Friday, April 17, 2009

Pretenses

Some have suggested that I was recently laughing at the solidarity of Republican "tea parties" as a Democrat ultimately interested in the demise of the Republican party.

To be clear, I was laughing at the difference between the definition of "grassroots" between liberals and conservatives. I was laughing at the guy out in front of my own city hall wearing a headdress like the Founding Fathers who certainly did not do so in a day when such attire on a white man would be found politically incorrect. I was laughing at how these protesters were pointing to the Boston Tea Party, a nearly spontaneous demonstration against British taxation without representation, and claiming the same in this day in age while they're "grassroots" effort was being fueled by the largest conservative media conglomerate around and while they were crying about the Obama administration and yet not demonstrating in front of the offices of their elected representatives. Taxation without representation means exactly this: Without representation!

Never mind the fact that the Boston Tea Party occurred on a single day, without the support of any type of media and nearly as spontaneous as any other event in colonial history. The Founding Fathers didn't spend days making signs, creating blogs, arranging for time off work, and stocking up on tea bags. On that December day in Boston Harbor, the news was taxed tea, nothing else and they acted immediately. What stories went unpublished Wednesday as a result of broadcasters covering these tea parties across the country? At least here, the news of seventy plus lay-offs at Idaho State University was vaguely mentioned. The news that an administrator at ISU had sent out an email telling ISU faculty that all media contact should be arranged through the dean's offices went unnoticed until that same administration redacted the statement. In a state bordering ours, a state-funded institution announced they would stop taking student applicants. And for weeks our own state legislature has been in a holding pattern, as have other part-time legislatures across the country. There isn't bigger news than that of disgruntled Republicans who think standing out on federally funded bridges with an immense amount of tea will stop government spending and bring back the Republican glory days of Reagen, Gingrich and even segregationists like Strom Thurmond?

While I've been accused of laughing at the absurdity of a party that has taken one presidential election loss as the be-all-end-all of America, good, sensible conservatives like Gary Eller wonder where their place is in their party, if they have a place at all. As Gerald Ford said near the end of his life, the Republican party of today is not the Republican party our fathers and grandfathers offered their loyalty to. Moderate Republicans are losing the ground they once held safely in the party, a place where they could envelope some Democrats and Independents. No matter how moderate, those very Democrats and Independents who may have voted for the John McCain of earlier this decade ran as fast as they could from the party he represented with Sarah Palin as his running mate. At some point I truly believe that the Republican party will have splintered so greatly, leaving more great public servants like Gerald Ford and even Gary Eller wondering what happened to the party they once belonged to, that those outcasts from their own party will do as Abraham Lincoln did when the fracturing of the Whig Party was irreversible and will start a new party, a party with the longevity of the once great party of Lincoln.

As I've thought sincerely about the "dirge" of Gary Eller tonight, I understand almost intimately the place he must find himself in. While he questions the role of the far-right talking heads like Glenn Beck, Zeb Bell and Rush Limbaugh, not only their role with their direct listeners, but with party officials whom they undoubtedly influence, I remember a time not long ago when I questioned those very things.

It is no surprise that my formative years were spent in southern Idaho counties deeply rooted in conservatism, but there came a point in my young life when I could no longer stand for the complete hatred those embedded beliefs represented. There are so many, like Zeb Bell and those who practice "John Wayne Christianity" that will use the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin" and yet cast the first stone rather than embrace the sinner they've charged with any number of moral crimes. Being different isn't a sin, whether different means you subscribe to a different political philosophy, as I did growing up in Cassia County, or whether it means your skin is a different tone, like many of the Hispanics I grew up with. There are all sorts of people in this world. We each come in a unique mold with very distinct characteristics. We may be born in the United States or Saudi Arabia; We may be gay or straight; We may speak English or Spanish; We may have dark skin or light skin; We may be Presbyterian or Muslim, Baptist or Atheist; We may be physically strong and commanding or we may be limited by our ability to walk or our ability to speak clearly. We may be many things, taxed sufficiently or not, but what we seem to be forgetting is that we are all Americans.

The man in the White House may be an African-American, our first, but he is an American. The young soldier on guard tonight at a checkpoint in Iraq may be Hispanic, but he, too, is an American. The man who quietly packed up your groceries yesterday may have had a developmental disability, but he is an American. The man you see day after day at the office, carefully making his coffee may be an Atheist, but he is an American. And that promising young man who waited helplessly for someone to save him on the dirt roads of the Wyoming countryside may have been gay, but he was an American.

In all the unnecessary bickering between those who attended tea parties and those who didn't, we seem to have forgotten that we all have the same goal, we are all working toward the same end with whatever tools we have available to us. We all want a successful country, an economy on track, well-written and thoughtful laws that make every day a little easier than the last and we all want these things because we are Americans. That's nothing to laugh or argue about.

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