Monday, September 17, 2012

Nationalism and Totalitarianism (Review of Skya)‏

Review of "Japan's Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism" by Walter A. Skya. Review by Richard A. Koenigsberg

What is totalitarianism? Why did the Axis powers stick together? What did Japan have in common with Germany? This essential book articulates the ideology underlying Japanese ultra-nationalism.

According to the Japanese social theorist, Hozumi Yatsuka (1860-1912), the individual exists in society, and society within the individual. Skya explains that—in Hozumi’s view—the clash between individualism and socialism is resolved by Hozumi’s concept of g­odo seizon (literally, fused or amalgamated existence), by which he meant the merging of the individual into society. Society was composed of merged individuals; human beings fused together to create “society.”

The ideal person was one who desired assimilation into the “higher organic totality” of society. The purpose of ethics and morality, according to Hozumi, was to direct the individual toward kodoshin: submergence of the self into the social totality.

Skya explains that for Hozumi—and many other Japanese thinkers—Enlightenment thought was a threat to the Japanese ethnic state. The struggle against Western liberalism focused on hostility toward the idea of “the individual” as an entity separate from society. Hozumi stated that “the individual does not exist in isolation,” and that “it is a mistake to think that society is made up of isolated, self-supporting individuals.”

Skya says that Hozumi waged a war against Western civilization. This, essentially, was a war against the idea that it is possible for human beings to exist in a condition of separation from society. The bond between the individual and society, according to Hozumi, was rock-solid and eternal.

Minobe Tatsukichi (1873-1948) was one of the hundreds of Japanese students who flocked to German universities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and absorbed German thought. These Japanese students were influenced by theories pioneered by G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), who asserted that the state was not a contractual relationship between individuals, but was itself an “individuality, independent of and superior to all other individuals.”

Sovereignty, according to Hegel, was not the right or power of the individual or individuals, but stemmed from the state itself, an “organic unity with a personality of its own.” The state, in short, was conceived as a person or “individual organism,” and the emperor as an “organ of the state.”

Hegel’s theory easily transferred to Japanese society. Uesugi Shinkichi (1878-1929), a constitutional law scholar, also conceived of the state as an organism. In Japan, the emperor was the ultimate source of the nation’s organizational will, representing the ideal embodiment of the state organism. Obeying the emperor was not only a moral action that contributed to this “collective being as a totality,” but the highest realization of the self—of one’s “essential being.” To absorb the self into the emperor, Skya says—to become part of the emperor—was to “accomplish man’s essential being.”

One of the most important thinkers to shape religious nationalism in Japan was Kakehi Katsuhiko (1872-1961). Kakehi developed the theory of “one heart, same body,” which revolved around abandoning the self and offering one’s entire body and soul to the emperor. A true Japanese does not think of self-interest, but rather “forgets one’s own concerns and completely offers oneself to the emperor.” This was especially true for soldiers.

When one enlisted in the military, one “died and was reborn again to the armed forces under the command of the emperor.” According to Kakehi, “You give up your life, and do not think for a moment that you are what you are.” One abandoned one’s personal will in order to fulfill the will of the emperor.

In order to achieve the state of “one heart, same body,” the individual had to discard or annihilate the self. According to Kakehi, any consideration of one’s own personal needs was wrong: one had to totally submerge the self into the collectivity. When Kakehi spoke of the bad aspects of Western culture that had entered Japan, Skya says, he was referring to the evils of Western secularism and individualism. Kakehi believed that the Western focus on the value of the individual was the “greatest threat to the Japanese nation.”

What is the nature and meaning of this threat of “individualism” that pervaded Japanese political theory? I have found this same idea—that the nation is threatened by individualism—at the heart of Nazi ideology as well. Why should the idea of individual freedom be conceived as a threat to the existence of one’s nation?

Here we encounter a fundamental dynamic revolving around the idea of separation or separateness. “Individualism” for the radical nationalist is equated with the idea of separation from the nation, thus disrupting the idea of “one heart, same body.”

Totalitarianism revolves around the nation as an actual organism or body politic. Individualism or separateness represents the idea of a human being (a body or organism) that is not merged or fused with the national body. The terrifying idea is that the human body might become separated from the omnipotent body: that the human being will no longer be united with the body politic.

