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On Teabags and Douchebags

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The Teabagging movement appears to be a dart board of broad complaints about American government today, insidiously co-opted by the Republican party, FOX News and corporate lobbyists.

It's like the venerable blog, Hot Chicks with Douchebags, devoted to otherwise attractive females attaching themselves to appalling macho cheese. The mantra of the site is, "What is she doing with him?"

Somewhere in the Tea Party outrage are some desperate people asking worthwhile questions you can relate to, such as "Where the fuck is all this government bailout money going to?" and "How come I am so broke?" But before you can answer, you see they are standing next to other people who advocate burning books about evolution.

I believe this Astroturf agitprop will soon spin out, as its poorly disguised populist pitch has been revealed to be another partisan stunt with no actual criticism or legs. Just as the real Boston Tea Party involved colonists dressed as Indians to avoid retribution, this Tea Party appears to be right-wing hit men posing as concerned citizens to stage outrage.

But is it really composed of aimless, bitter conservatives chomping to criticize anything and everything that happens as long as Obama is in the White House? There is a real surge in public mistrust of the government, though I suspect much of it is based on self-propagating misinformation. Like commenters on conservative sites such as the aptly named Hot Air, one of whom said, "Obama wants to take away our rights." (Where were they for the last eight years when their rights were already taken away?)

Gone are the simplistic Good vs. Evil dogmas of the Cold War, the War on Terror, the War on Iraq, the last presidential campaign, the Wild West, you name it. Without the certainty of fighting something so easily dubbed evil, too many people fall adrift of their sense of self -- what makes them good? When there is no imminent evil threat, the same paranoia finds new outlets. And so they unearth some other arcane fear-fed meme, as relevant as the Red Scare, and peddle facile orthodox with a new spectrum of threats.

And now, as an incipient extension of all these misapplied ideas of individual manifest destiny, there is the Tea Party Movement.

Like lofty literature, tying yourself to something great does not equate you as great, or even accurate. Further, simply using the term "taxation" does not imply moral superiority just because it was a word used by the founding fathers.

What is mystifying is the lack of either real policy criticism or advancement of any ideas. Watch this clip from FOX News. What is the purpose of this organized effort? "We're hopefully going to have more tea parties...let other people know we can't believe what's going on...We're going to stand up...show the politicians...tell them how you feel...what can we do?"

It is amazing to see a movement take off without either a specific cause or a specific goal. The Tea Party movement makes a mockery of the true struggle our founding fathers fought. What they did was seriously dangerous and rebellious, an act of war with fear of death.

Today, when outrage does not take hold of the country the way some conservatives and business interests would like, the rallying cry is broadened from "cap and trade agreements restrict coal plants unfairly" to "they will take away your freedoms, guns, and children!"

Why would people think this could even be possible? Might it be because of the constant threat of socialism after every commercial break?

The outcry against socialism is in response to some imagined threat of totalitarianism that has not been raised by anyone except these outraged individuals. Naturally, that fear spreads quickly by rhetorical repetition. Those repeating these threats are the ones that have to gain by public fear.

But there is a much larger issue at stake. We need to reclaim the meaning of our founding fathers.

It is bad enough that people who haven't seen Sex and the City insist on waving their tea bags in people's faces. But this misappropriated sense of superiority in imitating the founding fathers leads to all kinds of wrong, like the inane videos put out by a guy in a wig on a green screen dressed like a tour guide from Colonial Village calling himself Thomas Paine.

That he is talking about something completely different than Thomas Paine writing about separating from England is apparently irrelevant. All he needs to do is start off rhetorical questions with "Is it common sense to...?" And from there, the escalation into outright xenophobia is swift. He ends with "Buy a gun, you'll need it."

You might prefer to write off such nuts, but Bob Basso's rants have received millions of views on YouTube. Maybe some of these people really do want to go back to what our country was founded on: slavery. (If Barack Obama could still count as three-fifths of a person, would we have to listen to him?)

While there is much prefabricated fanfare for these Tea Parties, I would caution that they are catching on with something in people right now. But here's the rub: we're stuck with them. Like the founding fathers said, all Americans have their right to free speech. And these are still Americans, who still have to be won over as much as possible. Like hot chicks with douchebags, we embrace these embarrassments, even if while cringing. That's what this country was supposed to be about: tolerance.

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