Racism and the Tea-Baggers...er...the Tea Party Patriots

Thursday, September 17, 2009
A conversation with the Smart Boy gave me some food for thought today. That's not unusual - our conversations vacillate between me wanting to shake him until his teeth rattle because (like most teens) he sometimes takes positions at face value if he respects the speaker* and bursting with pride that I spawned such a Smarty Pants.

In this case, we were discussing whether or not the 9/12 demonstration was inspired primarily by the racism of the participants, or by a desire to stand up as a member of the loyal opposition.

Since I believe most of those people are ill-informed, uneducated, stupid and just plain WACKY, you can imagine where my point of view lay. While I would not contend that everyone involved in the "movement" are racists (such generalizations signify sloppy thinking), I tend to believe that in the specific case of the Tea Baggers...er...the Tea Party Patriots...one of the primary motives is racism. Prompted by the idiocies spewing from the mouths of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, these folks are giving into their fear. I think their fear centers around the idea that somehow they're entitled to their white privilege, and that our President, being a BLACK MAN and all, is intent of taking it away and replacing it with a more egalitarian system.

While I think that the base assertion is true - i.e., I believe white privilege is on its way out in the country, and I think President Obama believes that's the correct course of action - I don't buy that President Obama, or La Raza, or the Southern Poverty Law Center are racists for pushing that agenda. People are not entitled to their unearned privilege. Taking it away doesn't mean you're oppressed, it doesn't mean anyone's out to get you and yours. It means that everyone should be on a level playing field. I'm not Pollyanna enough to believe we'll ever live in a world where unearned privilege is eliminated, but I think it's a worthy goal.

The Smart Boy, being a child of every kind of unearned privilege you can think of, doesn't see the world in this way. I don't necessarily blame him - he's very young, he's never been anywhere, and his experience lacks exposure to the harsh realities of life outside of his red county existence. So when he looks at the Tea Baggers...er...the Tea Party Patriots...he doesn't see action born of a fear of change. He sees people of good conscience, who have valid concerns about the direction our country is heading.

The Smart Boy, while allowing that some Tea Baggers...er...Tea Party Patriots...might be motivated by racism, believes that doesn't negate their point of view, or invalidate their ideas. And this is where we parted ways.

To me, if you are mentally incapable of recognizing your bigotry for what it is, either because you lack the insight into your own psyche or you can't control your emotional knee jerk reactions to those who are different, then why the fuck should I give a good goddamn about anything you say? It taints everything about you, and informs every opinion you have. So if you actually have a defensible position, you will have to work a great deal harder than a person who doesn't have their head firmly up their ass to convince me you have a point. Context matters to me, and if a racist fuckstick wants to bitch about the President's economic plan, I have no time or interest in their rantings.

The Smart Boy disagrees. To him, it's the idea that's the thing, and if someone has an idea that he believes has merit, then their ability (or inability) to think rationally on another topic is beside the point. He believes the correct thing to do is to judge the idea in a vacuum, where the racist asshead's other activities have no bearing.

I know that some of these people's concerns (like the cost of universal health care and the deficit) are legitimate, and deserve discussion. I have similar concerns, being a balanced budget kind of gal myownself. But I simply can't take these people seriously. Their underlying fear (not to mention their illiteracy and inability to express themselves in any kind of mature and meaningful way) makes me dismissive of them.

I realize I'm a bit stabby on this subject. It's hard for me to be objective, and that's why our conversation gave me food for thought. Am I wrong to dismiss the racist assholes and their ideas out of hand? Or does inviting them to the table of reasonable discourse empower their hateful ideas?


*This typically happens when the "speaker" is his father. Since his father is a tea bagger...er...Tea Party Patriot...you can imagine how DELIGHTED I am when I hear the Smart Boy channeling him.

_______________

Updated 9/18/2009 11:37 a.m. Please link over to Eric's blog for a really excellent essay
on how certain opponents of the President are even more blatantly racist than I thought, given the context of Southern politics and culture. Thanks for your thoughts, Eric.