The totalitarian dream or fantasy, common to both Japanese ultra-nationalism and Nazism, is that all human bodies must unite to constitute one body: the omnipotent body politic. In totalitarianism, each and every human being is expected to abandon the “will to separation” (individualism) and to embrace and to subordinate the self to the “national will.”

But what becomes of the self after individual consciousness is denied? In Kakehi’s political theology, according to Skya, the individual “enters into the mystical body of the emperor once one’s own individuality is abandoned.”

Kakehi claims that subjects “cast aside their individual selves and enter into the emperor.” He asserts that all Japanese living at the present time exist inside the emperor; that all Japanese who have ever lived—from the origins of the state onward—exist within the emperor. The emperor, in other words, symbolizes an immortal body in which all Japanese bodies are contained.

Skya concludes that the “total assimilation of the individual into a collective body is the goal of all totalitarian movements,” of which Shinto ultra-nationalism was “only one variety.” I agree with this assessment. What’s more, the assimilation of the individual into the collective body is conceived as a moral imperative. The fundamental dictum of totalitarianism is: “There shall be nothing separate from the collective body.”

Those who embrace totalitarian ideals react with panic and rage to the possibility that anything could exist separately from the national body. Ultra-nationalism builds upon a symbiotic fantasy: the people and the nation are one, the leader and the nation are one, the leader and the people are one, the people are merged with one another (as if cells in a body).

The idea of separation or separateness acts to shatter the fantasy of perfect union with an omnipotent body (politic). Perfect union is achieved when the individual abandons his own will in order to internalize the will of the nation and its leaders. Hitler informed the German people, “You are nothing, your nation is everything.” The advantage of becoming “nothing” is that one can incorporate the nation into the self—thus becoming “everything.” One seeks to identity with the omnipotent body politic.

Soldiers occupy a special role in this totalitarian ideology. Kakehi singled out the armed forces, which he thought occupied a special position among the emperor's subjects in the modern Japanese state. In his "One Spirit, Same Body" address, he quoted a passage from the Gunjin Chokuyu (Imperial Rescript to the Armed Forces):

Soldiers and Sailors, We are your supreme commander-in-chief. Our relations with you will be the most intimate when We rely upon you as Our limbs and you look up to Us as your head. If the majesty and power of Our Empire be impaired, you share with Us the sorrow; if the glory of Our arms shine resplendent, we will share with you the honor.

This passage, Skya observes, emphasizes the “direct and intimate ties between the Emperor and the soldier.”

However, the relationship between leaders and led is more than “direct and intimate.” The soldiers and sailors are relied upon as “limbs,” and should look up to their commanders as their “head.” In short, soldiers and leaders of the armed forces are conceived as part of the same body. When a soldier carries out the will of his superior, he is not simply “obeying.” He can no more resist the order of his superior than an arm can resist the brain’s command.

In his Waffen SS (1990), Bernd Wegner observed that the SS saw the individual as an “integrated element of a social organism. The value of the SS-man—justification for his very existence—depended solely on the advantages he furnished the national community.” The individual was, in the eyes of the SS, only a “fragment of the body politic to which he owed his allegiance.”

As a “fragment of the body politic,” the SS-man had no alternative but to obey the body politic. Like the Japanese soldier in his relationship to the emperor, the SS-man was expected to abandon his subjective will, and to execute the “will of the Reich,” that is, to execute Hitler’s will. Himmler informed his SS that “everyone should be fully aware that our lives do not belong to us, but to the Fuehrer and Reich.”

The body of the SS-man belonged to the Reich because his own body was not separate from the body politic. This is the meaning of “obedience.” The body politic existed within the body of the SS-man, which in turn is bound to the body politic: an enormous body that cannot be resisted.

Thus, the “organic theory of the state”—a seemingly mystical ideology—has extraordinary practical consequences. The goal of the ideal self in Japan prior to the Second World War was to “absorb the self into the emperor:” to become “a part of the emperor.” Similarly, the Nazis’ ideal German citizen sought to absorb Germany into himself: to identify with Hitler.

The converse is that the citizen or soldier is compelled to absorb the nation and the leader into the self. This is what “national identification” means. The soldier is required to give over his body to the body politic. Thus, the body politic exists within the self: the larger body overwhelms the smaller, which is compelled to do the former’s bidding. The omnipotent state controls the body of the individual.

