket, even if it was his week’s pay meant to cover rent.

Seizure/forfeiture proceedings also led to police profiting from taking the car in which said culprit had been driving, or if at home, the house, land, equipment on the land, as well as jewelry and other valuables in the home which could be claimed as implements of a crime and therefore suitable for forfeiture to the state. The thing about seized assets is that the victim doesn’t have to be found guilty of a crime; the assets are guilty separately, and public defenders are not appointed to defend property. If the victim, now penniless, can scrape up enough money to defend his property, he might stand a chance of having it returned to him. But in many cases, his rights regarding his property are obscured in an Orwellian maze of legal procedures designed to profit the state and the arresting police department.[5]

There has never been a calculation of the loss to individuals, families, and society resulting from these prohibition tactics—loss of employment, loss of opportunity to parent children and preserve home and wellbeing for a family (and the family’s subsequent need for welfare), disenfranchisement not only from citizenship, but also from community standing—a permanent blow against that person for getting high on marijuana instead of beer.

Jobs and money were not the only motivations for marijuana prohibition within the nation’s criminal justice system. Most state inmates are required to work at jobs within the prison system. In Arkansas, much of that labor was/is in prison farms which produce millions of dollars’ worth of crops which does not necessarily end up on prison cafeteria tables but rather is sold to profit the system.[6] Other types of prison jobs pay a minimal wages, which benefit whichever corporate employer is able to gain this work force. The growth of for-profit prisons has increased exponentially, with states giving up their prison industry for a package deal with the corporates. [7]

More to the point, the lingering extremism of marijuana prohibition has been a half-assed effort to stop the awakening of an entire generation. Amid the civil rights movement whereby former enslaved persons and their descendants might gain their rightful place in society and the growing outrage over the war in Vietnam, the Baby Boom generation came of age as if awakening from a 1950s dream where their parents and America were right in the world. Slowly, as the scales fell from their eyes, facilitated by the enlightening effects of marijuana, young people were shocked then horrified by the catalogue of wrongs unfolding on their television screens and in their city streets. Police were beating people over the head for protesting. Young men of the generation were dying by the thousands in an unwarranted ‘war’ no one authorized or understood.

Slowly, the awakening of the generation produced a new vision of a righteous society. Women’s rights, minority rights, gay rights, rights for the handicapped. Organic food and natural medicine including natural childbirth. Protection of the environment. Free sex for the pleasure of it now that women had gained the right to control their bodies. These were topics of conversation among the thousands of young people as they sat in circles passing a joint. Their awakening sent shock waves through the established culture as Boomers turned their backs on corporate jobs and material consumption to live in teepees and grow their own food (and marijuana), as they joined with minorities and war veterans to demand justice. More importantly, they didn’t keep quiet about their awakening, but took to the streets to force institutions like universities and government to hear the good news.[8]

Therein lies the slavering hatred against pot dealers/traffickers/users that has permeated American culture in the ensuing 60 years. Not only did a generation of well-fed, highly educated 1950s youth turn their backs on all their parents and grandparents held dear, they had the gall to demand those folks accept revolutionary change. Perhaps most outrageous to the older generations was the embrace of alternative spiritual belief, practices like meditation and non-violence, or the growing movement toward no adherence to religion whatsoever.

This fight is far from ending. Presidents Nixon then Reagan came to power in a backlash against this revolution. Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh recognized an opportunity to motivate their audiences through hateful rhetoric, forging a new kind of political mood that empowered religious extremists. Today, the rotten fruit of their blind self-aggrandizement is harvested almost daily in mass shootings and a population at war with itself as Republican powerbrokers use these differences like a cudgel to drive hysterical evangelical voters to the voting booth.

The misguided effort to put the genie back in the bottle has led and continues to lead to the legally-sanctioned crucifixion of entrepreneurs who dare to meet the market demand for marijuana. It is capitalism turned on its head. The cost of imprisonment in 2015 averaged an annual cost of $33,274 per inmate. Best estimates for the current marijuana prison population comes in around 40,000. A quick moment at the handy calculator shows that taxpayers of the United States are spending $1.33 billion dollars annually to punish the users and purveyors of this modest weed.[9]

Alongside the drug war and all its collateral damage has come the arming of local police forces with weapons of war and the glorification of guns. As citizen petitions slowly win some degree of sanity in nearly half our states, prisoners of this war still languish in prison cells.[10]

What ‘they’ fear is change. When will this tragedy of fear and loathing come to its rightful end?


[1] https://norml.org/laws/arkansas-penalties/

[2] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/where-is-marijuana-legal-a-guide-to-marijuana-legalization

[3] https://www.cbp.gov/about/history/did-you-know/marijuana

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/harry-anslinger-the-man-behind-the-marijuana-ban/The man behind the marijuana ban for all the wrong reasons” by Cydney Adams, November 17, 2016 / 5:45 PM / CBS News

If you look for the roots of America’s ban on cannabis, you’ll find nearly all roads lead to a man named Harry Anslinger. He was the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which laid the ground work for the modern-day DEA, and the first architect of the war on drugs.

Anslinger was appointed in 1930, just as the prohibition of alcohol was beginning to crumble (it was finally repealed in 1933), and remained in power for 32 years. Early on, he was on record essentially saying cannabis use was no big deal. He called the idea that it made people mad or violent an “absurd fallacy.”

But when Anslinger was put in charge of the FBN, he changed his position entirely.

“From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position. A war on narcotics alone — cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914 — wasn’t enough,” author Johann Hari wrote in his book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” “They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs. He needed more.” 

Consequently, Anslinger made it his mission to rid the U.S. of all drugs — including cannabis. His influence played a major role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling pot.

Fueled by a handful of 1920s newspaper stories about crazed or violent episodes after marijuana use, Anslinger first claimed that the drug could cause psychosis and eventually insanity. In a radio address, he stated young people are “slaves to this narcotic, continuing addiction until they deteriorate mentally, become insane, turn to violent crime and murder.” 

In particular, he latched on to the story of a young man named Victor Licata, who had hacked his family to death with an ax, supposedly while high on cannabis. It was discovered many years later, however, that Licata had a history of mental illness in his family, and there was no proof he ever used the drug.

The problem was, there was little scientific evidence that supported Anslinger’s claims. He contacted 30 scientists, according to Hari, and 29 told him cannabis was not a dangerous drug. But it was the theory of the single expert who agreed with him that he presented to the public — cannabis was an evil that should be banned — and the press ran with this sensationalized version.

