Parish Universalist Church
790 Washington Street, P. O. Box 284, Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072
Church School: 10:45 AM
A Mad Tea Party
Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, November 7, 2010
It doesn’t get much more patriotic than “
But I bet that many of those people at Tea Party rallies across our land
wouldn’t like the woman who wrote “
No, the unpardonable sin of Katherine Lee Bates, in the eyes of many of
the Tea Partiers was that this great poet of America—this gifted writer who
probably came closer than anyone to capturing the living essence of this
magnificent land and its history in verse—was, quite simply and quite openly, a
lesbian, a female homosexual, a sister of Sappho. Katherine lived openly for
more than 25 years with her life partner, Katharine Coman, in what was then
called a “
None of which would warm the cockles of hearts of those arch conservatives who accuse the American media and the Obama administration and all those other “sinister” and “socialist” forces of wanting to foist the “gay agenda” on America.
Which means that they probably also wouldn’t like Francis Bellamy, who
wrote the original “Pledge of Allegiance” back in 1892, in
They wouldn’t like Francis Bellamy because he, unlike some people so accused, like President Obama and his Wall Street advisors, really was a socialist. (A Christian Socialist, to be specific, back when that term would not have been considered an oxymoron). Indeed, Bellamy lost his job at the Young People’s Companion where he worked because of his political beliefs, but not before writing the “Pledge of Allegiance” to the American Flag” for one of its issues.
“When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said at the original “Mad Tea Party”-- the one about which Lewis Carroll wrote in Through the Looking Glass-- “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."
"The question is," said
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – me or the word-- that's all."
Or, as Rev. Thom Belote writes in a recent lecture on “Postmodern Politics”, in our present era, political influence is not so much a matter of getting your facts right, as it is putting forward the kind of atmosphere you want to create. It’s less about thinking with your head and more about knowing with your gut. It’s less about objective truth, and more about something Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness”——the quality of something “feeling true” without having to be bothered with having any evidence that it really is.
Many of the followers of the Tea Party are big proponents of “truthiness”,
Obama is a foreigner. He wasn’t even born here. That’s something that many of the President’s opponents “feel” is true. They believe it, and they’ve convinced many other people that it’s true, too: Our President is a foreigner; he isn’t “one of us”; his election was illegitimate.
It must be true. In spite of the birth announcement that appeared in the
Honolulu Advertiserr on
“Mr. & Mrs. Barack H. Obama,
Perhaps Obama's grandparents planted the announcement just in case their
grandson needed to “prove” his
No, Obama isn’t “like” the (supposedly) “beleaguered” White, Anglo-Saxon Americans that constitute much of the Tea Party’s support. What better bit of “truthiness” do you need, then, than to establish that even Obama himself isn’t “really” an American—that he’s “one of them”?
“One of them” from whom we “real Americans” need to “take our country back”.
There’s nothing new about this tactic, of course; demagogues always seek to de-humanize their opponents, to turn them into the thing that their supporters hate most. One of the lies circulated about Abraham Lincoln when he first ran for President was that he was, really a Black man. When the rabid Republicans attacked Franklin Roosevelt, they said he was a Jew. So should it surprise us now that, in some quarters, Barack Obama is characterized as a Muslim, or an Arab? What could be “worst” from that, in the minds of some people?
“At any rate I'll never go there again!” said
Just as she said this, she noticed that one of the trees had a door leading right into it. “That's very curious!” she thought. “But everything is curious today. I think I may as well go in at once.” And in she went.
Now, I know that assertions that race plays a role in the Tea Party’s
ideology is usually met vehemently by its proponents. They are all furious at
the implication that race is a factor in their political views — in spite of the
fact that they do talk about race-related issues an awful lot: They blame the
financial crisis on poor black homeowners. They spend months on end engrossed by
reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill white babies. They support
politicians (like Rand Paul in
In a recent article on the Tea Party in Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi writes:
“It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They're completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I'm an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I'm a radical communist? I don't love my country? I'm a redcoat? … These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.”
It’s not about race, members of the Tea Party maintain. It’s not even
about social issues, like gay marriage or abortion (even though some of their
candidates, including Sharron Angle in
Certainly, those sound like laudable goals. But how do we do it?
Many of the Tea Partiers seem a bit short on details at times.
Early in his campaign, Rand Paul, now Senator-elect from
The Tea Partiers don’t like all these bailouts for big banks—another
pillar in the Obama administration’s program to bring socialism to
Maybe this is quibbling, I know. It doesn’t matter who signed T.A.R.P. into law—Obama’s to blame for it. Back last spring, when I did my part-time stint as a census taker here in Stoughton, I actually knocked on the door of a house a couple of streets over and had someone harangue me about how the census was a plot by “Obama and the Democrats” to spy on the American people. I had a feeling that a history lesson on how the census started in 1790, during the administration of President George Washington (who wasn’t a Democrat, and I’m sure wasn’t a socialist, either) wasn’t going to do any good. So I just excused myself and left.
It really has gotten that crazy (and, as
But financed as they are by huge amounts of corporate money; with influential friends at the heights of the media; with ties to shadowy armed organizations and a propensity for using violence against those who oppose them; operating in this time of great social and economic upheaval-- when I look out at the growth of the Tea Party movement, I worry about where this country of ours is headed.
I know I could be engaging here in a bit of leftist alarmism—my own bit of conspiracy theorizing. Or maybe I’m just jealous, perhaps—because the American Left does seems so impotent and ineffectual in getting its word across. (Maybe that’s because the Left still has too much disdain for “bumper sticker” ideology, or too much regard for a well-reasoned approach to the truth. Or maybe it’s because the Leftist elite has become isolated and out of touch from the ways in which “everyday” Americans think and reason and react.
Perhaps I am being alarmist. But sometimes, I worry that I do sniff in the ire of the Tea Party the first whiffs of a New American Fascism, and that, at the very least, we need to be careful, and vigilant, and keep our eyes open in the days ahead.
In 1947, just after the battle against Nazism and Japanese militarism had
been won, the
But the voice of reason in the film points out—the voice, actually, of a
Hungarian refugee who had fled the Nazi takeover of his country and had
That means that we need to start talking to one another again. And listening to one another again. In our civic life, that means concentrating on finding ways in which everyone is treated fairly and equitably; in finding ways that government ministers to the needs of common, everyday folk like you and me, and not just to the needs of the already powerful and wealthy. In our political life, it means using the intelligence and wisdom in this land and finding ways to put people back to work; finding ways to stop wasting money; finding ways to use the best ideas among us—wherever they come from—to solve the awesome problems our nation faces, and that our world faces.
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
May we firmly plant our nation’s flag once again in the solid ground of liberty and law, in self-control and reason, in common sense and civility toward one another again.