The aspiration of totalitarian ideology is to destroy the boundaries between self and society; between one’s own body and the body politic. Totalitarian ideologies seek to actualize the symbiotic fantasy of no separation.

Totalitarianism glorifies the ideal of the “community” at the expense of individuals, building upon the fantasy of a “national organism,” the survival of which is given priority over the survival of individual human beings. Hitler asserted that “the individual is transitory, the People is permanent.” When he spoke of “the People,” Hitler was referring to an abstract idea or ideal—his “national organism”—not to concrete human beings. The German nation was conceived to be an actual body that could live forever.

Japanese and German totalitarianism grew out of this mystical theory—that constitutes the foundation of modern politics: the idea of nations or bodies politic as real entities that have the capacity to live forever. Nations are conceived as omnipotent bodies that embrace and contain everything. Political violence seeks to assert the reality of these mystical entities: that which can kill and destroy, must be real.

This is the meaning of the desire to “conquer the world.” For Hitler, this meant that everyone in the world must submit to Germany (just as he and the German people had submitted to the nation). For Japanese leaders, this meant that everyone in the world was to submit to Japan and its emperor (just as Japanese citizens had been compelled to submit).

The radical nationalist seeks to “absorb into himself” the omnipotent entity with which he identifies, to become “at one” with it, to partake of its “immortality.” One is willing to abandon one’s concrete body (which is headed toward death) in the name of worshipping and submitting to an entity which, one imagines, will live eternally.

Received via email from Library of Social Science

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review of Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War (Princeton University Press)

By Richard A. Koenigsberg

World War I casts a long shadow over the twentieth century. The fear that a distant crisis could rapidly escalate into a major conflict continues to haunt contemporary international politics. This revised and expanded edition includes nine essays that analyze the outbreak of the First World War. They consider how offensive military strategies helped to trigger the Great War.

Having completed a round of research on Hitler and the Holocaust in 1989, I drifted over to an adjacent set of stacks at NYU's Bobst Library and began skimming books on an earlier episode of Western political violence, the First World War. I was astonished at what I discovered: the monumental casualties and-so difficult to fathom-the way battles were fought. For four years leaders of the "greatest nations in the world" asked young men to get out of trenches and move toward opposing trenches where they were torn apart by artillery shells and machine gun-fire.

I sought to understand the causes and meaning of this endless slaughter. Historians write about the facts of the war, which began in August 1914 and ended in November 1918. They trace the events that led up to the war, but rarely are they able to explain the perpetual slaughter.

Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War, Edited by Steven E. Miller, Sean M. Lynn-Jones, and Stephen Van Evera is perhaps the most important book ever written on the Great War because it succeeds in articulating the ideas that generated events. Though irrational and bizarre, the First World War grew out of a particular logic. Military Strategy is an edited collection that reveals the mind-set that led to war. Particularly valuable are essays by Michael Howard, "Men Against Fire," and Stephen Van Evera, "The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War."

The nations participating in the First World War included the Allied Powers (Russia, France, the British Empire, Italy and the United States), the "Central Powers" (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria), as well as many other countries. Germany moved through Belgium to attack France, expecting a quick victory, which did not occur. Soon there was a stalemate, as combatants built 500 miles of zigzagging trenches in France. Soldiers settled in on opposing lines.

Battles occurred when massive numbers of troops got out of their trench and attacked the opposing trench. Modris Eksteins describes the fundamental pattern:
The victimized crowd of attackers in No Man's Land has become one of the supreme images of this war. Attackers moved forward usually without seeking cover and were mowed down in rows, with the mechanical efficiency of a scythe, like so many blades of grass. "We were very surprised to see them walking," wrote a German machine-gunner of his experience of a British attack at the Somme. "The officers went in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing, we just had to load and reload. They went down in the hundreds. You didn't have to aim, we just fired into them."

By the time the war ended in November 1918, casualties had been staggering. Matthew White's table summarizes the results: 65 million soldiers were mobilized to fight of which 9.5 million were dead, over 21 million wounded, and nearly 8 million taken prisoner or missing. Total casualties were over 37 million: 57.7% of all forces mobilized.

The mind boggles at these statistics. What could have been at stake to justify this massive episode of slaughter? What kept the war going for so many years? Jay Winter-one of the most prominent historians of the First World War-concludes his six-part video series, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, in a tone of baffled bewilderment, summing up his reflections: "The war solved no problems. Its effects, both immediate and indirect, were either negative or disastrous. Morally subversive, economically destructive, socially degrading, confused in its course, futile in its result, it is the outstanding example in European history of meaningless conflict."