The second component to Anslinger’s strategy was racial. He claimed that black people and Latinos were the primary users of marijuana, and it made them forget their place in the fabric of American society. He even went so far as to argue that jazz musicians were creating “Satanic” music all thanks to the influence of pot. This obsession eventually led to a sort of witch hunt against the legendary singer Billie Holiday, who struggled with heroin addiction; she lost her license to perform in New York cabarets and continued to be dogged by law enforcement until her death.

“The insanity of the racism is a thing to behold when you go into his archives,” Hari told CBS News. “He claims that cannabis promotes interracial mixing, interracial relationships.”

The word “marijuana” itself was part of this approach. What was commonly known as  cannabis until the early 1900s was instead called marihuana, a Spanish word more likely to be associated with Mexicans.

“He was able to do this because he was tapping into very deep anxieties in the culture that were not to do with drugs — and attaching them to this drug,” Hari said. Essentially, in 1930s America, it wasn’t hard to use racist rhetoric to associate the supposed harms of cannabis with minorities and immigrants. 

So as the nationwide attitude towards cannabis began to fall in line with Anslinger’s, he testified before Congress in hearings for the Marijuana Tax Act. His testimony centered around the ideas he had been pushing all along — including a provocative letter from a local newspaper editor in Colorado, saying “I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents.”

All these years later, many of the threads in Anslinger’s arguments are still present in the American conversation about legalizing marijuana. The act was passed in 1937, and the rest, they say, is history.

[5] It was not until the year 2000 that Arkansas instituted a system requiring police to record seizure of any asset including cash and vehicles, and establishing a method of tracking the distribution of those assets . See https://ij.org/report/policing-for-profit-3/?state=AR

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_farm

[7] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/062215/business-model-private-prisons.asp

[8] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/todays-protest-movements-are-as-big-as-the-1960s/613207/

The Rage Unifying Boomers and Gen Z, By Ronald Brownstein, JUNE 18, 2020 The ATLANTIC

The 1960s have achieved almost mythic status as a hinge point in American history. Both those who welcomed and those who feared the convulsive changes the decade brought can agree on one thing: Socially, culturally, and politically, the nation was a very different place when the ’60s ended than when they began.

This could be another such moment.

The ’60s watershed moments—the civil-rights campaigns in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama; Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and the anti-war March on the Pentagon; the outpouring of demonstrations following the shootings at Kent State—can seem in retrospect like towering peaks of transformative activism far beyond any contemporary experience. But history may look back on this period as a comparable transition in the nation’s politics and culture, driven primarily by the largest generation of young Americans since the Baby Boomers who flooded the streets decades ago.

Enormous differences separate the two periods. But they may ultimately prove united by the magnitude of the change they impose.

The 1960s saw the emergence of social movements around civil rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, feminism, Mexican American activism, and environmentalism, as well as the first stirrings of gay rights. The past decade has seen youth-led movements around climate change, gun control, immigration, and inequities of gender (#MeToo) and race (Black Lives Matter).

Seen as one long wave of change, modern activism “has the sweep of the ’60s,” says Todd Gitlin, a historian (and veteran) of those protest movements and a sociologist at Columbia University. And just as the 1960s triggered big changes in American attitudes on issues from premarital sex to trust in authority, the past few years have also witnessed big shifts toward greater support for gay rightsmore agreement that human activities are causing climate change; and recognition that systemic racism remains embedded in American life, a consensus that has rapidly solidified since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Young people have been at the forefront of each of these changes.

Today’s long wave of protest shares one other quality with its predecessor: It has changed popular culture and the contours of public opinion more quickly than it has public policy or the nation’s electoral landscape. Now, as then, an electoral system that favors older generations—through structural imbalances that favor rural states with older and less diverse voters—is responding slowly to calls for change from younger Americans.

And yet, just as with the Baby Boomers before them, Millennials, Gen Z, and the generation following them will eventually define the new American mainstream through their priorities and viewpoints, as over time they become a majority of the nation’s population. In that way, the huge number of people on the streets of America’s major cities this month may offer a preview of how profoundly these younger generations may reshape the country’s politics once they vote in numbers that more closely approximate their growing presence in the population overall. “This transition is inevitable,” says Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America, a group that organizes young people for progressive causes. “The question is: How quickly is it going to get here?”

The differences between Baby Boomers and today’s young people are easy enough to see. Younger generations now are far more diverse: White people made up four-fifths of the Baby Boom (defined as those born between 1946 and 1964), but represent only three-fifths of Millennials (born 1981 through 1996) and only a little more than half of Gen Z (tentatively defined as those born from 1997 through 2014).Allen Matusow, the author of The Unraveling of America, a seminal history of the country during the 1960s, noted another key difference in an email: Back then, many of the protests grew out of an assumption of abundance after two decades of the nation’s post–World War II boom; young people today face more precarious prospects. While the white, college-attending component of the ’60s generation “assumed unending growth, abundant consumption, and good jobs when they were ready to take them,” young people now face “environmental degradation, rising sea level, [and] concentrations of wealth that threaten democracy,” among other challenges, said Matusow, who is also a fellow at the Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University. Put another way: One movement was a revolution of rising expectations; the other is a struggle to gain a foothold.

And while the great social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s had clearly identified leaders who became iconic figures—King and Malcolm X for civil rights; Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Tom Hayden for the anti-war and student movements; Cesar Chavez for farmworkers; Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem for the feminist movement—today’s activism is largely leaderless, notes Kirsten John Foy, the founder of the Brooklyn-based activist group The Arc of Justice. Particularly within the Black Lives Matter network and the broader uprising against discriminatory policing, Foy says, “We have moved beyond this messianic notion of leadership, even in the black community. It has democratized the movement and it has reenergized the movement.”

In both decades, the fulcrum of change was the emergence of a vast new generation determined to question the rules and priorities that it inherited. Young people were hardly the only voices agitating for change during the 1960s, just as they are not the sole source of activism now. But in each case, the sheer bulk of the rising generation provided a critical mass for social movements.

At its peak in 1964, members of the Baby Boom represented 37 percent of America’s total population, according to Census figures provided by the demographer William Frey. Frey calculates that, at their peak in 2015, Millennials constituted a little less than one-fourth of the population. But Frey projects that, combined, Millennials and Gen Z will exceed two-fifths of the population from 2013 to 2035. They’ll fall only to slightly below that level through 2050. (Surprisingly, there were about 11 million more births during the Gen Z years than during the Millennial years.)

