By Jose Rodriguez
Okay, how about we start with some TEA Party basics.
The people who organized the nationwide TEA Party protests originally were upset about the increased spending of the Obama administration and the creation of TARP (which was established by the Bush administration, not the Obama administration). Their rallying cry was “Taxed Enough Already!” At the tax day protests, in over 800 cities, there were people dressed in 18 century colonial attire; other people tossed tea into rivers and harbors, in a silly attempt to emulate the acts of the Sons of Liberty over 230 years ago in Boston Harbor. Get it? Tea Party? Boston Tea Party?
Here’s the problem.
The Sons of Liberty were protesting the imposition of taxes by the British government. These taxes were then sent back to England. It was colonialism. Not only were the American colonists upset by the taxation, but they were angered by the imposition of taxes without representation. So, in other words, they were not bothered by taxes: they were bothered by the fact that they had no say in the taxation and that their tax dollars went to benefit a small country across a large body of water.
This is not happening now. We enjoy full representation, representation that has found it necessary to tax certain items since the creation of the Constitution and who also found it necessary to collect income tax since 1861. And our tax dollars are not going to benefit some colonial overlord in a far away land, but they are benefiting us here in the United States. So… there is no way to compare them to the Patriots who wrested our Independence from the British empire.
These TEA Parties have been described as “astroturf“; in other words, they are not a true “grassroots” movement, but are manufactured by partisan conservative groups. What is the reason for this characterization?
Well, how about the fact that the TEA Parties were organized by Freedomworks, a conservative political advocacy group established by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The TEA Parties have also been heavily covered by Fox News, who has regularly portrayed the protesters as “real Americans,” implying that those who support the President are not “real Americans.” Fox has given ample time to the protesters and the screamers and the deathers, as well as providing a forum for lies and myths. These protests are not a spontaneously created movement, but have been created by the rich, the wealthy, interest groups, and conservative partisans seeking to bring the President of the United States to his “Waterloo“.
Does that mean that all the people at these rallies and protests are political agents? Does it mean they are willing pawns for larger interests?
I would say all these people are really upset about the appearance that government is growing too big, that it is overreaching, and that they are going to be overtaxed. However, these people get their information solely from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News. They are also readers of conservative blogs, or blogs that deal with lies and scare tactics. They probably are recipients of mass e-mails that are sent out by people trying to manufacture conspiracies. These people are not willing to seek out alternative information, nor are they willing to challenge what their ideological icons say, or to check the facts behind their bold statements and accusations. They are moved to action based on lies, myths, distortions, and their own ignorance.
Now, there has been a lot of talk that these protesters are “overwhelmingly” racist. Of course, all the conservative talking heads (who have encouraged these protesters) cry foul. Glenn Beck likened the accusation of “racist” to crying fire! in a crowded theater. Sean Hannity responded to the racist accusation by saying: “”[T]hese are despicable tactics. It’s all designed to silence critics. It’s all designed to intimidate. It’s all designed to shut down opposition.” Rush Limbaugh put his two cents in, of course: “Any criticism of an African-American’s policies or statements or misstatements is racist, and that’s it. Therefore, the question: Can this nation really have an African-American president?” Charles Krauthammer even described Democrats as being “desperate,” which he thinks is why many have accused the right of indulging in racism to shoot down the President’s health care reform efforts.
I do not agree that the “overwhelming portion” of protesters are racist. There is inarguably a small portion of the protesters that are racist, and that is quite obvious. All one has to do is look at some of the signs carried at the 9/12 TEA Party in Washington D.C.:
Beyond that, the signs were also outrageous and ridiculous. This proves that the “overwhelming portion” were not racist, but extremist and crazy:
The political climate is becoming hostile. Words often times lead to actions, which can have violent and deadly consequences. These protests are a forum for hate speech. It appeals to the worst in all of us, particularly our anger against those who are not like us. They serve to divide American’s against one another, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are all biased and prejudiced, and there are political talking heads who want to exploit those prejudices for their own political ends, or for their own aggrandizement. We should reject these hate mongers and expose them for what they are: opportunists.
Do not forget that political extremism exists on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum.
Lee Harvey Oswald was a self-avowed communist who hated President Kennedy for his policies against Cuba and communism in general. On the day of his death the Dallas Morning News ran an ad from the American Bible Society that blasted Kennedy’s “softness” towards global “Godless” communism. This sentiment was common in the south, particularly in Texas. That political hatred and demonization, from left and right, ended with President Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
About one hundred years before, John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater after the end of the Civil War. Wilkes was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and hated President Lincoln because he had the audacity to wage a war to free African Americans from their bondage and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Booth was a racist, who hated abolitionists. He even attended the hanging of John Brown, who is yet another example of political extremism leading to violence and murder.
James Earl Ray shot and killed Martin Luther King jr, because he was angered by King’s efforts to bring civil rights to African Americans and to force the south to integrate. He was a racist who used politcal grievances to justify this violent act.
Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, was enraged by Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s support for Israel, so he killed the Senator at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was also drunk (according to Sirhan), but he was obsessed with Kennedy for quite sometime and had long determined to “eliminate” Senator Kennedy before “June 5th.” He was successful.
In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish radical named Yigal Amir. Amir justified the killing of Rabin because Rabin was engaged in the Oslo Peace process with the Palestinians. Amir, like many on the right in Israel and the U.S., do not believe in working towards peace with the Palestinians, and instead believe in perpetuating violence. In his case, there were also religious motivations for killing Rabin, who he accused of surrendering the Holy Land to the Palestinians.
I can go on and on and on and on and on about this. There is no end to the examples of political opponents using violence to advance their own causes. There is a very real possibility that this can happen in our time. There is a very real possibility that our country will descend into race wars if this President is killed by a racist TEA bagger, believing that he is acting justly and morally by killing the President of the United States.
I guess the bottom-line is this:
Whether these people are racists or not, there nonetheless is a significant level of hatred and anger from a fringe element in our society. We should all be concerned and afraid that this situation, with a single violent act, could throw our country into a tail-spin, the likes of which have not been seen since the civil war.
Now… can we get back to the Health Care debate, please?