What requires explanation is the military strategy that governed the First World War. Why did Generals persist in fighting battles as they did, despite the futility of the strategies they employed? At conferences I've attended, the best people can do is say that the Generals were "stupid." Historians often ascribe the outbreak of the war, Stephen Van Evera notes, to the "blunders of a mediocre European leadership." Barbara Tuchman describes the Russian Czar as having "a mind so shallow as to be all surface," and Luigi Albertini refers to the "untrained, incapable, dull-witted Bethmann-Hollweg," the "mediocrity of all the personages" in the German government, and the "short-sighted and unenlightened" Austrians.

Of course, the scope of destruction requires an explanation that goes beyond claiming that the Generals who fought the war were shallow, dull-witted and ignorant. Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War draws our attention to an ideology that seems to have lain at the root of what occurred. This strategy, the doctrine of the "offensive at all costs," governed the thinking of First World War military leaders. It revolved around the belief that in waging war it was imperative to attack at all costs. A nation could achieve victory, according to this philosophy, only if troops had the courage and will to move forward relentlessly-to continue to attack in the face of heavy casualties.

In France, Van Evera tells us, the army became obsessed with the "virtues of the offensive," an obsession that spread to French civilians. The President of the French Republic, Clement FalliŠres, announced that "the offensive alone is suited to the temperament of French soldiers. We are determined to march straight against the enemy without hesitation." One French officer contended that the offensive "doubles the energy of the troops" and "concentrates the thoughts of the commander." British officers declared that modern war conditions had enormously "increased the value of moral quality." Mind would prevail over matter; morale would triumph over machine guns. War, General Ian Hamilton declared, is the triumph of "one will over another weaker will."

Despite the advent of the machine gun, military leaders continued to focus on the significance of the bayonet. German writer Wilhelm Balck stated (1911) that the soldier should be taught "not to shrink from the bayonet attack, but to seek it," and quotes Russian General Mikhail Dragomirov that the bayonet could not be abolished-even in the face of modern weaponry-because it was the exclusive embodiment of will power, which was the source of success both in war and everyday life.

The doctrine of the offensive at all costs, Michael Howard tells us, grew out of the nagging, fundamental problem of morale, a problem all the greater since a large part of armies would now be made up of reservists, whose moral power, it was feared, had been sapped by the enervating influence of modern life. Balck observed that the "steadily improving standards of living" tended to increase the instinct of self-preservation and "diminish the spirit of self-sacrifice." Concern about the army's morale was bound up with concern about the morale of one's nation as a whole. Contemporary life would undermine the "fanaticism and national enthusiasm" of a bygone era.

Howard suggests that it was neither the Boer War nor the American Civil War nor even the Franco-Prussian War that established the template for the First World War. Surprisingly, the 1905 Russo-Japanese war provided the model that France, Great Britain and other nations sought to emulate.

In February 1904, the Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. It took the Japanese army a year to establish themselves in the disputed province of Manchuria, capturing Port Arthur by land assault in a two-week battle involving over half a million men.

The general consensus of European observers-who followed this war closely-was that infantry assaults with bayonets were still not only possible but necessary. The Japanese had carried them out time and again, and were ultimately successful. In spite of enormous losses in these assaults (Japan suffered an estimated 85,000 casualties during the war); soldiers had broken through the enemy line against machine gun fire and other obstacles. Bodies were heaped on the ground as one wave of troops followed the next, but the attacks eventually resulted in victory.

Japanese bayonet assaults came, it was true, only at the end of a long and careful advance. A French observer described one Japanese attack:
The whole Japanese line is now lit up with the glitter of steel flashing from the scabbard. Once again officers quit shelter with ringing shouts of "Banzai!" wildly echoed by all the rank and file. Slowly, but not to be denied, they make headway, in spite of the barbed wire, mines and pitfalls, and the merciless hail of bullets. Whole units are destroyed-others take their places; the advancing wave pauses for a moment, but sweeps ever onward. Already they are within a few yards of the trenches. Then, on the Russian side, the long grey line of Siberian Fusiliers forms up in turn, and delivers one last volley before scurrying down the far side of the hill.