19 comments:

Rachael said...

The thing is, most of the racist asshole teabaggers aren't putting forth a valid argument of any kind. You really can't judge it in a vacuum. Look at the sort of stuff we're getting out of the people that Jimmy Carter called out as racist:

1) Obama isn't a real citizen and therefore isn't president. (Not true.)

2) Health care reform is a plot to kill old people/veterans/women with breast cancer/unborn babies. (Not true.)

3) Health care reform will give illegal immigrants healthcare benefits. (Not true.)

4) Obama is a secret Muslim. (Not true, and so what?)

5) The government should stay out of healthcare because they can't run anything right. (They're doing okay with Medicare.)

6) No government run healthcare, but you'd better not touch my medicare! (...bzuh?)

The thing is, the people that are the obvious bigots/racists/privelege hounds aren't putting forward anything useful in the way of policy arguments. So it's not really possible to judge the merit of their arguments in any kind of vacuum because they're just mind-blowingly untrue.

In all honesty, I think most of the people who are being reasonable enough to bring up real policy issues - like how we're going to pay for this program - are probably not the ones out there with "Obama = Hitler" signs. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh certainly aren't arguing anything coherent about policy.

Janiece said...

Welcome, Rachael, and I don't disagree. The nicest thing I can say about any of them is that they're LAUGHABLE, and as Helen noted, 78,000 marched but only 3 seemed to know what they were marching about.

While I don't think the Smart Boy's opinion will convince me to believe these people have a serious policy position, I did take the opportunity to talk about primary versus secondary sources.

MWT said...

I visited a friend recently who is reasonably intelligent but far on the right (or at least surrounded by people far on the right). His area has no cable, no high speed internet, crappy phonelines (crappy dialup internet), and crappy cell phone coverage. Which means his only real news sources are through the TV, via Fox and CNN. I think that might be a big part of the problem...

MWT said...

Also, I'm still unspeakably thrilled that we have a president who has the courage to stand up and lead while black.

Eric said...

What Rachel said.

And also: can you invoke "Big H" without Godwinizing a thread? I'm not bringing him up to compare the teabaggers to You-Know-Who or his followers, but because there are people (and I'm still not talking about teabaggers) who will say things like, "A.H. was a monster and the (you-know-what) was a horrible tragedy, but he had some good ideas; he fixed Germany's economy and made the trains run on time." And the problem with that perspective isn't that it's false (H. did make the trains run on time and all), it's that ideas don't exist in a vacuum. You have to take fixing the German economy and the train schedules and inventing the Volkswagen (and yes, you know I drive one) and put them in a pile of "good things about N'ism," you have to take all of that as part and parcel of the Nat'l S'ist project and agenda.

(My Bug, my poor Bug. I see it in hippie terms. It's embarrassing that it was made by you-know-who. Maybe my driving a Bug contradicts my whole point. ::sigh:: It's never easy, is it. This is why Star Wars is awesome: good ideas come with multicolored lightsabers, bad ideas only come with red ones.)

(Also, I know I didn't have to "censor" myself, but it was fun to keep going with the gag. So sue me. :-) )

Janiece said...

"This is not the protest you're looking for, Evan."

WendyB_09 said...

I'm glad we have a President who is willing to lead by example and roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty and do the job we elected him to do. Which includes the baggage left by the previous administrations.

And he's not afraid to call someone a jackass when the need arises!!

It's just too bad that all this dormant racism has obscured the subject at hand. People like me, who's health care plan for the last 10 years (while working for small businesses) has consisted of don't get sick would desparately like to get back to the real issues. Including support for very small businesses to help provide reasonably priced average insurance coverage to their employees. Like me, most individuals cannot afford to pay straight out for even primary preventive care, or purchase any type of insurance plan to help with the expenses. It is truly frightening.

