No, that’s not a dyslexic typo. But as for lapses of logic, spelling gaffes, general bouts of stupidity, and Palin-esque aposiopeses, please read on…
The tea party (TP) “spatriots” came to town today — on yellow school buses no less — and were met overwhelmingly by a counter-protest pro-union contingent which effectively drowned out their “drown it in a bathtub” Grover Norquist message. But rather than tell, I’ll show:
Paid for by the Americans for Prosperity — a groupthink tank astroturf institution sired by none other than oil billionaire David Koch* and Richard (I swear I’m not making up his last name) Fink, one of whose critical missions is to destroy unions — a few hundred braved the snow and sleet to bear signs reading “Support Walker” with the Americans for Prosperity sponsor conspicuously emblazoned. That’s the kind of parody I would come up with, where that “b(r)ought to you by [insert corporate sponsor/puppeteer here]” byline is attached like a price tag next to a candidate’s name. But they brandished these signs with zero sense of irony or self-consciousness — they being (it appeared) real average middle class Wisconsinites who’ve drunk the Kool-Aid tea and can regurgitate the day is long that it’s public workers, unions, Democrats, etc., that are draining the nation’s accounts.
This is the most sinister implement of the so-called Tea Party: goaded and misinformed by the vested interests of anti-tax conglomerations and corporate sympathizers, middle class Americans are pitted against themselves. And the poor? Please! The message is they should go do something anatomically impossible. The poor do not exist in the myopic world-view of the TP. Or in Walker’s budget; for despite campaign promises pledging otherwise, Walker will effectively be raising taxes — but only on the poor. You don’t see too many folks of color at TP events. Which is entirely understandable — I mean, given all that 18th Century colonial costuming, who’d want to show up in rags and shackled?
* David Koch was one of the major campaign donors to Governor Scott Walker last year. A major donor to Americans for Prosperity is ExxonMobil, so please, please, please, when you can exercise your consumer discretion, do not buy gas from ExxonMobil. (This should be obvious, especially after their escapades in pseudoscience attempting to discredit global warming.)
For more on the relationship between the Koch Bros and their tread with tea parties, take care to read this excellent consummate piece in The New Yorker. (It’s long, but well worth saving and setting aside for more leisurely reading.)
Let’s take a moment here to reflect and laugh. Always reliable for both, Monty Python provides an illustrative moment in Life of Brian:
Right? This is the point. If brevity be the source of wit, then satire is the silly trifle that perfectly punctures a self-serious float.
But some things speak for themselves and are so abundantly dumb that you couldn’t make it up if you tried. I point your attention to some of the homemade signs I saw today…
“‘Duh…winning’ — Charlie Sheen”
“Fredom [sic] Isn’t Free.”
“Fox News Tells the Truth. Liberal Dumocrats [sic] Can’t Handel [sic] It.”
So now quoting Charlie Sheen is wise either to get your point across or give credibility to it? I guess with a desire to cut all taxes, including those that go to schools, goes one of those bedrock lessons learned in school: how to spell the very language the TP so defends and demands be nationalized (about the only thing they think should be nationalized). (Or maybe the Handel spelling was a punny reference to the composer’s “water music” and the whole drowning theme…) And since when did network news become partisan? Many signs — also funded & distributed by Americans for Prosperity — exhorted not to believe in the “liberal media.” Seriously, what liberal media — and where do I go to find it? (I’m kidding. I mean this in the sense of “Do I support third party candidates? Sure, but hell, I’d settle for a second political party!”)
Two other signs snagged my attention: a humongous one that read “Collective Bargaining Bullying. Stop the unions!” with the age-old image of solidarity and the left next to it, the clenched fist. This was an act either of incredible unintelligibility or basic co-optation. The other read “We the People, not We the unions.” Really? Because I’m pretty sure that the rest of the preamble’s first line continues “in order to form a more perfect union…” For folks who trot out the U.S. Constitution faster than a preacher thumps a Bible, this act of cognitive dissonance is quite incredible to me.
Last but not least, the now de rigueur “Don’t Tread on Me” image. This always makes me chuckle when I reflect how the word “tread” means both to step on, to have sex with, to encroach upon another’s rights, and to keep one’s head above water. Leave it to TP’ers to conclude that librarians and clerk typists are stepping on them! “Don’t tread on me”? Fine, but don’t take away the rights to collectively bargain of others, all right?! ‘Cause all that Americans for Prosperity aspires to, in tread with Scott Walker and anti-tax TP’ers the country over, is to drown what they see as government, and with it hardworking public workers who teach their kids, keep their drinking water safe, pave and plow roads, etc etc, all of whom are busting their butts to keep their heads above water and not being drowned by this despicable lack of gratitude. What have the Romans ever done for us indeed.
On the other side, my three favorite signs in opposition were: “Tea parties are for little girls with imaginary friends”; “In Wisconsin, we drink beer, not tea”; and “Unions make Americans with Prosperity.” Amen brothers and sisters!
It must be noted that the belle of this witches’ sabbath ball was Sarah Palin, oh sure then you betcha, eh. It’s not worth the time it would take for me to type or you to read her comments. What I personally find mentionable are two little things:
1) Her wardrobe and overall coiffed appearance. She is no more a mama grizzly or even average hockey mom any more than John Wayne was a cowboy. She’s makeover run amok, period.
