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Monday, April 19, 2010

Tea Partying

One of the advantages of being old ... probably the only advantage among many disadvantages ... is the length of memory ... actually a blessing and a curse. Reading or viewing the news is like deja vu all over again.

For instance: The Tea Party Movement.

The thing to understand about his so-called phenomenon is this: It is nothing new. We have seen them many times before in our lifetime and the lifetime of our country.

Whether you believe the polls that claim that the participants have more income and education than the average American (which is contrary to previous polling which showed that most opposition to Obama from supposed independents and Clinton Democrats came from white, low middle class, high school education, lower income middle aged suburbanites and small town occupants),

anyone in my age easily (but chillingly) recognizes these people as the survivors of the half of our generation that Nixonians used to call their "silent majority"; that is, the ones who favored the Viet Nam War, who abhorred all the vocal movements of the 60's and 70's that were considered too liberal.

They were terrified by "Women’s Lib" and its associated demands for reproductive rights and equal rights in the workplace. They were on the wrong side of the civil rights movement in the South and the North. They opposed laws and courts actively enforcing voter registration, housing, employment, education (including busing). They have resisted and resented the changes in social consciousness that modified our language, customs, attitudes for the past half century.

What they mean when they claim to be defending "traditional American values" is that they prefer everything that existed in the 1950's, including racial and gender discrimination, mostly the domination by WASP male values.

The Mad Hatter is their hero but "Mad Men" is the culture they want to reinstate.

One thing is different, upside down really.

The Tea Partiers claim to be a coalition of several disparate movements unified by one principle — a general distrust of the government. This too is deja vu all over again. But in a twerped sort of way, because back in the day, these people were bitterly opposed to the coalition which was on the other side of the political spectrum who were deeply suspicious of the government.

That opposition to the government was called "unpatriotic": The bumper stickers that appeared were: "Your country: love it or leave it" and "I love my country — right or wrong." Opponents of the government were considered "anti-American".

I can understand the shock caused by the images of election night, 2008. I felt it. Barack Obama's election in my lifetime was as shocking as the Berlin Wall, the walk on the moon, the darkness of most faces of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Texas university football and basketball team members.

But the warm, fuzzy glow I felt on Inauguration Day, the optimistic sense that this was a better world we had long wished for, a feeling that at last, my generation had gotten it right ... that feeling soon proved to be premature.

The "forces of reaction" - as my father, whose memory of The Depression were , warned - can never be defeated.
Eventually, like monsters in horror movies, they revive from their stupor, and renew their age old complaints.

In the 19th century, they were the Know Nothings. In the 20th, they were the isolationists, America Firsters, John Birch Society, Minutemen, Christian Coalition.


  1. Mort I agree with much of what you say notwithstanding the pain it causes. So let me add another observation . One of the obvious facts whenever you see a rally of these folks the faces in the crowd have one thing in common --- nearly all white if not completly. This coupled with their xenephobic messages, and questioning the authenticity of Obama's citizenship makes these folks readily identifiable as the same group in our college days who favored "states rights" over civil rilghts. They just aren't wearing their sheets.

  2. Another point I must add is that these are the same people who were called "Reagan Democrats" in the 80's and subscribed to the dogma: "Greed is good". This is still one of their prime creeds, as they view any policy of "Obama's government" as "socialistic"; i.e., sharing (their) wealth with those who shouldn't be entitled to it. Sadly, this notion is very much in the mainstream of American selfishness and narrow minded self destructive attitudes.