In the ’60s, the huge pool of baby boomers receptive to change provided the infantry for the succession of protest movements. “The rise of organized movements among previously marginalized groups was indeed contagious in these years,” wrote the historian James T. Patterson in Grand Expectations, his sweeping history of America in the first decades after World War II. The visibility and impact of the early movements—those in support of civil rights and against the war—encouraged the development of those that came later: for environmental protection and rights for women, Chicanos and farmworkers, and, finally, the gay community. Each helped clear the path for the next.

Although today’s social movements have largely been viewed as independent, even isolated, efforts, a similar progression is visible over roughly the past decade.

  • The Black Lives Matter movement coalesced in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted for shooting the African American teenager Trayvon Martin, and the movement took a huge leap forward in public consciousness following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
  • Young people brought to the country illegally by their parents—the so-called Dreamers—have kept up a steady drumbeat of protest throughout the decade to achieve, and then protect, their legal status.
  • The women’s marches against Donald Trump’s administration in January 2017 brought out massive crowds in cities across the country.
  • The #MeToo movement that grew rapidly in fall 2017 after exposés on the sexual-harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men has forced sweeping changes in Hollywood, the restaurant and fashion industries, and other institutions.
  • Students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, organized mass marches for gun control in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities in March 2018.
  • Protesters likewise turned out that June in Washington and cities across the country to oppose Trump’s family-separation policy at the southern border.

The massive nationwide demonstrations since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis have provided a kind of culmination for these disparate strands of activism. The protests have been notable for the racial diversity of their crowds. A poll released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that while young people ages 18 to 29 account for 52 percent of all adults who have protested—more than double their share of the overall population—participants closely tracked the nation’s overall racial breakdown. “All of those things are coming together in this moment,” Foy, a Pentecostal reverend, told me. “You have not just black people on the streets … You have all of diverse America on the streets.”

Despite the legendary status of the ’60s demonstrations, recent protests have likely involved more people. King’s March on Washington attracted 200,000 to 300,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963; the anti-war March on the Pentagon brought probably 50,000 to 100,000 people in October 1967. Although exact numbers aren’t available, millions of Americans may have participated in protests since Floyd’s death. In the Kaiser poll, 10 percent of American adults say they have joined in the demonstrations, a result that would translate to some 25 million people.

The women’s marches the day after Trump’s inauguration also brought out millions, but only for a single day. The ongoing Floyd protests may represent the most Americans who have protested in the streets on a sustained basis since the demonstrations that followed the killing of four anti-war protesters at Kent State University in May 1970, when about half the nation’s college campuses erupted in discontent.

Nor have the current protests shown any sign of flickering out. Foy’s group, for instance, is organizing motor caravans in 33 cities on Juneteenth to demand independent investigations into people who have died at the hands of law enforcement and call for sweeping reforms in police procedures. One distinctive element of the project is that the local groups will also be encouraging participants to register to vote.

That latter focus represents one of the biggest uncertainties about the current wave of protest. The ’60s movements were divided between those who wanted to influence elections and engage with elected leaders (an instinct strongest within much of the civil-rights movement’s leadership) and those who disdained traditional politics as unlikely to produce fundamental change (a tendency strongest in the initial years of the anti-war and student movements). “There were very few people who came out of the new left who were ready to plunge into electoral politics,” says Gitlin, who served as president of Students for a Democratic Society during the ’60s and later wrote a classic history of the period, Years of Hope, Days of Rage.

Reporters following the current protests have found no shortage of local activist leaders equally suspicious of mainstream electoral organizing. One of the pivotal questions of American politics over the next decade may be how quickly, if at all, the young people now protesting in the street develop electoral clout comparable to their numbers. While the Baby Boomers changed social attitudes and popular culture relatively quickly, they did not elect one of their own as president until Bill Clinton, in 1992. In fact, with only one four-year interruption (Jimmy Carter), Republican presidents who largely positioned themselves against the cultural changes that the ’60s unleashed occupied the White House from 1968 until Clinton’s victory.

While the ’60s movements contributed to important changes in law on issues from civil rights and voting rights to the environment and decriminalizing private sexual behavior, their supporters’ failure to win subsequent presidential elections is the reason why Gitlin summarized their impact this way: They were “a great political defeat and a great cultural success. That’s how we ended up with the left marching on the English department while the right took Washington.”

The next decade could produce a similarly bifurcated outcome for Millennials, Gen Z, and the even younger (and more diverse) cohort following them. Their preferences already dominate popular culture, and their tolerance of diversity has lit the path for broader changes in social attitudes, such as public support for gay marriage.

But their electoral impact remains less defined. There’s widespread agreement among activists and observers alike that the election of Trump—a candidate who overtly defined himself in opposition to racial and cultural change—has created a sense of embattlement that’s fueled the expanding protest. “We are seeing those accomplishments, the things that people died for, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X died for, literally being stripped from us,” Foy said.

But, despite their animosity toward Trump, only about half of eligible Millennials and Gen Zers voted in 2016. And while turnout among younger voters was much higher in 2018 than in the previous midterm election, in 2014, many surveys have found only modest enthusiasm among them for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Significant numbers of younger voters say they are considering either voting for a third-party candidate or not voting at all.

The energy coursing through the current protests—as well as Trump’s decision to position himself against them—might offer Biden a new opportunity to engage younger voters who have been cool to him so far. The payoff would be enormous if he can: Frey calculates that Millennials and Gen Z will comprise almost exactly as large a share of eligible voters in November as Baby Boomers and their elders do now (just under two-fifths in each case). By 2024, that balance will tip toward the younger generations, and the gap will widen steadily after that.

“Millennials are a bridge between the white-baby-boom-dominated culture of the past and the diverse America that will define the nation in the 21st century,” Frey told me. “I think these protests, made up of multiethnic Millennials and Gen Zers, are the tipping point of this shift.”

While the past decade’s social movements focus on discrete issues, all of them, as Wessel notes, are drawing on “the same frustration: We have an unequal society that benefits the few—the old, the white—over the many: the young, people of color. That is the crux of all these conversations.” Trump’s political strategy relies on mobilizing the Americans on the winning side of that contrast. Like the Baby Boomers during the 1960s, the younger generations dissatisfied with those arrangements have demonstrated, year after year, that they can fill the streets in protest. Their next test is to do what the baby boom could not: tip the outcome of national elections while they are still young.

Ronald Brownstein is a senior editor at The Atlantic and a senior political analyst for CNN.

