The week or so before I went home to the States for a visit, I caught a clip on the internet of one Rick Santelli, the ex-hedge fund trader who's now a commentator on CNBC. You all know the rant, but in case you missed it, here it is:-
It caused quite an outcry, especially since it was patently obvious that this tool didn't have a snowball's idea in hell what he was talking about in relation to the President's message about mortgage relief from the previous evening; but that's beside the point.
This rant started a tidal wave movement that had been simmering below the floorboards (you know, where the cockroaches live) of the Republican Party since they lost the election in November. Now it's erupted full force in a Right Wing movement known as Tea Parties. The Right have taken this term from the original Boston Tea Party, the act of tossing the colonials' taxed tea off the ships in Boston harbour, an event which led to the beginning of the Revolutionary War and our independence from Great Britain. It coined the phrase 'Taxation without representation.'
These people, who drank Santelli's Koolaid, basically believe that Obama's collective stimulus package is intent on spending their hard-earned cash in federally-funded initiatives which will lead to - sooner, rather than later - the United States embracing socialism. Worse, Marxist socialism. These people, the majority of whom are middle and working-class Joes and Janes earning less than the magical $250,000 per year, are the demographic group which will actually stand to benefit from the President's proposed tax cuts, as well as the provision of universal health care. It's the privileged few at the top of the high pay bracker whose taxes will actually be increased ... by a whopping 3 per cent. Is that highway robbery? Hardly, but remember these people attending these 'Tea Parties' are the selfsame voters who backed John McCain and Sarah Palin, who attended the rallies where Palin spoke and failed to admonish the anonymous voices in the multitudes calling Obama a 'terrorist' and actually yelling for him to be killed.
I supposed they feel disenfranchised, and normally, under normal circumstances, they would have sloped off to their homes and their churches, cleaned their guns and sulked until the next election, had they not been roused to battle by the likes of Santelli and encouraged by the oxycontin-fueled rantings of Rush Limbaugh and the shill of Michelle Bachmann, a serving member of Congress who's actually called for people to be 'armed and dangerous' and on the streets in opposition to any of the programs Obama wants to pursue.
This is the same Michelle Bachmann, who accused not only Obama, but also liberal members of Congress, of being distinctly anti-American:-
You know, I remember hearing my socialist parents speak in hushed tones of the McCarthyism of the early 1950s. I guess history does repeat itself.
And on top of all that active encouragement, the ever-fair and balanced Fox News, soul sister of the BBC (more of that in another blog), have taken up the tea party gauntlet and run with it, advertising organised tea parties nationwide, even selling tickets and giving information on how to organise one. Their poster boy is Glenn Beck, who fancies himself a less-intelligent and unfunny version of an amalgamation of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher. He should be so lucky.
On first glance, these tea parties are organised and non-violent, in the true spirit of America, the citizens' right to protest proposed government policies which they oppose. That's their right. And often, at first glance, these parties seem to be conducted in a spirit of fun. As a symbol of protest, participants bring tea bags and are known as 'teabaggers'.
Now, scratch the surface and you see something a bit different, a bit more sinister ...
Catch the full-on face of the first woman interviewed? Was that a face of bitterness, nastiness and hate? And what was behind this tea party? That old chestnut of a myth that Obama wasn't born in the United States, that he was a Kenyan, that his birth certificate was a forgery, that he may even be a ... shhhh! ... Muslim. These people, and the first woman in particular, make that doddery old lady who challenged John McCain that Obama was an Arab, look like innocence incarnate. These people are mean. These people are nasty. These people come in all shapes and sizes and ages.
These people are white. As Fox News' fair-and-balanced British brother the BBC would say, they're 'hideously white.'
And there's the rub.
Could it be that these innocuously named 'tea parties' are a euphemism for something different? Put bluntly, did it actually take the election of a black man by a majority of the American voting public to bring out the racism in what is essentially the fundamentalist base of the Republican Party?
I think Sam Donaldson, late of ABC News, said it best on Real Time with Bill Maher two weeks ago when he opined that the Republican Party has now become a right-wing party composed of fundamentalist Christian white people, mostly white males, and that composed thus, it is simply unelectable.
I certainly hope so.
But then, there's a twist in this curious tale, and this either shows the innate innocence of these types or it shows something distinctly unappetising. You see, this is the base of the party who preached God, guns and ammunition. This is the base of the party who promotes Creationism as opposed to common sense, science and evolution. This is the base of the party who promotes abstinence, who's anti-gay and who probably thinks that heterosexual married sex had better consist only of the missionary position with the man on top or else it can be classed as distinctly deviant.
I'm asking ... Do they know that a 'teabagger' in the general urban parlance, is someone who dips his scrotum in and out of his sexual partner's mouth, much in the way these right-wing, God-fearing Nazis might dip their teabags in and out of a teacup?
So when they go to a tea party or a 'teabag party' or 'teabagging' ... what are they really getting up to? Is this really legitimate protest or is it ... something else?
Just picture Rick Santelli and the woman at the Cleveland 'teabag party' ... er ... teabagging ... but not before you've eaten your dinner, please.
I suppose what I've been trying to say is that, just as there's supposed to be a thin line between genius and insanity, so there must also be a thin line between the right wingnuts of the Republican party, who've been filmed actually proclaiming that we're all being surreptitiously brain-washed and programmed by the Obama government through the digital converters on top of our television sets (funny) and demanding that books be burned (not funny), all the while making these pronouncements with the left arm extended straight upward in a reasonable facsimile of (gulp!) a Fascist salute, and ... well, Nazis.
Scary, huh? In American, right? In the 21st Century.
I guess it's true that if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas; but I don't like to insult dogs by likening them to these people.