Tea-Potters, Mad-hatters, Right-Wingers, and a Ball of Confusion
When I was growing up in West Texas, a common statement in some circles, and I now know it was a vulgar one in all circles went something like, “Well, Hell, by then I didn’t know whether to s*** or go blind.” As I’m sure you recognize, our central nervous system and our enteric nervous system really differ. The large intestine and the eyes are also controlled by very different muscle groups. So, what does this old phrase really mean?
If you had any doubts, the recent political highlights should have, finally and blindingly, switched on that light bulb. The phrase, which always seemed to me like hyperbole and which I never really grasp in anything like a true experiential sense, means that a person is so completely and truly befuddled by the situation they face that they are either heading for the toilet or losing the power of sight seem to be equally likely, and equally reasonable, responses.
More personally, I think the phrase describes relatively well those moments when I think about sitting on a street curb with a nearly empty gallon jug of Thunderbird at my feet and yelling abuse at every passing Cadillac or maybe screaming gibberish at my television, while wearing a thong and blasting Glenn Beck’s image with a .357 Magnum. Alternatively, I think of selling my steak knives and becoming a vegan or putting on a few pounds of ink and joining a motorcycle gang.
But, along with my recent onset of befuddlement, I’m just bone weary of seeing the sad turn this country has taken politically. Since when did we, as a people, become so stupid that we could believe health care reform included death panels? How can it be that one-in-five Americans still believe our President is a Muslim? When did we become so gullible that a Neo-Stepford, Republican, MILF-like cretin can wink at us and make us swoon and convince TV executives that giving her an eight-segment deal would be a good idea?
Were the John Bircher’s right (correct, I mean), when they argued back in the fifties and sixties that fluoridated water would have adverse effects on Americans for generations to come. Have we now got better teeth but are working with a few enchiladas short of a combination plate? I’m thinking it must be true. How else does Glenn Beck, a man with all the intellectual prowess of a bed mite, get six and one-half million people to listen to his line of crap each day and have five (non-fiction, my ass) books debut at number one on the best-sellers list?
And what is it with the guns? I’m from Texas and am at least a close acquaintance if not really a friend of firearms. I am certainly no fan of the NRA, though I did join for one year. I got a great multi-tool with rosewood handles, a slew of notices about which governors to email as an NRA member supporting gun control, and an NRA sticker that I proudly displayed on the rear window of my car between my “Texans for Obama” and my “Gun Don’t Kill People. Bullets Do.” stickers. But, the last time I saw people marching with guns was in the 60s when the Black Panthers were on the move. Their shotguns and shiny revolvers now seem quaint and antiquated. Now, firearm massacres by white people are routine events.
These fluoride-stoked Tea-Potters march in rallies wearing semi-automatic pistols that hold 17 rounds holstered in combat rigs bristling with extra magazines and with semi-automatic (we can only hope) assault rifles hanging on neck slings and slapping against their beer guts that are only partially covered by t-shirts emblazoned with “You can keep YOUR CHANGE. I’ll keep my FREEDOM and my GUNS.” When did being a well-armed redneck with high cholesterol, really poor political judgment, and a heap of bad values become a badge of honor in this country?
I know this riff has too many questions in it. It should be offering erudite and eloquent answers, rather than just asking, “What the Hell is happening?” Okay, I do know some things. I understand some of the populist elements of the right wing revolt. After all, I was born and lived most of my life in the State where the Populist Party was founded.
I understand the fear of economic ruin. That ghost has haunted my family since the 1930s when my grandfather lost his auto repair shop, and my grandmother lost the home where their five children came into this world.
I lived through two administrations where the “The Shrub,” as Molly Ivins called him, led us into two wars and a financial collapse, so I can certainly understand anger at politicians.
What is horrible, though, is that I can now also understand the anguish of a woman at one of the televised town meetings years ago that was chocked full of proto-Tea-Potters. She tearfully lamented, “This is not my country anymore. I don’t recognize it.” She thought her world was coming apart because an African-American supported by working people, progressives, youth and minorities was sweeping toward the Presidency. At the time, I thought, “Grow up, Lady. Life is change. Learn to live with it. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth.”
What a smug asshole I was. Years later, I feel the same anguish that woman expressed when Senator Paul tells me to embrace the rich because they pay our salaries and buy the goods we make and sell. Rand must have been partying with his Baylor frat buddies when his professors discussed the labor theory of value and Henry Ford’s novel idea that the real money starts to roll in when you get the Average Joe in a position to buy what he produces.