[9] https://www.lastprisonerproject.org/cannabis-prisoner-scale

[10] https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/opinion/todaysdebate/2022/08/02/marijuana-40-years-edwin-rubis-legalize-cannabis/10100749002/

Arkansas and CRT

Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has raised the colors for her term at the helm of the ship of this state. Not that these are ‘her’ colors, per se, but rather edicts scripted for her by her bosses behind the Republican curtain. These are the same entities who put her in front of a microphone to lie for Trump as his press secretary, apparently under the promise that they would support her efforts toward future political office.

Evidence of her bought-and-paid-for status can be found in the immediate issuance of her ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public schools. The boiler-plate executive order commands, in part, that the Arkansas Department of Education:

Review the rules, regulations, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.

Sanders’ measure is put forth as enforcement of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241), which was established to ensure equal rights to everyone.

People of one color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law…

This and similar bans present three absurdities. One, the ban alleges that efforts to reduce and/or eliminate the negative impact of entrenched racism are a form of racism. Two, the ban demonstrates either an utter lack of understanding of CRT or an ingrained denial of systemic racism, either of which would be remedied by a study of CRT. The rightwing furor over CRT is a perfect example of racist thinking and reassures its racist followers that rightwing Republicans will resist any effort to encourage white people to think equitably of their darker-skinned brethren.

Critical Race Theory advances the idea that multiple aspects of American law, institutions, and social structures enshrine racist ideas. Wikipedia describes the tenets of CRT as follows:

Scholars of CRT say that race is not “biologically grounded and natural”; rather, it is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color; and that racism is not an aberration, but a normalized feature of American society. According to CRT, negative stereotypes assigned to members of minority groups benefit white people and increase racial oppression. Individuals can belong to a number of different identity groups…

Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930 – 2011), an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, writes that racial equality is ”impossible and illusory” and that racism in the U.S. is permanent. According to Bell, civil-rights legislation will not on its own bring about progress in race relations; alleged improvements or advantages to people of color “tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups,” in what Bell calls “interest convergence.” These changes do not typically affect—and at times even reinforce—racial hierarchies. This is representative of the shift in the 1970s, in Bell’s re-assessment of his earlier desegregation work as a civil rights lawyer. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s decisions that had resulted in the re-segregation of schools.

The concept of standpoint theory became particularly relevant to CRT when it was expanded to include a black feminist standpoint by Patricia Hill Collins. First introduced by feminist sociologists in the 1980s, standpoint theory holds that people in marginalized groups, who share similar experiences, can bring a collective wisdom and a unique voice to discussions on decreasing oppression. In this view, insights into racism can be uncovered by examining the nature of the U.S. legal system through the perspective of the everyday lived experiences of people of color.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tenets of CRT have spread beyond academia, and are used to deepen understanding of socio-economic issues such as “poverty, police brutality, and voting rights violations,” that are impacted by the ways in which race and racism are “understood and misunderstood” in the United States.[1]

Conservatives, including Governor Sanders’ managers, look for any advances toward greater social equity as a destructive force to their world view. Or, perhaps more to the point, greater acceptance of social equity would reduce or eliminate race as a hot button issue in driving Republican voters to the ballot box.

One conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation, recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free-speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline—such as the Promise program in Broward County, Fla., that some parents blame for the Parkland school shootings. “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed.[2]

[On the other hand,] Leading critical race theory scholars view the GOP-led measures as hijacking the national conversation about racial inequality that gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota. Some say the ways Republicans describe it are unrecognizable to them. Cheryl Harris, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on the topic, said it’s a myth that critical race theory teaches hatred of white people and is designed to perpetuate divisions in American society. Instead, she said she believes the proposals limiting how racism can be discussed in the classroom have a clear political goal: “to ensure that Republicans can win in 2022.”[3]

With all cannons on deck loaded with her preprogrammed agenda, we can be certain this is only the beginning of pushing Arkansas further into the sea floor. Ironically, argument can be made that the label ‘ideologies’ such as forbidden in the CRT ban could be assigned to religion, i.e. “the beliefs and practices of that religion [which] support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.”[4]

Oh, and the third absurdity? Critical Race Theory is not part of public school curriculum. It’s a college level subject.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory

[2] Sawchuk, Stephen. “What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Is It Under Attack?” Education Week, Ma 18, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @  https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

[3]  “Critical race theory is a flashpoint for conservatives, but what does it mean?” PBS Newshour, Nov 4, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @ https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/so-much-buzz-but-what-is-critical-race-theory

[4] https://revisesociology.com/2018/11/09/is-religion-ideological/

Arkansas Education: Part III—The Money Problem

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has announced her plan to allow parents to shift their child’s ‘education dollars’ from public schools to private or religious schools. Surely she is aware of legal reasons such an action cannot occur: diverting school money to religious schools violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which requires a separation of church and state. As a taxpayer, I am not alone in refusing to allow my tax dollars to pay for religious schooling.

Sanders makes it sound simple: Parents would take their child’s share that helps finance public schools and instead pay that amount to a private or religious school. But what an individual parent might pay toward their child’s education is a drop in the bucket compared to the money required to education a child, an approximate $10,414 for one school year. These funds come from federal taxpayers, state taxpayers, and local school district taxpayers, not an individual parent. Appropriating that $10,414 to be funneled to a private school, religious school, or homeschool is, plain and simple, a theft of public money.

Sanders promises tax cuts, but only a small portion of each child’s education cost comes from a parent’s real estate taxes.

  • Arkansas K-12 schools receive $638,279,000, or $1,289 per pupil, from the federal government, and would without question be withheld if any portion was directed to religious schools, at the least.
  • State funding, which comes from ALL Arkansas taxpayers including those without children and those who do not wish their taxes to support private or religious schools, totals $2,971,791,000 or $6,002 per pupil.
  • Local funding, which includes ALL local taxpayers not just the parents who demand a voucher program, totals $2,201,220,000 or an average of $4,445 per pupil.[1]

Sanders apparently believes that allowing parents to direct funding to schools they prefer would result in the best possible education of that child, but there is no guarantee that parents have any real comprehension of what constitutes suitable education. Arkansas is one of the most poorly educated states, meaning in general that parents are not well educated. Likewise, school districts—especially small rural districts—are often governed by school boards which are often without any college-educated members.

