Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where are those nuts of yesteryear?

I saw some tea party rally on television a couple of years ago. There were more than a few of what I would call the Honey Boo-Boo and Duck Dynasty crowd: people who are entertained watching television programs about crackers who live in the swamps and clout alligators. I’m sure what I saw was not the image the tea party was trying to project. They want the rest of America to look at them as patriots, standing on the ramparts of freedom. They wish to appear as taking America back from the Satanic liberals and their abortions, “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare, gun control and soft-headed views on immigration.

No, by god, these real Americans want to keep women from having any rights over their own bodies, make old people suffer and die when they are too old to work and too poor to live, make sure guns get into the hands of maniacs and murderers, and turn back all attempts by non-Americans to get across our borders so they can be exploited by employers and do the shitty jobs real Americans won’t do at the shitty wages the exploiters will pay.

The tea party didn’t just appear. They have been here for a long time under various names and guises long before I was born, and I imagine they will still be here long after I am ashes in an urn. They are the kinds of malcontents, racists and obstructionists who use ignorance as their beacon and prejudice as a shining light. They are the kind of people who can quote to you the Second Amendment to the Constitution, but cannot tell you what the Third or Fourth Amendments are. (Look them up if you don’t know. What? You want me to do all your work for you?)

Somebody’s granny makes a fashion statement with the Stars and Stripes.

”Wrap a flag around anything and it looks good.” — Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America.  “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” — Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1775.

During protest marches against the Vietnam war some protesters were criticized for sewing flags onto the seats of their jeans. In that case it was considered desecration of the flag. In the case of the tea party it is patriotic to have flags sticking out of their hats or to use as a wrap.

When I was in high school in the years 1962-65 the John Birch Society was making its own notoriety. In their case it wasn’t the internal struggle that has put our nation into political gridlock, it was their personal war on communism, and the people they saw as fellow travelers. A couple of my high school teachers were called on the carpet for preaching Bircher dogma to their classes.

The Birch Society was so adamant in its beliefs they even went so far as to accuse President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a commie dupe. The Birchers are still around, even though communism isn’t the hot topic it was during those Cold War years. They had their day, and now they are way behind those tea party types in getting any press or publicity.

I saw this billboard on State Street in Salt Lake City in the mid-‘60s; it didn’t go without some sort of challenge, which I recall from newspaper editorials of the day. The chief criticism, and rightly so, of its claims to “Martin Luther King at communist training school” was the lack of any other information. Where was the school? Who ran the school? When was the photo taken? Was the photo real?  But the Birchers used an old propaganda tactic. Just the accusation was enough.

Another group we don’t hear much about nowadays is the Ku Klux Klan. In reading some current information about the Klan I see it is estimated there are about 5,000-8,000 of them in the U.S. That’s far from their glory days of the 1920s when they were very powerful. I think it had something to do with how silly they all looked in those costumes and hoods. And they look even sillier now, many of them out of the hoods, but walking around with swastikas on their arms, immature and defective brains, playing at being Nazis.

 Welcome to the town from the Ku Klux Klown.

A few years before the ascendency of the tea party I was interested in right-wing nut groups like Posse Comitatus* and Sovereign Citizens. Sovereign Citizens (or as I call them, “Slobberin’ Citizens”) have a really arcane belief system. They believe, for one, that when we are born the U.S. borrows money on us. So if a Slobberin’ Citizen gets a traffic ticket or a court judgment, they are likely to write on the ticket, “Take it out of my account.”

That’s not to mention the much vaunted freedom of religion that Americans enjoy, at times much to the detriment of society in general. When you have groups who use religion as the basis for their bigotry then how much of that is freedom for them and repression for others? (The recent Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court is interpreted by many to be just that.)

Unfortunately, when it comes to screwball beliefs and oddball ideas the United States of America has more than its share. My theory is that because of the large territory of the U.S., the number of states and their varying geographical locations, many different ideas and values evolved from each area. As a nation it makes for some polarization, since people from the Deep South might have quite different viewpoints from those in the Northeast or even the West Coast. It has been painfully obvious during the Obama presidency that the bigots are going insane with lust to get a black man out of office…and if that means the whole United States suffers because of congressional intransigence and prejudice well then, tough teats.

That old mentality, spontaneously combusting into fires of rebellion to the detriment of fellow citizens, is alive and well in the United States.  I can answer my own question of “where are those nuts of yesteryear?” by saying that they are still here. They never went away. They just have their own spokespeople who spout their inflammatory talk on radio, and fool the bigoted and simple-minded into doing their bidding, which is their personal war on America and its real patriots. They have their own agenda, to burn down the house and everyone in it, and then rebuild using their sinister plans. They are the true enemies of Americans and those folks that are working for the good of the country, not its downfall.

Here are three of those tea party enemies of America all together. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas by way of Canada), and Sarah Palin, one-time unsuccessful candidate for Vice President, one short-term governor of Alaska (when the going got tough, she got going and quit), and all-around shrill voice of unreason. (It doesn’t matter what happens in the world, for Sarah Palin it’s all Barack Obama’s fault.) Of course Lee and Cruz are the two hammerheads who shut down the government in 2013. Did it do any good? No. Did these guys think it did? What I see in this picture is Lee with a smirking face and Cruz with his head hanging. I don’t think Cruz’s head hanging low means he feels shame, more like the weight of his ego is hard to hold up.

*Posse Comitatus named itself after a law passed during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, which kept federal officials from having powers over the local officials. It was ostensibly because of Northern troops having been quartered in the South after the end of the rebellion, but it probably had more to do with keeping ex-slaves from ever having any rights or privileges as citizens of the U.S. It worked for about a hundred years.

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