Don't Drink the Tea Party Kool-Aid

As I continue to read the goings on at the Tea Party Convention, I am overwhelmed by my disbelief that this is a serious movement. However, when I step back to take a rational look, I completely get it. Humankind has a long history of rallying around hate and propaganda. If you recall the Frank Capra films used by our country to rally the nation during World War II, you understand that we have a rich history of being taken in by effective messaging. The American Right Wing movement over the last thirty years has known exactly when to pounce on any deep-seated fears in order to gain political advantage. In the guise of patriotism and our so-called freedom, the public has been hoodwinked into believing that government is evil and government services are only for the poor or someone else. The roads we use, the mass transit we ride, the public schools that serve our children and yes, the air we breathe, can only work with an effective and well-organized government. To say over and over again that government is evil and actually believe it is the most Un-American rhetoric anyone could buy into.

It is time to distinguish between those in government who serve the public, and those who serve to protect whomever can buy the most votes for their own coffers. The irony is not lost in this situation. At a time when the Supreme Court has effectively set back the desires of those trying to wrestle control from the corporate purchase of political favor, the American people are willing to believe the Kool-Aid of these anti-government groups calling for the overthrow of the very institutions that protect all of us from tyranny. If the rhetoric coming out of the Tea Party Convention was coming from the lips of the left wing, they would be considered Anti-American. The tea party crew feels they are just being patriotic.

Here is the disconnect: how can a democratic society exist in an environment that accepts as truth that government is evil? I have trouble understanding what our country would look like if we bought into their proposition. Somehow we’ve gone from “no new taxes” to “no taxes”. In their fantasy world we will have everything we need for free because we can take care ourselves and we do not need a government to survive. Last time I hit a pothole, I don’t recall thinking I should blame anyone but our local government. Nor when I see that in Hawaii they are so on the brink of the financial abyss that to balance their deficit, they have “furlough Fridays” for school children to save money.

Over and over again, people in this country are hoodwinked into believing that they are going to get something for nothing. The vast majority of economists advocate for deficits in times of downturns to stimulate the economy through government spending to create jobs. However, when people like Scott Brown declare that the economic stimulus package did not create or save one job, it defies the facts. It plays into the right-wing playbook of misinformation. As with any good propaganda, if they say it over and over again in perfect lockstep, there will be people who will buy into the big lies.

Today I received a rational email from a good friend, Steve Fischman. He laid out a list of actions we need to focus on as a people. He entitled it, The Soul of Our People. After pointing out the unselfish response we made in this country to the millions in need in Haiti, he said the following:

We have been hit by our own economic tsunami and the victims in our own country are many and the soul of our people desperately wants to help, but partisanship is pulling us painfully apart. Here is what we want:

- We want jobs for our unemployed

- We want no Americans to be hungry

- We want home foreclosures to stop (principle and interest on home loans must be reduced in exchange for banks sharing in principal growth on sale)

- We want no Americans to go bankrupt paying for healthcare and we want our neighbors not to be denied healthcare by reason of inadequate health insurance

- We want our public schools revitalized to be as competitive as they have historically been

- If banks have inadequate resources to fund innovative businesses, then we need our government to guaranty needed capital to continue our role as the innovation leader of the world (and gov't programs will hold minority interests in these companies which can be bought back)

- Although we do not want to repeat the excesses and mistakes of the recent past, we need to look ahead and stop pointing fingers - we are where we are and need to move forward, recognizing that there will be time to study and learn from our past

- We don't like borrowing from the future, but there are times when only the gov't has the resources to help us out of our current mess - - we will need to create even greater deficits to return to prosperity, but prosperity has a way of reducing deficits quickly

- We don't want to shackle private investment with new tax laws which create barriers to new investment even if existing laws favor private investment - we need these incentives

- Our existing and innovative infrastructures require massive investment - how can it be that high speed rail does not connect our cities or that our schools do not have technology required to be competitive

I am sure we all have our list of priorities and may differ with Steve on his. Yet my response to my friend Steve pointed out my personal frustration with how things are. I also shared with him the lack of a cohesive commitment to mobilize the vast majority of Americans who share our soul in having us unite behind a constructive plan of action to get our nation back on track. Many of us support organizations working for positive change in this country, but it is not enough when we realize we are fighting against well-oiled and well-financed groups that are working day and night to further the right wing infrastructure. We can all get angry at Fox News and think Sarah Palin is not smart enough to lead this country, yet what do we have that can reach the masses in a way to counteract their success.

So many times when I see TVs in public places, it’s Fox News. Yes, I love Rachel Maddow, but how many people does she reach versus Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh? For all the failings of Air America, what it identified was a need for progressive voices to be heard. The challenge continues to be, how to channel these voices into the mainstream press and media and reach the very people who are drinking the Kool-Aid of misinformation and hate.

I wish I had the answer, but every time I imagine a world with Sarah Palin as President, or losing more control of Congress, I get scared for my children and grandchildren and wonder how this can be happening in this country. Then, I remember all too well what it looks like and I recall the lost years of Bush II which have brought us all to this abyss. This includes a Supreme Court that has majority control to dismantle many gains made over the last 40 years to protect us from the tyranny of a vocal minority.

So, I stopped drinking Kool-Aid years ago because I knew it wasn’t healthy. Yet the people who pray on other’s fears and hatred, are systematically feeding them this unhealthy diet that will lead them to a place that does not nourish us with either a constructive plan to do better as a people, nor provide for the health and well being of even their own self-interest. They are being used for political gain for those who only want power back to destroy the fabric of the American Soul.


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