It’s important to note that the per capita income in Arkansas averages only $29,200. And while some Arkansas counties enjoy per capita incomes which average over $27,334 per year, in other counties that number drops to $13,103.[2] Nearly 20% of the state’s residents live in poverty. This further illustrates the vicious cycle involved:

Poverty has many causes including a lack of education and skills to bring to the work force, a family’s geographic location, a lack of community support, family structure (specifically the number of earners in a family impacts the ability to make ends meet), incarceration, and income inequality. Children in poverty experience additional problems in educational and cognitive development, health outcomes, social and emotional development and are more likely to live in poverty as adults.[3]

Further complicating the problem are teen pregnancies. The state leads the nation in teen births, 27.8 per 1,000 (2022), due largely to a lack of contraceptives and proper sex education. A 2022 study reported the need for the following policy changes:

Create mandatory statewide curriculum for medically accurate sexual education. • Provide free access to Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. • Eliminate restriction to distribution of contraceptives in School-Based Clinics. • Target communities whose birth rates are far above the norm for their groups nationally, including White and Pacific Islander teens. • Expand access and eliminate barriers to health care for Black women and girls, whose teen birth rates are higher than the state average. • Increase educational opportunities as a protective factor. • Continue access to Medicaid, WIC, and SNAP benefits as a protective factor.[4]

It’s a safe bet that the new governor will not champion sex education and better access to birth control for teens, even though this would be a strong step toward breaking into the cycle of low income, poorly educated residents unable to afford medical care. Young women with children are the most common household qualifying for financial assistance including Medicaid—90% of welfare recipients are single mothers. DHS forecasts total federal and state Medicaid funding of $9.46 billion in fiscal 2023 — up from $9.39 billion in the current fiscal 2022. Arkansas taxpayers contribute about 30% of this total.

Does Sanders propose to cut the state’s Medicaid funding? This is part of the Republican effort to reduce the budget. But Medicaid plays a major role in funding for mainstreaming students with disabilities.

In the 2017-18 school year, there were 61,553 students with disabilities aged 5-21 in Arkansas public schools or 12.9% of total student enrollment in the state. This does not include students in the Arkansas School for the Deaf, Arkansas School for the Blind, Division of Youth Services, the Department of Corrections, or the Conway Human Development Center. This is up from 55,874 students (11.7% of total student enrollment) in 2014-15.[5]

It’s no surprise that the big dream of Sanders grows thornier as bill writing progresses. Surely the state’s legal advisors will warn of the potential loss of federal dollars in state education funding if she proceeds with her plan. The best path through this tangle is to eliminate the voucher section from her education plan and instead plow all available funding into public schools where students learn, collaborate, and grow alongside their peers. It will be a tragedy for Arkansas if Sanders succeeds in dividing our youth into potentially prejudicial interest groups that will expand the current culture wars.


[1] https://educationdata.org/public-education-spending-statistics

[2] Per capita income is used to determine the average per-person income for an area and to evaluate the standard of living and quality of life of the population. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arkansas_locations_by_per_capita_income

[3] https://www.aradvocates.org/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-poverty-in-arkansas/

[4] https://www.aradvocates.org/wp-content/uploads/AACF.teen_.birth_.webfinal.9.30.2022.pdf

[5] See https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/Bureau/Document?type=pdf&source=education%2FK12/AdequacyReports/2018%2F2018-06-18&filename=SpecialEducationReport_BLR_21

War on Americans by Americans

War as a behavioral concept has become so successful, so popular in American culture that a person can choose ‘entertainment’ from a menu of current ‘war’ themed television shows: Neighborhood Wars, Customer Wars, and even a December special called “Christmas Wars.” An endless array of ‘reality’ shows and movies feature one or another war, current or historical. Before the 1970s, war movies generally portrayed actual events in American and world history, serving as a type of education on the many failings and successes of humanity.

Wars on Americans actually began with the first colonists, who began a genocide against the Native Americans. Then there were the Black people, finally freed from slavery with the Civil War but thereafter denigrated, attacked, and lynched with impunity. The War on Black Americans escalated with the Civil Rights movement 1954-1968 when Blacks dared to stand up.

Richard Nixon ushered in a new war in 1971, the War on Drugs. In itself a misnomer, the war on drugs was actually a war on Americans who used, sold, or manufactured any non-sanctioned psychoactive substance including marijuana, hashish, opium/heroin, cocaine, LSD, peyote/mescaline, and psilocybin mushrooms, among others.

The term was popularized by the media shortly after a press conference given on June 18, 1971, by President Richard Nixon—the day after publication of a special message from President Nixon to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control—during which he declared drug abuse “public enemy number one.” That message to the Congress included text about devoting more federal resources to the “prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted” but that part did not receive the same public attention as the term “war on drugs.”

The target ‘enemy’ in this war was the Baby Boom generation for whom use of marijuana had become a rite of passage, along with use of psychedelics as a spiritual experience.

The motives behind Nixon’s campaign against drugs are disputed. John Ehrlichman, who was Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under Nixon, was quoted by Dan Baum as saying in 1994:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.[1]

Nixon’s alleged strategy was successful to the extent that many of the best and brightest of the generation were harmed in this war in various ways: imprisonment alongside actual criminals (often including rape, beatings, psychological abuse), loss of employment, disenfranchisement from voting or holding public office, loss of student loans and other financial aid, and outright physical harm including death at the hands of police.

And yet despite this heavy toll on an entire generation and its successors, the drug war has failed utterly to eradicate drug use or addiction. Every 25 seconds, someone in America is arrested for drug possession. The number of Americans arrested for possession has tripled since 1980, reaching 1.3 million arrests per year in 2015. The harsher penalties led to a 1,216% increase in the state prison population for drug offenses, from 19,000 to 250,000 between 1980 and 2008.

An unexpected result of this ‘war’ on drugs was the rise of a widespread underground marketplace where illegal drugs were readily sold. To the detriment of the consumers, these black market drugs were not tested or labeled for purity, nor were buyers checked for age identification as required for alcohol, allowing sales to young teens. Further, this massively lucrative market paid no taxes.

But the least expected and most destructive result of this war on Americans was the rapid proliferation of inner city gangs which used the underground marketplace to reap enormous profits. The wealth flowing into these gangs fulfilled the American dream, allowing impoverished young entrepreneurs to sport nice clothes, new cars, and—most importantly—arsenals.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s presidency saw a significant expansion of the drug war.

In the first term of the presidency, Ronald Reagan signed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which expanded penalties towards possession of cannabis, established a federal system of mandatory minimum sentences, and established procedures for civil asset forfeiture. From 1980 to 1984, the federal annual budget of the FBI’s drug enforcement units went from 8 million to 95 million. …In 1982, Vice President George H. W. Bush and his aides began pushing for the involvement of the CIA and U.S. military in drug interdiction efforts.

…the number of arrests for all crimes had risen by 28%, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126%. The result of increased demand was the development of privatization and the for-profit prison industry. The U.S. Department of Justice, reporting on the effects of state initiatives, has stated that, from 1990 through 2000, “the increasing number of drug offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white inmates.” In addition to prison or jail, the United States provides for the deportation of many non-citizens convicted of drug offenses.

