Friday, March 26, 2010

Brick logic

I am old enough to remember the American Bicentennial, which was celebrated in 1976. I was in second grade at the time, and I clearly recall being forced to learn how to dance a minuet. I think there is a picture of me somewhere wearing a tri-corner hat over a white wig, and some big black shoes with those awkward Revolutionary buckles. (No, I will not scan or post it.)

How could I possibly have known back then that someday I'd see a variation on this very same outfit worn by grown men at political rallies?

There is of course a subtle message behind the imagery of the "Tea Party" movement, and it has nothing to do with patriotism. When your costume is more than two centuries old, you are, on some level, saying "I sure wish things could be the way they used to be." And I suspect that, for people of my generation, you are siding with your elementary school self (because, you know, we all had to do that Bicentennial minuet, in one way or another). Which probably also means that you're still into KISS.

Most revolutions happen in response to an actual event, imposition or injustice. There are usually concrete causative agents -- physical abuses, documented affronts against human dignity, and other longstanding grievances. Revolutions do not usually happen in response to the possibility of such causative agents.

The Tea Partiers (the artists formerly known as "Tea-baggers") are changing all that. They like to think they are spearheading a new revolution in American politics. But the truth is more complicated. Just as American right-wing politicians once perfected the notion of "preventive war," their Tea-Party base is now perfecting the notion of a preventive revolution. They are, in effect, rebelling against a new law before they even know whether it will work. And in the process, they are throwing out the social contract / common good baby with the no-new-taxes bathwater.

Theirs is a world in which PR exists for the sake of PR, and in which ideas do not deserve to be tested on their merits, but rather on how emotionally they are framed. Because, after all, if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is such a bad move for America, why not simply let it fail? Let its failure be spectacularly self-evident. November is not that far away. Victory would be all but assured. Wait patiently for a few months, and all your prayers could be answered.

The fact that you are now picking up bricks suggests that you're starting to become cognizant of the idea that the horrors you see in this law are not even remotely self-evident to reasonable people. Worse: they may be complete and utter bullshit on your part.

[Photo credit: a1mega]


charles said...

True story: I marched in a Bicentennial parade in 1976 dressed as a Native American. Not sure if that is why I am neither into Kiss nor completely satisfied with the health care bill (because it is not socialist enough).

godoggo said...

A lot of the objections to HCR reform are either 1) the result of propaganda campaigns e.g. death panels, or 2) reasonable objections (to mandates or medicare cuts) that would be completely solved by single payer, which unfortunately these same people would object to for ideological reasons. But either way, these are viewed as serious, personal, even life-or-death problems. So I can understand, if not exactly respect, where some of these people are coming from. I certainly don't have any general principal against protesting a law you disagree with. Would you apply the same argument to people who protested Prop. 8?

Andrew Durkin... said...

Awesome, Charles.

Godoggo -- I get what you're saying, and I certainly wasn't trying to raise on objection to protest as a concept. But in my view, this whole "creeping socialism" thing is the new WMD. It's the new "Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11." It is, in other words, a fantasy. And yeah, okay, as a critically-minded person I guess I can admit that it is a fantasy that could possibly maybe someday happen -- but only in the sense that in politics anything can happen, not in the sense that there is probable cause for reasonable people to believe it will happen because of this law.

And even that fantasy element wouldn't bother me so much -- after all, the right to free speech is a right to say foolish things, too -- if it weren't for the use of violence. Maybe there are situations in which political violence is warranted, but in this case it just feels like a substitute for rationality.

Thanks for the comments!