James Thurber was right, of course. You can fool too many of the people too much of the time, and I saw that principle play out this evening at the Tea Party in Seabrook, Texas. First of all, I got there about half an hour after the scheduled start time. When you are involved with anti-war protests, this is just about when things get geared up. These conservatives are much more buttoned down than that. They'd finished the “Hallelujahs,” and were just about ready to say the benediction while I tried to find a parking place among a couple of thousand other people. Ron Paul was speaking, and there was no more room in the parlor at this tea party.
I know pretty much what Ron Paul said, because I know what Ron Paul says. If you are one of the few Americans who does not know what Ron Paul says, he has a web site. I'd just as soon not link you up with it, just so he won't get the wrong idea from any increase in traffic. The signs people carried were the same ones seen all over the country. "My piggy bank is not your pork bank," was kind of cute, while "You can't spend your way out of debt," was a bit more matter-of-fact, and there were the usual circle/slash-signs covering various Obama-related subjects.
As I could not get into the park where the event was held, I checked out the demographics of this crowd. Being as this is Texas, there were more pickups than cars or even SUVs. These were not, for the most part, the shiny, showy chariots of so many of our faux cowboys. Many of these trucks looked as though they actually went to work, as did the people who drove them. This was not the Republican fund-raiser crowd; everyone looked like they'd come from work, or like me, from picking up kids from school and starting dinner.
Unless we belong to the Wall Street/Washington “Masters of the Universe” clique, we are all fairly uneasy, to put way too fine a point on it. “Scared” is a word I would even use without fear of overstatement. Our homes, our IRAs, our jobs, our health care, our ability to provide for and educate our children, are all on the line, and if you have a very bad feeling about how this is all going to go, you're not alone, and you're probably right.
Seeing this tea party event here and across the country, I am uneasy about much more than the economy. When people are frightened in large numbers, they are easily manipulated. They are subject to irrational disregard for the facts, and irrational hostility toward whatever straw men the pundits or media personalities want to construct for them to burn down. I say the people at this rally were like me, and the fact is that they all looked like me, as well. There was one African-American, and only a few other people who were anything but white. Many of the straw men the media constructs so as to watch the little people fight among themselves are people of color. Those who deny that there is racial scapegoating in this campaign have just not spent several decades sitting down to dinner in Texas and the South.
In nearly every case, the straw men set up for us to attack are our fellow citizens. Never mind that about 99.9% of the crowd I saw tonight will get a tax cut on Obama's plan. The news media has created a boogey man in the form of “fascist” progressives, all evil-minded, godless degenerates, throwing in a few “illegals,” terrorists, and angry black men, as the target for all that undirected rage.
That rage should be reserved for those who got us into this mess and who still sit comfortably insulated by their wealth and the power it brings as they paw through what's left in our Treasury.
I went out yesterday evening not to mock my fellow citizens, but to find out what they want, and why they are angry. I read that Joe the Faux Plumber showed up at one of these functions, and he seems to embody the spirit of these festivities. I remember watching his conversation with Obama during the campaign. Had I been him, I would have walked away from that conversation thinking, “This guy's going to lower my taxes!” But like the millions of middle-class Americans who attended tea parties last night, Joe was apparently unable to understand the words being spoken to him, and lacks the quantitative thinking skills to understand that he would get a tax cut, not an increase. This leads me to believe that this stimulus package should have included a lot more funding for education.