This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off: the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.
“At any rate I’ll never go there again!” said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. “It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!”
– Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Clearly Alice never made it to the 21st century. We have one doozie of a tea party going on right now. If it wasn’t for historically recent examples of how the bluster of these one-time “tea baggers” can go horribly wrong, it would almost be amusing.
While many people in the tea party movement are in it for specific important issues, the fact is that the very public face that is presented is one of fear-mongering rhetoric, ignorance, hyperbolic distortions (if not bald-faced lies), and decreasingly veiled racial/ethnic/religious bigotry. A sometimes, though optional, accessory seems to be an often fundamentalist agenda which is often worn on the sleeve. Worse, it’s all done until aegis of patriotism–but it’s only patriotism of a certain kind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as willing to rouse the rabble as the next guy. That’s not what I have a problem with. After all, as both Jefferson and Lincoln remarked, a little revolution now and then isn’t a bad thing. What is bad is the usurpation of the public trust. You want lower taxes? Fine. So do I. What are you willing to give up? Social security? Your beef subsidy? That nifty new weapon system? All of it is from the public trough, but you want your lower taxes and you want all the bling. That is just stupid and distorts the painful realities of managing a country.
I’m often amazed with the loud Constitution-thumping tea-bag-partiers claiming to be all for holding to the law of the land–especially the second amendment (though…maybe not so much the fourteenth, and maybe that first one needs some tweaking). Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. With as cherry-picked as the Bible ends up being, why should I expect better treatment for the law of the land?
The thing is, all this hootin’ and hollerin’ is all really a bunch of nonsense. Unfortunately, it’s the sort of nonsense that can get some really unsavory elements to band together under a common theme: if you aren’t us, then you are the enemy. We see it over and over all around the world and time and again every couple of generations or so. Ask Europe if they wished that the 1920s and 30s had been handled differently. There’s the Klan of the segregationist South and Bible-belt. There is Sudan, Rwanda, Iran, and countries too numerous to mention, but you get the idea. It’s so easy to propagandize that “they” are the cause of all your problems. As long as “they” and “their” seditious ideas are rooted out, then we will have the society we all want.
It’s sad that so many buy into this mobocracy while also railing against exactly the same thing going on in other countries. Hate and fear are still hate and fear regardless of the labels. What disgusts me the most is how much of it is directed at other Americans.
Whether their name is Bill or Sarah or Maria or Ahmed or LaVonda or Li or Vijay or Svetlana or any of thousands of others. The spew about those who aren’t approved of, of those who don’t know their place and maybe should be sent back where they came from, is no different than the vemon between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, or Israeli and Palestinian, or…well, again, any number of examples that you snear at because you are better than that. Are you? Are you, really? (Check outto see how thoughtful distinctions can be made.)
The thing is, I’m totally down with a lot of the general policy points of the movement even if the details need some ironing out. Bureaucracies of all stripes need auditing and culling from time-to-time. The issues are worthy of discussion and considered debate. Unfortunately that’s not what’s happening. There is uncompromising polarization via the shouting heads–an affected righteous indignation that has drowned out any attempt at reasoned discussion and exists merely to incite so as to garner ratings. Racial and religious bigots have been given a pulpit–which they have thus far refused to yield–by legitimately concerned Americans who deserve better.
So, here’s the deal: those of you in the tea party who really want to effect change (my, how progressive [small "p"] of you) need to step away from the foaming-at-the-mouth nut-jobs and those so ill-informed that they wouldn’t know the constitution from lost pet flyer, and find people who actually want to roll up their sleeves and work. With others. Together. The fundamental message is sound. The grievances are valid. With mutual discussion and (this is important) listening by both sides of the conversation, things have a chance of getting done. It might not make for exciting television or radio chat, but it’s how you actually can achieve long-term change instead of short-term satisfaction.
As with so many things, it’s not so much what you do but how you do it. You can have a tea party, engage in discussion, and leave content. Or you can be like Alice, surrounded by madness, leaving only when your tolerance for such foolery is at an end. When that happens, who or what ends up being the dormouse stuffed in the teapot? If you aren’t careful, it could be something precious indeed.