Now that I'm unemployed (again) I'll think more than twice before I go work for another very small business.

Nathan said...

I don't have any real evidence of this (when did that ever stop me?), but I suspect that a whole lot of people who don't want the government involved in health care "because they fuck up everything they try to run", are the same people who think 9/11 was an inside job (and have managed to keep the lid on for 8 years).

Stupid fucktards.

WendyB_09 said...

Over the summer discovered a co-worker was a die-hard neocon. Would never have known it in normal business talk, but the lunch conversation had taken on a political bent. Boss was having a go at baiting ole boy and giving him enough rope to choke on!

It stayed civil, even though ejit was spouting much wackaloon propaganda, I'm great at fencing with unarmed opponents. It went on until he pushed the 9/11 button with me, and made some off the wall statement like it was a proven fact. Boss saw the look on my face, looked at him and warned don't go there with her.

I stayed civil, but my voice could have refrozen an iceburg. Calmly informed him that when he could provide the names of the people that died in the Twin Towers that he knew personally, then, and only then, could he try and explain his opinion of why it happened.

[Left conference room, ducking icicles hanging from ceiling on the way out...boss came by later and commended me on keeping my cool, admitted he was not aware until that day ejit was that crazy]

mom in northern said...

Remember the blind squirrel. Just sayin...

RickU said...

I'm with the smart boy on this one. It generally doesn't cause conflicts for me because people who have ideology's that are on the fringe (I hope racists are fringers...) generally don't have good ideas. At the end of the equation a good idea is still a good idea no matter who comes up w/ it.

ntsc said...

"a whole lot of people who don't want the government involved in health care "because they fuck up everything they try to run", are the same people who think 9/11 was an inside job "

Aren't the two concepts there a little self-contradictory? I mean they couldn't run health care and pulled off this 'conspiracy'?

I've only recently realized that the 9/11 nuts are still there, I had never realized this had any serious following in the US.

For the record I know three people who didn't make it out of the towers, my company had broadcast transmitters there, and one who did - I'm his father - and he was at the emergency command center.

Steve Buchheit said...

I think the major problem is the people of good consciousness are being used by those who are racists without understanding the full ramifications.

For those who do have those legitimate feelings of "government spending is outa control and we're putting too much tax burden on our grandchildren," welcome to the fold. You're late. The rest of us have been protesting since the 2001 Bush Tax-cuts which took us from surplus (being used to buy back the debt) to (at the time) record deficits and then decided that one war in Afghanistan was enough and opened a second war of opportunity in Iraq. Get a cup of coffee and sit down in back. Listen to the lecture on "why deficit spending in a downturn is necessary."

I have some friends which I keep trying to wave them off their stampede over the whackalon cliff. They keep talking about how angry the right is and shouting about the new revolution. I keep having to bite my tongue and telling them it isn't new. The actors are the same and they're pushing for the same thing. The difference is they're now using more people for their ends and goals. Ends and goals my friends don't think they're supporting (in the "but we're not racists" arguments).

Janiece said...

NTSC, I'm sorry for your loss. And I think that's the point. If the government was capable was hiding their involvement in 9/11, then they're certainly capable of managing our medical system.

And Steve, the folks you refer to need to be smacked upside the head with an Immanuel Kant bat: “Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end."

Fathergoose said...

We have had this same conversation around our dinner table and I could not disagree more. Determining someone is a racist because they disagree is not accurate. All this is extreme partisanship which has been growing worse and worse over the years. And trying to blame it on how one person "thinks" another person is thinking is just wrong. Now personally I think Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are both lunatics' (ok I will concede that GB probably is a racist), and most people who follow/believe them are most likely idiots. But if we had elected a white democrat they would be doing the same thing. Are there racist out there? Absolutely. Are some of them followers of those jerks and part of the anti Obama group? Sure are. Can we them lump everyone who disagrees all into a group? Not likely. It's not right or fair to jump to the conclusion that because someone is disagreeing with POTUS, that it is based on race. I voted for him and still disagree with many of his policies. Those that shout race for every disagreement I feel are using it as a shield against the real issue Partisanship for the sake of partisanship. The Smart Boy is not looking at it in a vacuum, he is looking at it objectively.

