Wing-Nut Tea

2010-04-08-Tea.bmpThese are interesting and difficult times for all Americans, though the predicament of our Republican brothers and sisters bears special reflection. Economic philosophies establishing corporate personhood, privatizing profits, and socializing losses have proven disastrous. Surrendering vigilance over our integrity, we sold the American soul to feed our addiction to oil, paying military profiteers with blood and treasure.

Now, to top it all off, shamed through the basest instincts of greed and fear, we excuse ourselves through denial and obfuscation. Admitting the culpability of our policies is embarrassing and depressing, but public acknowledgment of a flawed ideology would profoundly disrupt a well-established collective mythology. While the left reacts with naval-gazing and apologies to the world stage, the right... not so much.

Dealing in Hatred

Escaping accountability for one's actions results in contempt for authority. Witness the arguments of children attempting to weasel out of punishment. Best pretend it wasn't us. Yell, "Buffalo!" and point in the opposite direction. Toss sand and blow smoke. Blame others.

On a national scale, right-wing denial manifests through an epic projection of negativity toward fellow Americans, pelting them with any contemptuous racist or political epithet that might possibly stick. The smartest conservatives recognize the implications, but rather than lead their fellows to higher ground, they guide them into the depths, fueling chants of hatred and playing the fears of their constituents like a fish on a summer line.

Like the pushers they are, they manipulate ignorance, paranoia, and restlessness to their own ends and depths. The tactics are elementary, like making someone trip on their own shoelaces. Play on the elimination of civics classes and the decay of critical thinking skills. Play on the instinct to "hang-em-high" and the confusing (hey, let's call it pinko!) Latin term habeas corpus. Make believe that guns will be confiscated and pretend that babies and grandmas will be stalked and killed by death squads. Whip it up. Make loud noises and pretend you're going to pass out. Play on holocaust imagery even if you really don't believe that the holocaust happened; think ghost stories. Pretend the other guy is really scary, maybe - THE BOGEYMAN. Pay no attention to the eerie rhetorical correlations between American militia and jihadists. Play or be played. Either way, you increase your numbers.

Stupid - The New Opiate

Too many of our countrymen and women surrender to these obvious tactics and embrace their most primitive instincts. Embarrassing to admit one's ignorance has been tapped. Easier to brazenly celebrate ignorance, ridicule intellectualism and education, then, crazy like a fox, play dumb, NOT SURE if Obama is an American, NOT SURE if facts are facts.

Serve a tea steeped in ignorance, a tea which turns everything it bathes into stupid. As with any opiate of the masses, we have the drug, the druggie, and the dealer. Dim the once bright light of a tempering conservative integrity. They'll buy anything we sell them which counters their self-interest, as long as we fan those quivering fears and keep the snake oil hot.

Implausible Deniability

Hypocritically offering a half-hearted mew for criminal threats to cease, Republican leaders feign innocence: "Nuh, UH! It's not OUR fault that our people foam at the mouth and take literally our red-meat-rhetoric. These are just innocent words, patterns of letters . . . Reload to destroy the Obama Antichrist regime, annihilate evil socialism, and clean your weapon to prevent the Armageddon of health insurance reform! It's not inflammatory, it's true, an' anyway, butter won't melt in these mouths ... 's not OUR fault we're frightened! We're not bigots, you are! Everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you." Political bullies . . . such fine examples for our youth.

Such tactics scorn the precious treasure of our national dialogue, reducing it to taunts between petulant vicious grade schoolers. Republican pundits maintain that the phrase "social justice" is CODE for something dark, deeply disturbing, and to be feared at all costs. On the other hand, hangman's nooses and talk of shooting census workers with a shotgun is merely metaphor ... not at all code ... more tea, dear? Pretty soon, you have to double down for real depth. Have some seditious hate speech with that, it won't hurt 'cha -it's been cut with pure metaphor. Makes you hear chainsaws and banjos!

Perhaps rejecting the Death Star and Beelzebub as a bit too sci-fi, conservative hyperbole nonetheless effortlessly conjures images of freedoms lost to an evil empire of black government helicopters, easily imagined by Americans steeped for decades in the imagery of Die Hard with a Vengeance and 24. The paratroopers landing outside our schoolyards are not those from Red Dawn, but rather are from God-Zillan Democrats Eat America, only, OHMYGOD, it's not a movie! It's real, true life, AAAGH . . . metaphorically speaking. (I'll see your fear-mongering hyperbole and raise you a bit of ridiculous parody!)

