Back in 2004, author Thomas Frank exposed his state as the hotbed of anti-elitist conservatism in his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America. Apparently Kansans didn’t heed his advice or else they all took a trip with Dorothy to Oz. Frank warned that the political movement of his state to the right- voting for a right-lurching, increasingly evangelized Republican Party that has implemented economic policies that have hurt workers and helped the rich- has hurt the poor and working-class people. Ironically, many of these same poor working class Kansans are themselves evangelicals.
In the 1890’s, Kansas was the center of leftist populism- a movement led by farmers who had suffered great losses due to recent and pervasive drought.Their livelihood collapsed, triggering low crop prices, falling land values, and mounting debt. Kansan farmers found little help in either the Republican or Democratic parties, so they joined the People’s Party. The People’s Party wanted to change the monetary system to make currency more readily available to the farmers for loans to save their homesteads. They wanted to create an income tax with a sliding scale based on earnings so that in bad times they would pay less tax. Further, they wanted to prevent foreign ownership of land which was being bought up cheaply during the drought. Finally, the farmers wanted to overhaul the election process, giving the public more control.
Were these radical ideas or simply demands of a grassroots democracy? Have these demands been addressed by Congress in the past 120 years? Or, has plutocracy been hiding nicely under the wings of American government for quite a long time? This topic needs to be further developed, but I’d like to head back to the Kansas of today- or rather yesterday.
The former senator and right-wing governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback signed into law a bill outlawing Sharia, or Islamic law in the state. Yes, you read that correctly. Kansans in 2012 are ‘worried’ that Sharia Law may engulf their state. Seriously, that’s what Kansans are worried about. A spokeswoman for the governor said that the bill “makes it clear that Kansas courts will rely exclusively on the laws of our state and our nation when deciding cases and will not consider the laws of foreign jurisdictions.”
Of course, as any child who has graduated from high school already knows that; it’s in the U.S. Constitution. Yet, apparently, Kansans want to be doubly sure that laws from foreign jurisdictions will not be valid throughout their rectangular state hiding in the wilderness.
Back in 2004, Thomas Franks warned us [and his fellow Kansans] that fundamentalist Christians had a choke-hold on the state; yesterday the governor proved that few Kansans read the book.
This Memorial Day weekend, people all across that state will feel more reassured than ever as they hang their flags in front of their homes that Muslims will not tread on them!