I’ve taken a lot of flack for my involvement in the Tea Party movement. The fact that I added “Proud 9/12’er” to my activities on Facebook caused a two-day commotion, in which I was labeled a racist (by default), a misogynist (why not?), a militia-loving anarchist, a homophobe, and (the horror) a Paul-ite Libertarian.
I was able to get over it, except for the thing about me being a Libertarian.
At any rate, the slurs didn’t bother me, because I believed (and still do) that the Tea Party movement is important to maintaining a sense of hope (not to be confused with Hope© ) and motivation within the conservative base. They shouldn’t bother you either—people fear what they don’t understand, and the front page of today’s New York Times provides conclusive proof that people—at least the sort of people who work at the Times—do not understand the Tea Party movement.
It’s not just the Times, either. Dinner last night turned into a 2 hour affair in which I and three of my girlfriends hashed through current events, and how they relate to relative Left and Right ideology. It was interesting to see how public perception of the Tea Parties and the grassroots conservative movement at large has shaped how even my friends see me with regards to political ideology. For a movement that has been classified as “directionless” and “disorganized,” I heard an awful lot of comments about the Tea Parties start with phrases like “they believe” and “what it all comes down to is…” as if the benevolent VRWC is some sort of Dollhouse-esque (nerd points!) brainwashing club, where our hero Glenn Beck sits us down in a chair and imprints us with dangerous and angry ideas about Constitutional rights and freedom from tyranny.
I did my best to quash the Lefty-version of what the Tea Parties stand for, but mid-rant I discovered that defending the Tea Parties against every criticism is nearly impossible to do, simply because of the movement’s “directionless” and “disorganized” nature. Since I was with friends, it was a bit easier for me to explain where we’re coming from, since they pretty much know I’m not a violent anarchist who hates on black people and thinks Pat Robertson has a good point about Haiti. The issue at large, however, is a difficult one to tackle, and this is evidenced by the subtle mudslinging and disparaging commentary provided by this morning’s Times.
I’ve got to hand it to them—this piece wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. When I sat down to read it, I half expected to be choking on my Fat Tuesday donut (don’t judge) by the end of the first column. The whole thing lacked the usual venom (they only mentioned Bush twice!) but at the same time, was extraordinarily…backhanded. Sneaky. There are few truthiness problems—apart from the sweeping generalizations we’ve come to know and love from our friends in New York—but what I take issue with is the web the author weaves between your average Tea Party activist and separatist/militia/crazy pants extremist groups, extreme anti-tax groups, Ron Paul (I’m sorry, I can’t, don’t hate me), and the fine people over at WorldNutDaily.
Unlike most people who like to talk trash about the Tea Party movement, I actually went to a Tea Party last April. (SHOCK. AWE. GASP. Lock the doors and hide your children.) I will be the first to admit that the Tampa gathering was not free from conspiracy theorists and racially insensitive signs. However, what I will say, and what the Times piece conveniently fails to mention, is that the honest patriots greatly outnumbered the witless jackasses, and it was those honest patriots who avoided the witless jackasses like the plague. By the end of the rally, we’d made it abundantly clear that their brand of “patriotism,” motivated by fear and anger, was not welcome in our midst. We were all working for change (not to be confused with Change© ), but their brand of change was not consistent with our brand of change. Their motivation and end was anger; our motivation was for reform born from a frustration with the status quo. Their goal is destruction; our goal is tearing down and rebuilding in a manner consistent with the Constitution, American values, and ideas of individual liberty.
I do not fear the government—I do not have enough respect for the government to fear it. I am not a birther or a truther or a rabid, paranoid protestor, and I do not want anything to do with any movement that seeks to promote one person’s liberty at the expense of another, even if that means fighting tooth and nail for Markos Moulitsas’ right to post disparaging comments about Trig Palin on a daily basis. (Yikes. I know.) I am, however, a reluctant activist who believes that the current Administration is corrupt, and that my President plays second fiddle to the whims and worries of very small men. I am not a violent extremist, but I will fight on behalf of the Constitution if I see that its principles are being threatened by irresponsible legislation and out-of-control executive power grabs. I don’t promise this because I hate Obama (I don’t) or because I’m still bitter about Republicans losing power (I’m not,) but because I hate any policy that treats the Constitution like yesterday’s garbage.
I wonder what the New York Times would have to say about that?