We see little movement toward higher ground. Instead, conservative leaders stick their fingers into their ears yelling "Lalalalala!" at the top of their lungs, filling media space with their own denial. "Cut taxes!" "Small government!" the surrogates bleat like windup toys whose batteries are failing. Read your hand if you forget. Nothing else comes out - no nuance, no recognition that our problems are multi-faceted. "You know what? We're gonna take our marbles and refuse to participate!" pouts the crotchety old non-maverick elected to our participatory government ... as if refusal is by choice rather than grief over destructive philosophies and a bankruptcy of solutions.

Stoned on Ignorance

Perhaps we should show compassion for our fellow Americas now rearranging the ideological deckchairs on the Titanic of their disintegrating belief system. But, then.... "Intellectual elites!" they grumble petulantly in desperation. Really? Up with Ignorance? Down with smart? Up with falsehoods and disingenuous spin? Down with logic because it upsets your cultural mythology? Indeed, how will you sustain your story with all these gaping holes? Celebrate stupidity . . . that's your strategy?

As a matter of fact, it is. A recent tea party convinced my neighbor that our taxes should not pay for children to go to school after the eighth grade if they don't want to go. Let the little buggers get a job and contribute THEIR taxes toward the education of students who really DO want to attend. Counter-arguments be damned 'cause they might make sense. A travesty of this magnitude does not represent the best hope for America.

The Dangers of Second Hand Depths

To make matters worse, the tea appears to have slopped out of the pot, for the left too often surrenders the high road. "Snark" is in the air. The blogosphere is filled with the bullying energy of liberals gleefully dancing and gloating around conservative posts: "You're an idiot - no, YOU are!" Acting out becomes the oh-so justifiable norm. Honest, solution-based dialogue can be characterized as pushing a car uphill with one's nose.

The Clean and Sober Higher Ground

From across the world, from the left, the center, and the right, voices begin to lift above the berserker cries of the tea-crazed - the political substance abusers of our time. The call grows for a self-reflection that embraces higher principles of thinking and behavior. It's not about accusations; it's about admissions. It's about admitting that one has been scammed, and maturing beyond being a mark for political manipulators. Some admit their own ideological culpability and engage self-reflecting quests for the problematic roots of societal ills. Others reject seditious tactics steeped in distortion, contrived outrage, and discredited smear and fear. They seem outnumbered.

At the same time, we have to accept that the recalcitrant Americans are ours - our neighbors, coworkers, friends and families, and we don't kick them out, or kill them, or scream abusively, or put them in a closet, or somehow give them back. We don't deprive them of tea ... we redirect. We stand arm in arm with thinkers of both parties, and we begin to serve tea of a different leaf. The sweet, wise, soothing teas of truth and compassion, of listening and asking, as one should with bullies, "What's brought this on - what do you fear?"

As together we offer hands toward higher ground, the axis shifts from a horizontal tugging between left and right, to a vertical lifting from fear and deception to courage and truth. We whisper the frightened into a healthier way of being. This way is safe. Thinking is safe. We newly articulate the best of our collective values, and offer systemic solutions that all Americans can embrace. We begin to see ourselves in terms of our community - a part of something that requires the health of the whole. By tapping our brilliance and compassion, we reseed integrity, hope, and creativity into our family, learning, labor, and environment.

Leave vengeance to the Lord, or in some way behind us, in the depths with Beelzebub. Leave behind our fears and unhealthy, irrational hate. Up with integrity, hope, truth, and health.

? That's different. What will we let stick to us, condone, and allow within the boundaries of our self-definition . . . our history? What will we reject? What kind of people are we, really? At a time when our citizens must reclaim education, ensure the survival of critical thinking, and treasure truth over manipulative prowess, the journey we take will surely upset our national narrative of steroid superiority. Let it. It's a chance worth taking, for in the process, we may recover our integrity, our self-respect for the authority and competence of we-the-people . . . and the gentle elegant imagery of tea.