… during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan … the war on drugs [greatly expanded] a general trend towards the militarization of police. The 1981 Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act allows the U.S. military to cooperate with domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies. …This allows the U.S. military to give law enforcement agencies access to its military bases and its military equipment.[2]

In the misguided and enormously destructive American war on Americans, the harms have by far outweighed any slim benefit. A 2018 study published in the journal PNAS found that “militarized police units are more often deployed in communities with large shares of African American residents, even after controlling for local crime rates.” The study also found that “militarized policing fails to enhance officer safety or reduce local crime.”[3] The policies of prohibition and police militarization are responsible for the rampant violence inflicted by police on persons ‘suspected’ of criminal activity, most recently resulting in the January 2023 beating death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers.

The militarization of police escalated the war on Americans and was met with a more sophisticated response from street gangs and other outlaws. A 2014 ACLU report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, concluded that “American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized …” The report cites an increase in unnecessarily aggressive raids, “tactics designed for the battlefield,” and equipment such as armored personnel carriers and flashbang grenades—as well as a lack of transparency and oversight. Drug cartels and their street dealers have met the challenge, acquiring semi-automatic weapons and other advanced weaponry.

Lured by the enormous profits involved, Latin Americans tapped into the illegal drug trade by growing fields of marijuana and acres of coca plants. The U.S. response was to send military and CIA operatives to these countries to help form paramilitary forces to eradicate the drug trade. The opposite has occurred, with Mexican and Colombian cartels now said to generate a total of $18 to $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds per year. Latinos desperate to escape the escalating violence in their home countries settled into places like East Los Angeles and became subjects of white gang violence. Learning from their experience, the young male immigrants formed their own gangs. Ultimately, arrests for criminal activity resulted in deportation, and once deported, many of these men followed the blueprint by building gangs (cartels) in their home countries where they could intimidate local citizens, bribe police and elected officials, and ultimately create a reign of terror with kidnapping, blackmail, and murder that continues to drive terrified residents of those nations toward U.S. borders in an effort to find safety.

Since 2008, the U.S. Congress has supported the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) with approximately $800 million to “fund programs for narcotics interdiction, strengthening law enforcement and justice institutions and violence prevention through work with at-risk youth.” The CARSI offers equipment (vehicles and communication equipment), technical support and guidance to counter drug trade. The program also supports special units that cooperate with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Guatemala and Honduras to investigate drug cartels, share intelligence, and promote regional collaboration.[4]

Overall, the harm resulting from the War on Drugs far outweighs any supposed benefit. It has brought us to a point where aggressive policing results in regular beatings, shootings, and murders of Americans, especially Black males. It has drained the U. S. Treasury an estimated $1 trillion while drug use, abuse, and production have accelerated.[5] Currently, drug offenders form 47% of the federal prison population (2020) and 23.5% of Arkansas’ prison population (2019). It has fostered the immigration problem at our southern border.

Legalization of all drugs is the answer, and long past due. People can legally risk/ruin their lives with tobacco and alcohol, and illicit drugs must be regulated and taxed the same. Eliminating this travesty against Americans and the horrific expense of tax dollars will allow the funding of community clinics where anyone can seek help if they need it. Meanwhile, legalization eliminates the inner city police mindset of ‘war’ and moves us a step closer to ending our ‘war’ on our neighbors.   


[1] John Ehrlichman, to Dan Baum for Harper’s Magazine in 1994, about President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs, declared in 1971.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militarization_of_police

[3] Mummolo, Jonathan (2018). “Militarization fails to enhance police safety or reduce crime but may harm police reputation”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115 (37): 9181–9186.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_drug_trade_in_throughout_Latin_America

[5] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/17/the-us-has-spent-over-a-trillion-dollars-fighting-war-on-drugs.html

Sanders’ school reforms don’t address the problems

Newly installed Arkansas Governor Sanders could have picked any number of other issues more critical to the welfare of Arkansas residents than CRT. Her decision to address Critical Race Theory signals her lack of insight or, more likely, her debt to her behind-the-scenes bosses who care nothing for Arkansas citizens—with the exception of manipulating them into voting Republican.

Like her predecessors in the Arkansas state house, Sanders won office with the votes of a minority of eligible voters. Over 1.79 million Arkansans are eligible, but only 50.8% of them voted, meaning that Sanders won office with the votes of only 31.9% of eligible voters. Arkansas ranks last in both voter turnout and registration and has the highest absentee ballot rejection rate in the nation. This parallels other low rankings of the state:

  • 44th in health matters. Measures contributing to Arkansas’s low overall performance include the number of adults who have lost six or more teeth, adults without dental visits, and premature deaths from treatable causes — all measures for which Arkansas is ranked last among states. Other factors include the number of children who are overweight or obese, the number of adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs, and preventable hospitalizations for adults ages 18–64.[1]
  • 47th in education, based on factors including educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races[2]
  • 43rd in economic activity, economic health, and a state’s innovation potential[3]
  • 4th worst state to live in, with the breakdown as follows:
    • 35th – Homeownership Rate
    • 45th – % of Population in Poverty
    • 18th – Income Growth
    • 29th – % of Insured Population
    • 48th – % of Adults in Fair or Poor Health
    • 42nd – Average Weekly Work Hours[4]
  • 2nd unhappiest state based on employment, leisure activities, mental health, personal finance, personal relationships, physical health, and social policies[5]
  • 3rd highest in pornography use[6]
  • 2nd in teen pregnancy with 27.8 per 1,000 – Sex education is allowed but not required, and local districts largely sidestep the topic. Arkansas schools are not required to offer instruction on HIV or STIs. Further, sex education—in the rare instances it is offered—is hamstrung with multiple restrictions:
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum must stress abstinence.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
  • Children in foster care (2022): 4,127.  Households with grandparents responsible for grandchildren under age 18: 70,290[7]
  • 5th highest incarceration rate of all states, higher than the national rate[8]
  • Poverty rate
    • Extreme poverty 9%
    • Poverty rate 16.2%
    • Working family under 200% of poverty line 39.4%
    • Percent of jobs that are low-wage 30.1%

In a 2014 study, of the total eligible voters in the state, 46% were Republican, 38% Democrat, and 16% non-affiliated. Evangelicals comprise 61% of Republican voters, 29% of Democrat, and 11% of non-affiliated. Predictably, Republican voters are less educated, with 42% with high school or less, 34% with some college, 17% with a college degree, and 6% with post-graduate degree compared to Democratic voters with 52% high school or less, 30% some college, 9% college graduate, and 9% with post graduate degree.[9]

While Sanders states her priority is education improvement, the areas of education which she targeted in her statement are very limited. Aside from banning CRT, she has nominated Jacob Oliva to head the Department of Education. Oliva has previously served that role in Florida, where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ has been one of the guiding mantras of the DeSantis administration; the measure “contains language to prevent the ‘instruction’ or ‘discussion’ of sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels and in an ‘age-appropriate’ way. The vagueness of the law has called into question how teachers could handle teaching history or questions raised in class about sexual orientation.”[10]

Undoubtedly the most destructive education measure touted by Sanders is the voucher option for parents, which Sanders vows to enact. The National Education Association explains why vouchers are not in America’s best interests:

  • No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers. This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs.  Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.
  • Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded. The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.  