Japanese losses in these assaults were heavy, but they succeeded; and so, European theorists argued, such tactics would succeed again. "The Manchurian experience," one British military theorist wrote, showed over and over again that the bayonet was "in no sense an obsolete weapon. The assault is the supreme moment of the fight. From these glorious examples it may be deduced that no duty, however difficult, should be regarded as impossible by well-trained infantry of good morale and discipline."

It was the "morale and discipline" of the Japanese armed forces, Howard tells us, that all observers stressed. They were equally unanimous in stressing that these qualities characterized not only the armed forces but the entire Japanese nation. General Alexei Kuropatkin, the commander of the Russian forces, noted in his memoirs that his nation's defeat was due not to mistakes in generalship, but Russia's inferiority in "moral strength." Lacking "moral exaltation" and the "heroic impulse," Russia did not have sufficient resolution to conquer the Japanese.

The issue of national morale and will was a central concern of European leaders who studied the War. British General Sir Ian Hamilton stated that the Russo-Japanese war should cause European statesman anxiety. People seemed to forget that millions "outside the charmed circle of Western Civilization are ready to pluck the scepter from nerveless hands as soon as the old spirit is allowed to degenerate." Much as some worry today that China might become the "greatest country in the world," supplanting the United States, so European leaders at the turn of the century worried that Japan might supplant Western nations as the greatest country.

The basis of national greatness was, essentially, the spirit of self-sacrifice. Hamilton said that England still had time to "put her military house in order;" to "implant and cherish the military in the hearts of children." It would be necessary to impress upon the minds of the next generation of British boys and girls a "feeling of reverence and admiration for the patriotic spirit of their ancestors." The cult of the offensive, it would appear, represented a desire to make manifest the national will-the capacity for self-sacrifice-and therefore to demonstrate the greatness of one's nation.

In the following report, British Brigadier-General Hubert Rees describes a battle in which his own brigade was massacred as they advanced on German lines:
They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade and not a man shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine-gun and rifle fire that finally wiped them out. I saw the lines, which advanced in such admirable order melting away under fire.

Yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks, or attempted to come back. I have never seen, indeed could never have imagined such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination. The reports from the very few survivors of this marvelous advance bear out what I saw with my own eyes: that hardly a man of ours got to the German Front line.

In spite of the total failure of this attack, it is evident that General Rees regarded the destruction of his brigade in a positive light. He observed that not a man "shirked" in the face of the machine-gun and rifle fire. He was proud that even though his troops were "melting away under fire," they continued to advance "in admirable order." His men did not waver, break ranks, or attempt to retreat. The General gushed that he had never seen such a magnificent display of "gallantry, discipline and determination."

His soldiers were slaughtered and "hardly a man got to the German Front line." However, the General does not evaluate the battle in terms of success or failure. Rather, his reflections revolve around the morale and spirit demonstrated by his troops. The fact that his soldiers continued to advance despite being riddled with bullets leads General Rees to conclude that the attack had been "marvelous."

I theorize that the ideology of the offensive at all costs grew out of the desire to demonstrate the moral courage and will of one's troops, and therefore the greatness of one's nation. Such a strategy rarely resulted in breakthroughs. By virtue of attacking-even when slaughter was the result-soldiers exemplified the will to national self-sacrifice for the sake of one's nation.

Admiration for how the Japanese fought in 1905 led European leaders to adopt the offensive at all costs doctrine in an effort to demonstrate that their civilization also possessed moral fiber and greatness. The strategy of the offensive conveyed the strength of the national will: If the Japanese could so easily sacrifice the lives of young men, so too would the nations of Europe.

One may describe the First World War as a vast sacrificial competition. Leaders were willing to send young men to their deaths, and young men did not hesitate to die for their country. In the "spirit of the offensive," young men got out of trenches and ran into artillery shells and machine gun fire-demonstrating the power of the national will.