2) She did have this to say in her signature faux-folk pandering: “What better place than the home of the Super Bowl champs to tell [President Obama], game on!” Ahem, those would be the only publically owned sports franchise in the entire country; a team whose name refers to blue collar union jobs (meat packers); an entity of professional athletes who all belong to the players’ union in the first place — the representative of whom is the very quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. And it was the players’ union who came out that first week of the rallies back in February and went on record to say this: “The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.” Furthermore, current and former members of the Packers went even further, criticizing the governor and State Legislature for stripping the rights of public workers.
Another demonstration of unselfconscious irony.
On the subjects of fathers’ fathers, mine worked for Ma Bell in New York City as a line repairman. Based on that blue collar, union job alone, he could afford a house in Queens where lived his wife and two children — my aunt and father — as well as a summer home on Long Island. (Yes, on, not in.) This is positively inconceivable today.
Moreover, I grew up in one of the first planned communities in the country: Radburn in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.
A gated community this was not by any means. However, each household did pay an additional property tax to the one already levied by the greater town (in NJ called a borough) surrounding it, Fair Lawn. One did this in order to receive a wide-range of benefits that today seem almost utopian: two swimming pools, pre-K day care, a community center, library, rec hall, and community theater (all in one building called The Grange, a reflection of the Garden State’s bygone day of farmsteads), a summer camp, public parks, a soccer field, baseball diamonds, an actual archery field (!?!), so forth and so on. Everyone had to pay into this system, but it was applied on a sliding scale assessed by your taxes. In other words, a family of five renting an apartment paid a different amount than say an elder caring for her grandchild who owned her own home — yet both received the same services and benefits. In other other words, this was a progressive system at its heart and soul. Even if you had no children or your children long ago grew up and moved on, you still paid into it. Why? Because back when you did directly benefit from the system, others first helped provide for it; and so too will it be your turn, by and by, to contribute to it for others to benefit. It’s cyclical. It’s saying grace. I know this is madness to some who think it’s crazy to pay for something that no longer directly benefits you, but to me this is what community is all about. Anything less than this is sheer self-centered selfishness. We do not stop caring about clean rivers and lakes and oceans just because we no longer swim or never wanted to in the first place. The world is a whole lot bigger than us ourselves — and we should be bigger than that petty attitude.
No man or woman is an island; we are an archipelago of families woven together into the collective fabric. Taxes are the price tags for the cost of living in a civilized society. Don’t like that? Move to a backwater wood shack in bumfuck, a ranch shanty in eastern Montana, or a plantation in whip-smart Mississippi. But not where actual people actually live. No one likes paying taxes, obviously. Yet we do it because it’s part and parcel of participating in society; it’s what rational, responsible grownups do. You can’t have it both ways — any more than you can gorge on ice cream and bacon every day but still expect to have a perfect body. But what Americans for Prosperity are pushing is imbecilic shibboleths that do little more than inspire the basest impulses in us, whisper in our ears false messages like siren songs lulling us not to dump tea overboard but to jump out ourselves and abandon ship. We’ll be all alone and adrift out there — and then we’ll find out who’s treading on whom. Meanwhile, guess who will be taking over the wheel? The very same plutocratic lunatics who founded and fund these tea party protests.
The word is called wedge; that’s all this is. And decent folks are fawning for and falling over these tired tirades like converts revved up in a Revival. Except there’s no soul, and there sure ain’t no body politic to it.
Again the ghost of historical irony rears its undeterred head: the real tea party — the original one in Boston in the 18th Century — was not a complaint against excessive taxation (at most the colonists were charged 1/50th, or 2 percent, of what their British peers were paying); rather, the tea party was a protest against a tax exemption for the British East India Company, the then largest company in the world, and the imposition of a monopoly that would do to colonial tea sellers what WalMart has done to Ma & Pop shops.
That average working (or not) citizens are doing the bidding of the greedy rich in the name of patriotism is a distortion of history and a perversion of reality. Let’s remember also that our first form of government, the Articles of Confederation, failed because it had no way to create revenue, i.e., collect taxes. Our Constitution was created in large part in order to simply pay for all the wonderful items inherent in its beautiful prose. Paying taxes is patriotic.
It remains yet one more irony — which is to say amnesia — that the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, famously wrote that “the revenue of the state is the state.” If only modern conservatives remembered that.
P.S. Where in the hell was the Tea Party before Barack Obama? No, seriously — can anyone answer this for me? Remember, those eight long, hard, horrible years of Bush II, when government spending and the debt absolutely skyrocketed and we fought two unfunded wars and began the TARP banker/broker roll out? When the PATRIOT Act actually did invade the lives and privacy of American citizens? When nothing was still done — just for longer — about immigration? When tax cuts favored the rich with a windfall? When No Child Left Behind was the sine quo non of Big Gov’t telling the local level how to do things (like run schools)? If the lead-up to the 2008 election was lipstick on a pig, then the aftermath of it is chauvinistic pigs in three-corner hats and silly stockings.