Many Arkansas parents are strongly evangelical and would prefer religion and prayer be included in their children’s education. But we’ve already been there.

  • The Supreme Court entered the evolution debate in 1968, when it ruled, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that Arkansas could not eliminate from the high school biology curriculum the teaching of “the theory that mankind descended from a lower order of animals.” Arkansas’ exclusion of that aspect of evolutionary theory, the court reasoned, was based on a preference for the account of creation in the book of Genesis and thus violated the state’s constitutional obligation of religious neutrality.

We’ve seen what can occur when religious belief usurps rational education. The Duggar family homeschooled their children in ‘devout Christian beliefs’ including oldest child Josh Duggar who, after molesting his younger sisters and their friends, is serving a twelve-year prison term for ‘receiving’ child pornography. Reports state that Jim Bob Duggar consulted ‘church elders’ who apparently did not urge him to report his son’s abuse to the authorities. Josh’s parents kept it secret until the statute of limitations had expired.

In fact, it was this nest of evangelical excess in Springdale from which sprang the Reverend Ronnie Floyd. The following is excerpted from Wikipedia’s page on Floyd:

  • A strong advocate of evangelism and discipleship, Floyd was a member of the “conservative resurgence” that retook control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1980s. In 1989 he was a candidate to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was defeated by Mike Huckabee.  …On June 10, 2014, Dr. Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s annual gathering held in Baltimore. Upon close of the meeting, he became the 61st president of the SBC, succeeding the Rev. Fred Lute. …In October, 2019, at a conference regarding care for those who have been sexually abused in Christian contexts, Rachael Denhollander referenced abusive treatment of a sexual abuse victim by Dr. Floyd and other leaders at the Executive Committee as an example of why those who are abused are reticent to report.
  • Subsequently, in May, 2021, multiple internal whistle blower reports alleged Dr. Floyd had actively sought to intimidate victims, advocates, and stall progress in the sexual abuse inquiry within the Southern Baptist Convention. …In an unprecedented move following weeks of turmoil over allegations of Floyd’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted to mandate an independent third party investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases, victims, and advocates, including an investigation into Dr. Floyd’s actions.
  • …Floyd’s leadership was marked by yet another unprecedented milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention when he and the Executive Committee trustees failed to fully comply with the directive of the Convention’s delegates when, amidst calls for his removal and a tumultuous trustee meeting, Floyd’s resistance to complete transparency and participation in the commissioned abuse task force was supported by the Executive Committee trustees.

Floyd subsequently resigned after the independent investigation revealed that Floyd’s committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with “resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility” to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued – even as the committee publicly claimed it didn’t have the authority to create such a list. A LIST OF BAPTIST MINISTERS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE!

While multiple sexual abuse scandals within churches is not the topic at hand, hardly a week passes without yet another report of sexual misdeeds by pastors, youth counselors, or other church personnel. To a disinterested bystander, it seems the frantic outrage over drag queens (who, incidentally, are rarely if ever accused of sexual misconduct) would be more appropriately directed toward religious leaders. To assume that children are ‘safer’ or more lovingly educated within the context of parochial schools is yet another example of willful ignorance. Yet Sanders, herself the child of a Baptist minister, is apparently blind to this hypocrisy.

Republicans routinely cultivate a receptive audience of voters by spotlighting hot button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, ‘woke’ culture, and religion, yet there is scant evidence that any of their radical rhetoric or legislation has any positive impact on the troubles Arkansas faces. [Based on the outraged edicts from evangelicals, a casual observer might assume that it’s drag queens abusing all these children rather than religious leaders. Strangely, no record of drag queen abuses is found.] Children still leave their school years without the ability to read or reason, without understanding of how the government works or the scientific method, without the skills necessary to negotiate life in the modern world.

Some of this results from the parents’ inadequacy in time or knowledge, a generational failing in many Arkansas households. But it can be argued that the greater failing is in Arkansas’ penchant for electing more of the same, people like Sanders, who can’t seem to grasp the actual needs of Arkansas children—not banning CRT or saying ‘gay,’ not siphoning tax dollars away from public schools, not school prayer or any of the other worthless ideas promoted by Republicans. What is needed is for government to get its foot off the neck of teachers and offer much higher pay in order to attract skilled instructors who know how to engage students in the love of learning.


[1] https://achi.net/newsroom/arkansas-ranked-44th-among-states-in-health-system-performance-scorecard/

[2] https://www.kark.com/news/state-news/arkansas-among-least-educated-states-study-says/

[3] https://www.thecentersquare.com/arkansas/report-ranks-arkansas-as-one-of-the-ten-worst-economies-in-the-u-s/article_97cf8c72-e679-11ec-8105-8753bf509325.html

[4] https://www.nwahomepage.com/news/report-arkansas-is-2022s-4th-worst-state-to-live-in/

[5] https://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/missouri-news/missouri-arkansas-rank-as-some-of-unhappiest-states-in-us/

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20160416220848/http://www.cyberpsychology.eu:80/ view.php?cisloclanku=2015120302

[7] https://spotlightonpoverty.org/states/arkansas/

[8] https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/incarceration-rates-by-state

[9] “Party affiliation among adults in Arkansas,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/state/arkansas/party-affiliation/

The Agenda of Gov. Sarah H. Sanders

Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has raised the colors for her term at the helm of the ship of this state. Not that these are ‘her’ colors, per se, but rather edicts scripted for her by her bosses behind the Republican curtain. These are the same entities who put her in front of a microphone to lie for Trump as his press secretary, apparently under the promise that they would support her efforts toward future political office.