Russ Feingold gets replaced by a rich guy from Oshkosh who thinks global warming isn’t real and may just be the result of sunspot activity. Okay, I’ll give him the possibility that sunspot activity may explain the hue of John Boehner’s skin, but it doesn’t do much to explain climate change. Florida gives us a cutie conservative who opposes stem cell research, wants to require ultrasounds prior to abortions, and, at the same time, doesn’t want government to play a role in healthcare. We have Louie Gohmert in Congress (‘nough said).
I think the core of my distress with this new Klan of activists and politicians is that the “haters” seem to be gaining supremacy in this country. This new breed of political activists hates immigrants, minorities, gays, Muslims, and pretty much anyone whom they define as “other.” Haters aren’t new to the American political landscape. We’ve always had our good share of haters here in the land of the free with a home for you and me (Father Coughlin, the Klan, the American Bund, George Wallace, Jesse Helms, etc.).
But, these guys were largely a sideshow in American life. Now, I go to my bank or my physician’s office, and I get assaulted by Robert Ailes minions on FOX quacking about the socialist plague. I turn on the radio, and I can get right-wingnut political babble pretty much 24/7 without working hard at it.
When Glenn Beck, Mr. The Blaze, said, “To the day I die, I’m going to be a progressive hunter!” This doesn’t mean that he will, when hunting, seek to kill his prey as humanely as possible and only as a source of food. It doesn’t mean that he will stalk deer with a bow rather than sit with a scoped 30.06 in an elevated stand near a clear spot where he’s had a machine throwing out deer corn all year. It means that he has “found the enemy and it is them,” By them, he means Progressives (also known in some circles as liberals).
Unlike Pogo, the enemy for Glenn and his pitiful but powerful ilk is anyone who is not “us.” In Glenn’s case, “us” is passable weird. He’s a lapsed Catholic who became a Mormon and makes about millions a year spewing out something very similar to what I try to wipe off my boots when I come in from a horse corral. He is also a guy who said that he toked-up every day from the ages of 16 to 31(I kid you not).
All the current politicians feeding off The Fox Confabulators and misinformation that they and their blood kin shovel out to the public know exactly what politicians who fed the old haters knew. Fear sells, and simple, completely wrong answers sell way better than correct, complex answers. The Confabulators sell Joe Public a mass of frightening or discomforting misinformation (e.g., Obama’s trip to South Asia will cost $2 billion; there’s going to be a one percent tax on all bank transactions).
Then, they offer up simple and simply wrong answers to the imaginary threats or wrongs they themselves created out of very thin air. Plus, since The Supremes turned the clock back something close to one hundred and fifty years and gave corporations rights of political ($) expression, the new guys have, besides their sock puppets Confabulators at Fox, all the money they need to spread that fear and wrong-headedness both thickly and widely.
Then, of course, there is the Trump thing. Some folks like to say, “Donald Trump is the id of Republican politics.” Wrong, in order to have an id, you have to have a super-ego. The Rs have no super-ego. Jeb Bush is it? This is the guy who stood firmly and unwavering between Terri Schiavo, her last wishes, and her husband. He did all he could to curb women’s reproductive rights, from helping anti-abortion groups get funds through a “Choose Life’ license plate to his office funding anti-abortion billboards. And, he tells us now that what we really need for economic growth is for people to work more hours. Corporations don’t need to offer a living wage or build more plants here, investing in production rather than profits. It is those little people who need to work more hours, which somehow magically appear. This is the best the Rs have to offer as a “super-ego?”
The Obama administration has been a god-send for average folk. His administration has moved forward on multiple fronts, increasing health care coverage, increasing funds for mental health services to veterans, stopping insurance companies from denying health coverage due to pre-existing conditions, significantly expanding Pell grants to assist low-income student go to college, and supporting financial reform laws that established a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to reduce the likelihood of another financial blowout. Well, it was a blowout for some, while for others it may’ve been like another compound word that begins with “blow.” The rich got richer, and the poor lost their homes, much of the value of their homes (their largest financial asset), or their jobs.
But, many of those people who’re among those most likely to benefit from the slew of sensible reforms attributable to the administration carry around signs that call the President a Nazi, a communist, a socialist, or whatever tag churns their butter. Older voters turn out in droves and vote for Mad Hatter’s whose favorite wet dream involves dramatically cutting entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, as well as under-funding or privatizing the VA.
I got to tell you, I’m personally at a point where, in a deeply experiential way, I don’t know whether to catch up on Lady Gaga’s latest twitters, go to the Emergency Room because of these shooting pains down my left arm that I’ve been having for awhile now, or maybe just sit on my ass and wind my watch. This confusion is debilitating.