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Lennard Davis Headshot

Tea Party Activists? They Actually Are Inactivists!

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Since when did the media switch from calling Tea Party members "Tea Baggers" to "activists?" Well, certainly the term "tea bagger" immediately became a joke when people began to realize it referred to a sexual practice of gay men. But why did the term "activist" come about rather than "follower" or "member?"

When I think of activists, I think of how the term became current in the 1960's in the US. It initially referred to "civil rights activists." These were often young men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for the rights of poor and disenfranchised African-Americans. They traveled to the cities and rural slums of the South to live and work alongside sharecroppers, domestics, and the unemployed. Some of the activists, like James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were lynched, others like Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo were shot to death, and still others like James Meredith managed to live after violent shootings. Scores of people lost their lives so that others could regain their dignity.

Those were activists who actively worked hard and fought for the rights and living conditions of the downtrodden.

Then there are the Tea Party "activists." What is their noble activity? Dressing up in silly costumes and once a year attending rallies filled with other people dressed up in a pastiche of supposedly patriotic clothing. Their main activities are cheering the simplistic platitudes of each other and shouting down anyone who disagrees with them. Right on, brothers and sisters! Oh, and yes, they are actively organizing voters to return conservative Republicans to power. That's really activism that lays it on the line.

And what exactly does this activism activate? Not much. Their clarion call is not "do something" but in reality to do nothing. They seek no redress for the plight of immigrants; they advocate no program to help the disadvantaged; they seek nothing active to occur in relation to economic policy.

In reality, Tea Party followers are inactivists. What they want to happen is....nothing at all. They want no government programs; they wish to roll back health-care reform; they wish that the recession would just go away and think that efforts to spur the economy are too active. And, by the way, they may decry "activist" judges and any surely all of the true activists who came before them -- anti-war, green, feminist, gay and lesbian, disabled, animal rights. Not one of them has died for their cause, nor would they because they are too busy dressing up to look like Betsy Ross or George Washington.

So let's give the term "activist" a rest in regard to what should more rightly be called "followers" of the Tea Party. In fact, slavish following is what is required to be a true Tea Party patriot not any activism at all.