Just back from a little trip to Grahamsville, New York in Sullivan County where we stayed overnight with some old friends and visited the 132nd Annual Little World’s Fair in Grahamsville Fairground.
The fair is a hoot, what with all variety of prize farm animals on display, rides for the kiddies and delicacies such as candy apples, cotton candy, and for those with a with a curious palate, deep fried Oreos.
I was not curious.
Amidst all this was a heavy and very conspicuous presence of the Tea Party, both in an official capacity – they had their own booth set up, as did the Republican and Democratic Parties – and in the form of lots and lots of middle aged overweight white guys who strolled the grounds wearing determined faces, Tea Party baseball hats and Tea Party tee shirts of various kinds.
And what tee shirts they are!
If the Tea Party’s insane demands in the ongoing and infantile debacle over the debt ceiling were not enough to convince you that at least a good part of your nation has entered some as-yet-to-be-named dementia, check out these tee shirts.
In Tea Party land Obama, he who is wholly beholden to corporations, he, who has continued and extended both of Bush’s criminal wars in which 800,000 innocent souls have been murdered by US forces over lies that no one has been held accountable for; he who is doing all he can do to give the US public school system over to corporations, he who gave failed or criminal bankers a trillion dollar, no strings attached loan, is somehow of all things, a communist.
At the same time Obama –or at least his close political associates like Nancy Pelosi – is a Nazi.
Or maybe a Nazi–Communist.
At any rate, without question Obama hates freedom and America, which as all patriots know are the same thing.
After musing over these rabbit-brained sentiments for a while, and after getting a good look at some of the Tea Party faithful, I decided that a discussion with such folk was not likely to be fruitful or enlightening. Besides, they scared the shit out of my daughter.
As it happened, the booth for the Democratic Party was directly across the way so I ambled over, peeked in, and, as befitting a child of the working class, a son of a union man and a union man myself, was heartily welcome. I asked them how they were dealing with the fellows across the way whose eyes I could feel boring into my back. They were extremely civil in tone and asked me if I had read the Tea Party placards. I told them I had read some of them and that my favorite was the one that read: “ US Youth unemployed after 45 years of excessive regulations of US manufacturing.” I took this to be an appeal for the abolition of troublesome child labor laws. But that was not the sign they wanted me to see. The sign they wanted me to see had the Tea Party accusing the Democratic Party of calling the former “terrorists” while the Tea Party reminding the Dems that the same was said of George Washington.
Touché! Now that’s what I call a high minded political argument!
Then the confab grew strange. One of the three men asked me if I was going to vote for somebody or other for some local office. I explained I was visiting from New York City They asked what I did there and I told them I was a public school teacher. “So you’re under attack too” , one of them said, adding that his parents were from the Lower East Side and had been unionized garment workers and that he, himself, was a union member. Yes, I replied, teachers are under attack and are so on a federal level, a state level and, in Bloomberg’s New York, on the level of the city. Yes, they understood that Bloomberg was “a problem”, but were baffled by my accusations about the state and federal government. “Do you mean charter schools,” one asked. No, I replied, I did not mean merely charter schools although that was part of the problem. I meant the union busting privatizing policies of the two men whose pictures hung prominently in their booth: Governer Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama.
The three men looked at me with Little Orphan eyes. It was clear they had no idea of what I was talking about and I began to suspect they thought I was a Tea Party person playing with them. I asked them if they were aware that Cuomo had accepted the maximum legal contribution from Tea Party benefactors, the Koch brothers. I asked them if they had forgotten Andrew’s vows that the first thing he would do as governor was “go after the unions.” I asked them if they could discern any sense, any sense at all in Cuomo’s refusal to support taxing rich people. I asked the if they could discern any connection at all between the policies of Andrew Cuomo and those of his father, Mario Cuomo or, in fact, any New York Democratic politician of note in the past 100 years.
The men grew visibly disturbed, admitted that “things had changed” and then reminded me that Cuomo’s main rival, Carl “I’m mad as hell! “ Paladino, he of the baseball bat, would have been worse. I conceded that he may have been but pointed out that Cuomo’s policies were far more similar to Paladino’s than they would like to admit. In any case, what kind of endorsement is that? Yes, it’s true, our man has no principles, is a corporate whore, and will betray working people that much the more by steadily moving the party further and further to the right but the other guy… he’d do even worse somehow.
The talk then turned to Obama and over the men fell an increasingly familiar air, as if discussing a once beloved cousin who was arrested for drug dealing or something of that sort. In short, talk of the president who two years ago moved a nation now generated zero enthusiasm in a tent of his nominal supporters. Indeed, theirs was an unmistakably air of baffled embarrassment.
To this I added rage. I told the men that the American public school system had never encountered as insidious and pernicious an enemy as is the administration of Barack Obama; told the men that Obama’s signature education plan — Race To the Top – was nothing more than a union busting extortion racket that had no place in a democratic society, never mind a public school system and that in two years the man had done more damage to schools, students and teachers then George W. Bush could even dream of. And Obama was only beginning: The end game was the de-profession of the teaching profession, the destruction of the teachers union (and eventually all unions ) and the handing over off the public school system — the cornerstone of public life in America — to the same private sector who have done such a splendid job of bringing the world to the very edge of economic collapse.
This, as they say, did not go over well.
A profound silence filled the air. I reminded these decent and well-meaning men that I was not the enemy. Indeed, I reminded then that I was incubated in a union household in which men such as Governor Al Smith and Franklin Deleno Roosevelt were heroes and in which the murdered Kennedy brothers were spoken of in reverence, not merely as Irish Catholic brethren who inspired the world, but as men of empathy and wisdom with courage enough to admit they were wrong and change their minds when such was the right thing to do. I reminded the men that the Democratic party they labored for and which I was expected to sentimentally support bore no relation whatsoever to the Democratic party in which I was raised and which help lift my family to a decent and dignified way of life. Indeed, in many aspects it now functioned as a parody of such.
None of what I said was challenged. Once again, one of the men repeated the feeble line about the other side being even worse. I have heard this now for years, indeed, for my entire adult life. I have heard it from all manner of folk who ought to and do know better. I’ve heard it from a couple of fellow teachers at the Save Our Schools rally in DC in July who defended the National Education Association’s pathetic decision to endorse Barack Obama even as his education policies demonize, demoralize and destroy their members all across the country. I hear it in the wind as the choice we are given — pathetic Obama or shill Mitt Romney or insane, spiteful Michelle Bachman or whomever the Tea Party will vomit up — comes into focus.
So, once again I am driven to the inescapable conclusion that in America, the land of the free and home of the brave, politics have boiled down to this horrific, pathetic and suicidal equation: if you think your life will suck under Y, think how much more it will suck under X.
And yet we have the gall to say we are free.
I know not a single, thoughtful soul who is enthusiastic about the Democratic Party. Not a one. I know and have seen much enthusiasm in the Tea Party, particularly among those who do not understand that their beloved party was founded and is in large part funded by billionaires who despise them; by those who cannot distinguish between someone who holds a different opinion from them and a communist or a Nazi.
I am fearful, very fearful of the country my little girl will grow up in.