You'd think the Tea Party loonies were already old fashioned and backwards-thinking enough that we could be assured of an imminent mass extinction. But no, the woolly mammoth movement has been dipping its ideological trunk into the writings of yesteryear for "new" inspiration and validation. It's as if the American Medical Association began searching through ancient texts for proof that the 19th century practice of bloodletting was a cure-all for common maladies, or using Dr. Josef Mengele's journals to justify medical experiments secretly performed on blacks and Guatemalans by the U.S. government in the mid-1900s. It's a search for propaganda; putting a pleasing face on actions that irrevocably harm the public good. Movement leaders Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin will be the first to boast: "Families come first" and "We are NOT our brother's keeper." Hardy har. Like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head would give a flying fuck about anything but their own pursuit of fame and political power.
Kate Zernike reports for the New York Times: Pamphlets in the Tea Party bid for a Second American Revolution, the works include Frédéric Bastiat’s "The Law," published in 1850, which proclaimed that taxing people to pay for schools or roads was government-sanctioned theft, and Friedrich Hayek’s "Road to Serfdom" (1944), which argued that a government that intervened in the economy would inevitably intervene in every aspect of its citizens’ lives. The relative newcomer is "The 5000 Year Leap," self-published in 1981 by an anti-communist crusader shunned by his fellow Mormons for his more controversial positions, including a hearty defense of the John Birch Society. (Every time I mention the John Birch Society on this blog I get an email - auto-generated, possibly - from someone claiming that JBS is not a racist organization. But I hail from the Lone Star State and I know better.) It asserts that the Founding Fathers had not intended separation of church and state, and would have considered taxes to provide for the welfare of others "a sin." (Mortal? Venial?) If their arguments can be out there - like getting rid of the 17th Amendment, which established the direct election of senators by popular vote - or out of date (Bastiat warned that if government taxed wine and tobacco, "beggars and vagabonds will demand the right to vote"), the works have provided intellectual ballast for a segment of the electorate angry or frustrated about the economy and the growing reach of government.
This is how old I am. I actually remember a time when there was not a homeless problem in America - certainly nothing like we're witnessing these days. After graduating high school and before sliding into college I moved to Houston from Southern Baptist hell. In Houston, I was employed by a local department store called Foley's (later bought by Macy's) selling women's shoes in the Discount Basement. It was a depressing job but my family was poor and this was the best I could do until I figured out a way to advance my education. Each day except Sunday I rode the bus downtown and got off on Main Street, where the huge store was located. This was right around Christmastime and in the month leading up to the holidays I began to notice people lying on the sidewalk and sleeping in alleys. People of all ages and ethnicities. Family groups. It hadn't been that way even in August, I noted. This happened in the early seventies; it was the first time I ever saw indigent Americans pushing around shopping carts with all their worldly goods stuffed inside. I distinctly remember seeing two homeless teens (not much younger than I) curled up on the steps of a church, seeking protection from the brisk December wind. They had a sign that said, "We're hungry." I remember a pregnant woman clutching a small child asking me - me, in my second-hand suit and two dollar tie - if I could spare fifty cents for her baby.
I do recall thinking, well, this situation won't be allowed to continue. Even if "Christian" consciences aren't tweaked, members of society will simply get tired of stepping around all these homeless Americans and help them. Something will be done. But of course society didn't tire of stepping over its indigent citizenry. Society simply learned to look in the other direction. Soon almost every street in every large city had impoverished folks wandering aimlessly around. Under every downtown bridge there was a colony of destitute persons. Meanwhile, the shelters operated by "Christian" organizations were overflowing, and came with religious strings attached. Some of our country's mayors commanded the police to scoop up the homeless and relocate them to less picturesque parts of the city. And then, to add icing an already toxic cake, some young men in these United States started taking perverse pleasure in beating up homeless Americans. They posted videos of their assaults on Youtube.
So. What would a Tea Party America look like? For one thing, southern states could once again embrace their racist roots and slowly begin overturning civil rights. Federal power - except for the indestructable War Machine - would evaporate. All government funded assistance for the needy, the disenfranchised, and the infirm would vanish, leading to the Era of Irony. Imagine it. As the "Don't Tread On Me" poseurs start falling through the cracks they themselves have created, they will look beseechingly to the all-powerful corporate entities who spurred them into action - and they'll wonder why no helping hands are reaching out to them. "We did our part," they'll cry out in astonishment. And the titans of greed will laugh at them.