Evidence of her bought-and-paid-for status can be found in the immediate issuance of her ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public schools. The boiler-plate executive order commands, in part, that the Arkansas Department of Education:

“Review the rules, regulations, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”

Sanders’ measure is put forth as enforcement of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241), which was established to ensure equal rights to everyone.

“People of one color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law…”

This and similar bans present two absurdities. One, the ban alleges that efforts to reduce and/or eliminate the negative impact of entrenched racism are a form of racism. Two, the ban demonstrates either an utter lack of understanding of CRT or an ingrained denial of systemic racism, either of which would be remedied by a study of CRT. The rightwing furor over CRT is a perfect example of racist thinking and reassures its racist followers that rightwing Republicans will resist any effort to encourage white people to think equitably of their darker-skinned brethren.

Critical Race Theory advances the idea that multiple aspects of American law, institutions, and social structures enshrine racist ideas. Wikipedia describes the tenets of CRT as follows:

“Scholars of CRT say that race is not “biologically grounded and natural”; rather, it is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color; and that racism is not an aberration, but a normalized feature of American society. According to CRT, negative stereotypes assigned to members of minority groups benefit white people and increase racial oppression. Individuals can belong to a number of different identity groups…

“Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930 – 2011), an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, writes that racial equality is ”impossible and illusory” and that racism in the U.S. is permanent. According to Bell, civil-rights legislation will not on its own bring about progress in race relations; alleged improvements or advantages to people of color “tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups,” in what Bell calls “interest convergence.” These changes do not typically affect—and at times even reinforce—racial hierarchies. This is representative of the shift in the 1970s, in Bell’s re-assessment of his earlier desegregation work as a civil rights lawyer. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s decisions that had resulted in the re-segregation of schools.

“The concept of standpoint theory became particularly relevant to CRT when it was expanded to include a black feminist standpoint by Patricia Hill Collins. First introduced by feminist sociologists in the 1980s, standpoint theory holds that people in marginalized groups, who share similar experiences, can bring a collective wisdom and a unique voice to discussions on decreasing oppression. In this view, insights into racism can be uncovered by examining the nature of the U.S. legal system through the perspective of the everyday lived experiences of people of color.

“According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tenets of CRT have spread beyond academia, and are used to deepen understanding of socio-economic issues such as “poverty, police brutality, and voting rights violations,” that are impacted by the ways in which race and racism are “understood and misunderstood” in the United States.[1]

Conservatives, including Governor Sanders’ managers, look for any advances toward greater social equity as a destructive force to their world view. Or, perhaps more to the point, greater acceptance of social equity would reduce or eliminate race as a hot button issue in driving Republican voters to the ballot box.

“One conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation, recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free-speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline—such as the Promise program in Broward County, Fla., that some parents blame for the Parkland school shootings. “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed.”[2]

“[On the other hand,] Leading critical race theory scholars view the GOP-led measures as hijacking the national conversation about racial inequality that gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota. Some say the ways Republicans describe it are unrecognizable to them. Cheryl Harris, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on the topic, said it’s a myth that critical race theory teaches hatred of white people and is designed to perpetuate divisions in American society. Instead, she said she believes the proposals limiting how racism can be discussed in the classroom have a clear political goal: “to ensure that Republicans can win in 2022.”[3]

Other early signals from oligarchs behind Sanders’ governorship include her push for school vouchers whereby tax dollars can be funneled into religious and private schools who can offer non-scientific theories of human origin and alternative histories while ignoring important preparation for citizenship such as debate and civics. Sanders also has plans to address the state’s shortcomings in prison space, although it is doubtful this will translate into an innovative look at ways to reduce the demand. More likely, her ‘reforms’ will mean spending more of the state’s scarce tax dollars on building more prisons in order to, as she has stated, requiring prisoners to serve out their full terms.

Speaking of tax dollars, Sanders also plans to reduce taxes with the goal of eliminating income tax. Her plan for accomplishing this pipe dream is to find ways for the state to operate more efficiently. Her campaign statement on this topic hints at the real goal:

“When I take office, we will work on responsibly phasing out the state income tax to reward work – NOT government dependency – and let you keep more of your hard-earned money in the failing Biden economy,” Sanders said in a Twitter post.

According to critics, this is simply the latest Republican iteration of their efforts to please their masters: “to wreck the state’s fiscal system so that people of inherited riches or high incomes will never again have to worry about paying much in the way of taxes to support education, health care and law enforcement — i.e. government services for the needy and the commoners, for which a few comfortable people think they should not have to pay.”[4]

With all cannons on deck loaded with her preprogrammed agenda, we can be certain this is only the beginning of pushing Arkansas further into the sea floor. Ironically, argument can be made that the label ‘ideologies’ such as forbidden in the CRT ban could be assigned to religion, i.e. “the beliefs and practices of that religion [which] support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.”[5]


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory

[2] Sawchuk, Stephen. “What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Is It Under Attack?” Education Week, Ma 18, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @  https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

[3] “Critical race theory is a flashpoint for conservatives, but what does it mean?” PBS Newshour, Nov 4, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @ https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/so-much-buzz-but-what-is-critical-race-theory

[4] https://arktimes.com/columns/ernest-dumas/2022/08/25/a-point-of-no-return-an-end-to-income-tax-in-arkansas-would-be-permanent

[5] https://revisesociology.com/2018/11/09/is-religion-ideological/

Gas, Grass & Ass: Adventures in Rural America, 1973

Seeking a self-sustaining life outside the city and a new start for her marriage, this twenty-five-year old a woman boldly embarked on proprietorship of a full-service gas station along a highway in rural Arkansas. Her hope to live and work at her own place of business soon encountered not only the end of her marriage but also the entrenched conservatism of the rural South. Joyful in recounting her experiences with an endlessly astonishing parade of human nature, Campbell portrays a unique slice of American life at a pivotal time with the fall of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the end of the Vietnam War. Buoyed by a wellspring of support and companionship, Campbell struggles to hang on to her dream of independence.

5-star review: “Gas, Grass, and Ass,” is not just a catchy title. This is a slice of life story straddling time between being a young married college grad to being a young divorcee running a gas station in very small town Arkansas/America. In that way it’s a slice of history of the time, but more so it is a slice of how much and how little has changed about how we treat each other. Assuming that because she was a single (divorced!) woman running a business on the side of the highway made her fair game for sexual advances and gossip, the “locals” decided her business success or failure, rewards and punishments. I think the writing is exceptional because if you’ve ever walked into one of these little gas stations where old men like to congregate and watch the world from their bench, you will find yourself right back in that space again. Well-worth the read.

Paperback $9.95 Amazon