Janiece said...

Fathergoose, I believe I said, "While I would not contend that everyone involved in the "movement" are racists (such generalizations signify sloppy thinking), I tend to believe that in the specific case of the Tea Baggers...er...the Tea Party Patriots...one of the primary motives is racism."

My reasons for believing this has everything to do with the fact that their poster child is demonstrably Glenn Beck, who you yourself have admitted is a racist. A racist ENTERTAINER, who has never met a fact checker he couldn't ignore. As a group, they are protesting the loss of their unearned privilege, not addressing real concerns about the direction of our country. I think it's absolutely fair for these things to inform my opinion about their concerns.

I, too, have concerns about fiscal responsibility. I know many groups and individuals, from the left and the right, who have similar concerns, and I don't consider them to be "racist" on the face of it. You are making a false generalization based on my characterization of ONE GROUP.

Now let's address your other Straw Man - I have never said, or implied, or asserted, that those who are critical of the President are, by definition, racist. Suggesting I would hold such a silly position is a just an attempt to change the conversation from the real topic (should those who hold racist views be taken seriously in the marketplace of ideas) to one where you feel you have the high ground. Since I never made the assertion you're arguing about, your response is a non sequitur at best.

If you're going to try and criticize my position - a task I encourage, since writing in an echo chamber is boring - then please address my ACTUAL position, as opposed to whatever it is you THINK I'm advocating.

Nathan said...

OK, just to further clear up/illuminate...

Janiece explained that I thought it was a little interesting that some folks are so easily capable of truly believing two mutually exclusive ideas, but I'd state it differently. If you're so sure Government isn't capable of successfully pulling off anything, please stop blaming (giving credit to?) them for purposely executing 9/11. That'd be a pretty impressive conspiracy there.

I've mentioned before; I had three acquaintances die that day...two in the towers and one on one of the planes. Combine that with it being my city, and yeah...I take it pretty personally.

Lastly, I'm coming to the conclusion that the "teabaggers" represent so many variously fucked up and/or wacky ideas as their motivating factors that it's impossible to single out racism, ignorance or stupidity as a cause. I'll also accept that there are some legitimate ideas and motivations being represented by some teabaggers, but I'm sorry to say that I don't have the energy to scoop all of the shit off the top of the pile to find their message.

They might do better to be more selective in choosing who to align themselves with.

Rachael said...

It's not right or fair to jump to the conclusion that because someone is disagreeing with POTUS, that it is based on race.

I'm totally with Janiece on what she say, but I will add a couple more points because man, do I disagree.

1) The above statement would only be fair if we were making a blanket argument that anyone who disagreed with Obama is racist. Which isn't what either Janiece or Jimmy Carter said. (And sounds a lot like "disagreeing with the president is unpatriotic!" *shudder*) But that doesn't mean we also can't point at someone at one of these rallies, say with a sign that depicts the President as a witch doctor, or say Mark Williams (9/12 oraganizer) when he asserts that the President is "an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug" and go, "Wow. That's pretty racist." Bonus points if there's someone with a Confederate flag in the vicinity.

2) I would assert that if we had elected a white Democrat, we wouldn't be seeing quite the same thing. If nothing else, no one EVER shouted at President Clinton during his pro-healthcare reform address to a joint session of congress. This was one of the things Jimmy Carter referred to as evidence of the racism in the discourse, and frankly, I agree with him. Racism isn't just calling someone the N-word; it is also feeling that it's okay to be completely disrespectful toward someone because of a conscious or even subconscious feeling of superiority.


By the way, Janiece... we have met. :D That one time, at Skepticamp. Hehe...

Janiece said...

"This one time, at Skepticamp..."

Hi, Rachael.