Above post originates as an email from the Library of Social Science

While the emphasis above on the Japanese precedent is interesting and probably important, it must be noted that there were many other, more indigenous precedents for relentless advances into heavy gunfire. The Highland charge as exemplified (badly) at the Battle of Culloden comes to mind, as does the Battle of Bunker Hill in America's first civil war and Pickett's Charge in America's second civil war

Monday, June 18, 2012

Letter about homosexual pedophilia which its author is now trying to retract

The author, Adam Flanders, is a well-known homosexual activist in Maine who has been convicted of molesting a 14-year-old boy and is a registered sex offender. Pic of him below:

January 13, 2007

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Adam Flanders. I am 20 years old and a current resident of Belfast, Maine. I am writing to you on behalf of my own concerns, as well as the concerns of other youth members and past members (who wish to remain anonymous) of the nonprofit organization, OUT! ... As I Want to Be located in Rockland, Maine. We wish to inform you of the negligence and abuse of OUT advisors and adult members. Let me briefly summarize the original purpose of this organization.

OUT was thc rebirth of Outright, a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning non-profit organization for youth support, affirmation, and advocacy. When Outright Portland began demanding monetary compensation for their name (copyright), we were forced to alter ours. In addition, Rockland Outright fell into a difficult financial situation after the close of the Coastal AIDS Network (CAN), our primary source of funds. In addition, after several legal disputes, Portland Outright closed and has been renewed under the name, "PRYSM " 'The remaining members of Rockland Outright formed OUT, a small group consisting of several youth members and a few adult advisors. The policies and ground rules were lazily thrown together as a direct copycat of the former Portland Outright.

OUT has since been mismanaged in many ways, but I (we) wish to inform you of the apparent negligence of the adult advisors and board members resulting in the emotional distress, abuse, and harm brought to youth members as young as fourteen years old. We can only speak from personal experience, and since I am the only individual willing to reveal my identity, I will begin with my personal experience of OUT and I will then summarize the complaints of those individuals who wish to remain anonymous.

The majority of my time with OUT was spent at the (public) Lincoln Street Center (LSC) in Rockland, Maine once a week; every Friday night from 7 to 10 PM. However, the location has now moved to the private home of Ed and Virginia Slawson in Rockland, Maine and is now held 3 times a week. During my time at OUT meetings, my boyfriend [JL] and I would oftentimes sneak down to the restrooms in the lower part of the building to have sex, beginning when he was 14 and I was 18 -- mostly because his father disapproved of our relationship and these meetings were our only opportunity to do this. We did this on many occasions, and several of the other youth were aware of this fact and I wouldn't doubt that similar relations occurred between other members of OUT during our nightly meetings from 7 to 10 PM. I bet the advisors were aware of this, too.

There was virtually little to no level of chaperoning, as adult advisors such as Phil Hansen and Lis Clark stressed the importance of a youth-led organization. I recall that we never really knew where maybe half the youth members were at any given time. At least two-thirds of our group smoked avidly and I witnessed adult advisors "bumming" cigarettes to youth members, some of them under the age of 18, and also offering a light to those who already had cigarettes. OUT has its own special smoke break, sometimes several a night in which most if not all of the members gathered outside the LSC to smoke, while the few non-smokers (myself included) stood and socialized.

Several members. particularly two friends, Chris and Courtney (also youth members of the board) almost always showed up to our meetings high on marijuana and/or drunk on alcohol. Even worse, I witnessed several advisors drinking too much at such special events as OUT barbecues or other social events, with an especial focus on the night of the Question 1 victory: many of the adults were completely drunk, and our advisors, wanting to join the celebration, made the choice to simply bring along OUT youth members. The celebration was held at the home of Michael Mayo in Thomaston and I remember being touched and even groped by one of the older men there (who was clearly intoxicated), and I've heard that other youth had similar experiences. OUT advisors were also getting drunk and flirting with youth members. It made the entire situation very uncomfortable, especially at the "Rainbow Potluck," a weekly event inclusive of OUT members (still going on), attended primarily by gay and lesbian adults past the age of 40. I, myself and other youth were hit on by some of the adults at the Rainbow Potluck, and I cannot possibly imagine that our advisors were oblivious to this fact. In fact, it was occurring within our own organization.

I once spent the night at one of the advisor's homes (Jeff), with another youth member who was also his nephew (Tyler) up from Florida. Tyler and I engaged in minor sexual contact beneath Jeff's loft that night, though I awoke to find the two of them showering together outside, completely in the nude. In my personal opinion, it is highly inappropriate for an adult advisor in his thirties to be showering nude with a youth member, age 14 at the time. The abuse did not stop there.

