The speech of Douglas Campbell: Green Party candidate for Governor of Michigan
(This was originally presented from notes and ideas. The following was written for publication after the fact. It’s an approximate reconstruction of a speech already given, not a transcript.)
Good morning. (timidly) My first name’s Douglas and I guess I’m probably an Atheist, much the same as many of the rest of you.
You’ve felt that way, haven’t you? Like it’s something to be ashamed of, maybe even be cured of. THAT ENDS TODAY.
We are here today in the nation’s capital, eight thousand strong, to stand up and be counted. To take our proper place in America and demand equal rights. To say that we are not ashamed.
My name is Douglas Campbell; I’m an Atheist, and I’m damn proud of it!
I first discovered that I am an Atheist when I was about sixteen years old. I discovered that our neighborhood church carried fire & casualty insurance on the building. I asked why The House of the Lord needed a secular insurance policy to protect it against Acts of God. The predictable response? “That’s one of life’s little mysteries which is beyond human comprehension.” Which, at the time, seemed like a reasonable answer… until I was twenty and mastered calculus.
It’s one of the greatest mysteries ever contrived, but I mastered it. (Those of you who are currently freshmen, take heart. It seems daunting now, but you will figure it out.) Suddenly, there were no more “mysteries beyond human comprehension.” no unanswerable questions – only inadequate explanations and outright lies.
I’ve been an Atheist activist. About ten years ago, I dropped out of activism, and this year, I dropped back in. I heard about an effort to remove the Ten Commandments from a city building. An effort stalled by stonewalling of elected officials unwilling to abide by the First Amendment. An effort which sounded remarkably familiar; it was precisely the same situation as ten years earlier. Much like the old joke about a reluctant girlfriend at a doubleheader baseball game asking, in the third inning of the second game, “May we go now? Isn’t this where we came in?” In ten years, there had been no progress. In fact, it seemed like there had been negative progress.
And religious freedom isn’t the only issue suffering from negative progress. Civil rights, food safety, clean air & water, energy policy, racism & redlining, the integrity of the stock market, the Peace Dividend, election reform and the right to vote and be represented, … the list goes on and on.
Two years ago, I had an epiphany on the road. Two visions became clear. First: When your elected representatives stop representing you, it’s probably a better use of your time to replace them than to persuade them. Second: Ordinary people can and should participate in public life and make a difference. Ralph Nader calls it “Deep Democracy” and suggests that every citizen allocate a hundred dollars and a hundred hours annually to affecting public life.
I decided to put these two visions to the test. Being an Atheist, I also put Article 6 of the United States Constitution to the test. I’m sure you all know the First Amendment; do you remember Article 6? “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Last year, I filed with the Bureau of Elections; last August I was nominated, and now I am the Green Party candidate for the Governor of Michigan.
I have three challengers on the ballot: A Democrat who’s Roman Catholic, but doesn’t like to say so in public or be seen in Catholic venues; a Republican, a lukewarm Protestant who supports giving tax money to religious institutions and supports the right to an abortion only when you’re on the verge of Death without one; and a U.S. Taxpayers’ candidate, an evangelical who wants to bring about One Nation Under God and strengthen the state and local militias so we’ll be prepared to repel the Rapture with armed resistance.
I am not making this up.
I am the ONLY candidate who will support religious freedom. The only candidate who understands that freedom of religion and freedom from religion are opposite sides of the same coin, that they either exist together or not at all.
If I’m elected, there won’t be any religious graffiti on State buildings or a bible at the inauguration ceremony. I’ll fight loopholes in property tax law that give away public services and vouchers that give away tax money. I will conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies at the Governor’s residence, whether or not same-sex marriages are supported by Michigan law. The Religious Reich has been pissing me off for the past twenty years; it’s about time I returned the favor.
But my campaign isn’t just about religious liberty, and religious liberty isn’t just about the Ten Commandments on State property It’s about much bigger things.
It’s about the right to privacy, to worship as you see fit – or not at all – without being punished for it. It’s about the right to work in secular employment without being fired for refusing to attend the boss’ church, and to have legal recourse when you are. It’s about the legal right to live where you want without arbitrarily being evicted or denied a lease. It’s about the right to love who you want and how you want without being harassed. It’s about the right to practice gynecology without being targeted for assassination by deranged Christians carrying out God’s Justice.
And it’s about the biggest injustice of all: War.
Right now, just a few miles from where we stand today, George Bush is beating the war drums to whip us into a frenzy for going to war against Iraq. Now it’s a fairly transparent election-season diversionary tactic, to get you to forget that the American economy’s in the worst shape it’s been since 1929, that your 401(k) has been pilfered, that the No Child Left Behind law requires your children’s school records to be turned over to military recruiters, that the military intelligence apparatus entirely failed to protect us against the biggest attack on American soil since 1865, that Bush’s military strategists are still proposing a “nuclear weapons in outer space” system which is as impotent against today’s tactics as the Maginot Line was against the Blitzkrieg, or that we’ve been at war in Afghanistan for the past year and killed more innocent bystanders than the Trade Center Towers attack without coming anywhere near the stated goal of locating and neutralizing Osama Bin-Laden’s forces.
Ask yourselves this: Do you honestly believe that Iraq would be on George Bush’s target list if Iraq was populated by white-faced Christians?
It’s time to get serious and tell George Bush “NO. Not in our name.”
Iraq is eight thousand miles away, its military strength is questionable, they don’t have the airlift or sealift capacity to project a military force into a distant theater of operations, and we maintain air superiority with daily flights in Iraq’s No-Fly Zone. It would make more sense to bomb France: We know France has nuclear weapons, the airlift and sealift capacity to deliver them, and we know they’re hostile to Americans.
The whole thing sounds pretty stupid. About as stupid, on a personal level, as marching down to Atlanta and burning down Bob Parker’s house because he has guns and doesn’t like Yankees.
Maybe that’s the ticket. We’ve been calling this war immoral from the beginning and not getting any response. Maybe we should start calling it STU-PID. I’ll bet George Bush responds to that. I’ll bet he’s been called short, ugly and stupid since he was nine years old, and I’ll bet it hits a nerve. Let’s give it a try.
And if it doesn’t work, we can always replace him in 2004. Regime change begins at home.
I’m Douglas Campbell, the next Governor of Michigan, part of the new regime. Vote Green on Tuesday. I think you’ll like the results.
The People have spoken – 47% of them, anyway – and they have chosen the Democrat. I was challenged on every issue imaginable, from abortion, the drug war, tax policy, balancing the budget deficit, poverty, universal access to health care, and unemployment, to civil rights, police brutality, the right to collective bargaining, and the raided teacher’s retirement fund, to energy and highway policies, protection of Michigan’s water, dune sand mining, and offshore crude oil drilling, to the abolition of daylight savings time. I’m happy to say that being an Atheist was not one of them.
COPYRIGHT 2002 American Atheists Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group