Late in the Summer of 2006, the president of OUT, Phil Hansen was forcefully required to step down from his position. The other board members held a secret meeting against Phil, and it was reported to me that the reason being was because he had expressed some extreme forms of sexism by completely disregarding what the female members of the board had to say. One of the youth board members (Courtney) reported to me that she left crying due to a sexual remark and personal attack Phil had made against her during one of the board meetings, which have always been held in the private home of Ed and Virginia Slawson. I was not entirely surprised -- I recall Phil's stories he told to OUT members, affectionate stories from Greek literature about young boys having sexual relations with older men and open jokes about pedophilia at meetings in his own positive spin on things. This type of sexual abuse and verbal harassment has become a common part of OUT and its advisors and youth members -- almost like a mutual joke shared by everyone, but making many if not most of the youth very uncomfortable and distressed. It especially concerns me now because the meetings are being held 3 times a week in the private home of Ed and Virginia Slawson.

To summarize some of the experiences of other youth members at OUT meetings and events, I will list the following for the purpose of simplicity, and then finish with a final, more personal note.

* [AC], a youth member, continually and repeatedly sexually harassing other youth members with advances and lies about his sexual relations, which according to him, were with every member of OUT. Even our coordinator (advisor) Lis Clark joked about how pathetic his constant lies were, and yet when myself and other youth members complained of the sexual harassment, Lis simply scoffed it off as immaturity.

* Another youth member, [JC] threatened suicide online and blamed it on myself, because he looked up to me and was jealous of my relationship with [JL]. The youth member Chris discovered [JC]'s online post while browsing a gay porn hookup site ( during an OUT meeting. It caused a lot of distress to all of us, knowing he was out on the streets attempting suicide while we are at our meeting.

* Suicide threats and attempts have been a common part of our organization. We once invited a counselor to speak at one of our meetings, and 3 of the members just ran out of the building crying because they couldn't handle the situation. What most concerned me (and others) was the fact that none of the advisors made any attempt to catch up to them or follow up with them afterward.

* Several of our OUT meetings were spent writing letters to seemingly every democrat in Knox County. The youth members were made to write sympathetic letters at the heavy pressure from OUT's new president, J.P. Fecteau. I guess it worked because only a few months ago OUT received a $4,000 donation.

As you can see, there has been a lot of abuse and negligence that has caused more harm to innocent youth than I could possibly begin to describe, and it continues today, and tomorrow, and the next.

My own personal association with OUT came to a sudden and violent end when my boyfriend [JL] of 14 months broke up with me. I knew I could find him at the meeting, and when I physically latched onto him and refused to let go, OUT advisors were forced to restrain me. I had also brought a knife with me with plans to commit suicide and possibly attempt to murder [JL] along with myself. I was arrested on domestic assault charges. I think this is one example, among many I have already shown, that reveals the inherent dangers an organization like OUT creates for vulnerable youth. Even before that, there was a court-issued order against [JL] to not have any contact with me, and while Lis Clark (advisor) knew this, she still allowed us to sneak and see one another at OUT meetings, helping us lie to [JL]'s parents on several occasions. Advisors have been known to lie to parents. One 14 year old (Eric); his parents were under the impression he was attending an art class every Friday night.

With my terminated membership, I've had time to reflect on the horrors of this organization and how much influence it has on the Rockland community and beyond -- especially impressionable youth -- youth who are encouraged by OUT advisors to disobey their parents and develop their GLB or T orientation. OUT hands out condoms and lubricant like candy. Being the web designer and owning exclusive rights to all photos and code, I, being permanently exiled from the organization I brought up, made the obvious, perhaps bitter choice to take the site with me. I threatened legal suit if they did not remove all web content from the URL

I am writing to you because I fear for the well-being of OUT youth members, especially now that meetings are being held 3 times more often and now in a private home rather than a public facility. It is my hope that the Bureau of Health will do everything in their power to seriously investigate this seemingly innocent organization that has such a dark past full of negligence, irresponsibility, sexual harassment, abuse, and ultimately emotional harm that could leave permanent scars in the lives of many vulnerable youth in Maine, or even destroy their lives completely. It makes me wonder, what horrendous acts will occur this week, or the next, or in the many months to come? More importantly, what will the BoH and the Rockland community do to make sure these destructive adult "advisors" are no longer allowed to have influence on these poor youth?

I appreciate your time and hope you will consider my words seriously with the utmost concern for the welfare of Maine's children.



Adam Flanders