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I am a former middle and high school science teacher pursuing a doctorate in Science Ed. at George Mason University, with a concentration in cognitive science and the evolution of cognition and learning. Postings on this blog represent my own views, not those of my employer or school. All writing displayed on this page is original work unless otherwise noted, and thus copyrighted.

06 September 2010

An Open Letter to the Tea Party

To those involved in the 'movement' known as the Tea Party,
I can and do empathise with your frustration and anger directed and the political process in this country, and I fully support your right to publicly declare your opinions, no matter who distasteful I might find them. We should have that much in common, but the evidence of your practices would incline me to believe that you don't feel I have any right to opinions that differ from your own nor do you think I should be allowed to voice those opinions.
Perhaps what is required is a rational, evidence-based understanding of the issues on which you choose to make your stand, as excerpted from the Tea Party website.
Non-negotiable core beliefs
Illegal Aliens Are Here illegally.
Pro-Domestic Employment Is Indispensable.
Stronger Military Is Essential.
Special Interests Eliminated.
Gun Ownership Is Sacred.
Government Must Be Downsized.
National Budget Must Be Balanced.
Deficit Spending Will End.
Bail-out And Stimulus Plans Are Illegal.
Reduce Personal Income Taxes A Must.
Reduce Business Income Taxes Is Mandatory.
Political Offices Available To Average Citizens.
Intrusive Government Stopped.
English As Core Language Is Required.
Traditional Family Values Are Encouraged.

Common Sense Constitutional
Conservative Self-Governance

Let us begin at the top of this laundry list of talking points: illegal immigrants are here illegally. Due to current immigration policies and the location of most of those who wish to immigrate to the United States, this is in fact true. However, what is being neglected is whether or not they should in fact be here illegally, or whether we might consider amending our immigration policies so that the door to legal immigration is not shut on these individuals. You call for deportation, others might call for finding a way to let these people enter and stay in a manner that does not contravene the law, since they happen to perform tedious, labour-intensive work that is vital to our nation's economy, as immigrants (including many of your own ancestors) did within a couple generations of arrival in the United States. Illegal immigrants, particularly Hispanics, aren't taking jobs that the rest of us want, they're cleaning toilets, harvesting crops, and working construction in hundred degree heat for less than minimum wage. If you happen to be Irish, Italian, German, Polish, or any of any European stock aside from English and perhaps French (and I mean pure lineage all the way back), there's a strong probability that your ancestors did many of the same tasks (substitute shovelling coal, working in a factory, or laying railroads if you must).
Pro-domestic employment is indispensable to whom? Certainly not those corporations that have chosen to move their industrial operations overseas, or they'd have continued to employ Americans and remained here. This conflicts with items further down your list, as I will demonstrate when we reach those points.
A "stronger military" is essential if we plan to fight a large-scale conventional war or several smaller conflicts scattered across the world. Thus, this point is only valid if we choose to follow a jingoist foreign policy, act unilaterally, and generally irritate those with whom we should be cooperating economically.
I hate to break it to you, but you are most definitely one of the special interests you wish to eliminate, and so are the petrochemical robber barons that you elected President in 1988, 2000, and 2004.
Gun ownership, in terms of hunting weapons and those reasonably deemed useful for home defence, is a right guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment to the constitution. The idea of something being sacred is frankly rather silly, and needs no further discussion because it is at best a non-idea. But, in all fairness, I will address your meaningless notion: if the framers of the Constitution did indeed mean for us to arm ourselves in preparation to overthrow a potentially tyrannical government, modern military technology has put that beyond the financial means of the people for whom it was intended. You can't afford a tank, nor do you have the slightest clue what to do with one if you did.
Downsizing government is a mantra amongst fiscal conservatives, but it is mildly ironic that you pair this mantra with the call for regulations on national language, a larger military, keeping corporations in the U.S. and restricting who they are allowed to hire, and closing the borders. All of these require a larger government in some areas. What you really mean is that you want those aspects of government that provide services for those who have been historically downtrodden by you and your ideologue compatriots to be downsized.
I'll lump two together here: you call for a balanced budget and no more deficit spending. The majority of our deficit spending over the last thirty years has been in support of the military industrial complex and to finance our military and economic interests overseas. Hello, self-contradiction. Again, you simply don't want any of your tax money to do to those brown people across town who can't afford enough to eat on their own.
Bail-out and stimulus plans are illegal? Odd, they were passed by Congress, which makes the fucking laws. You might find a refresher course in American government to be useful. If the term you're searching for is "unconstitutional," you might re-read the Supreme Court Decisions on implied powers, namely McCulloch v.Maryland 1819. This, by the way, falls within your time frame of framers and founding fathers, just so you know (Marshall and Hamilton).
Reducing personal taxes would be nice, we can all agree on that. Perhaps a restructuring of the tax system so that people pay more for what they spend and use than what they earn could be arranged. Reducing both personal and business taxes might make finding money for the larger, stronger military you want a bit difficult, however.
Political offices should by all means be available to "average citizens," if by average citizens you mean that everyone has a chance to run and be elected to office. On the other hand, your view of "average citizen" is restricted to people who look, think, and talk like you, isn't it? The main problem with this idea is that the average citizen, even if we remove your probable racial and religious qualifiers, is still a flaming idiot. I don't particularly want Joe the Plumber making decisions that affect the whole of the country, because it's rather likely that his grasp of international politics and basic economics is somewhat worse than his grasp of, say, installing copper pipe. For some reason, you've decided that above-average citizens, at least intellectually, aren't as valuable as John Mainstreet from Podunk, USA. I'd be interested to see how such an experiment would turn out... preferably from a safe distance (Mars, for choice, since he'd also have access to thermonuclear weapons).
Stopping intrusive government is a great idea. Let's begin with the Patriot Act, passed by neo-cons to allow spying on people within the U.S. regardless of citizenship or intent. I don't really want the F.B.I. reading my email, because frankly it's none of their business what I choose to write. My actions, on the other hand, are well within their jurisdiction.
Requiring English as a core language is yet another way of saying "we don't want any more Hispanics here, and the ones that are here need to leave." These people didn't grow up speaking English, and they need time to learn it. Until such time, they can't really function as members of our society, legal or not. This has the same effect, and quite probably same motivation, as literacy tests for blacks in the Jim Crow South. I can understand why you don't want them to vote, they won't agree with you on all kinds of issues. Disenfranchisement is a useful means of silencing possible political opposition, but don't expect the rest of us to sit back and pretend it's ethical or acceptable.
Ah, traditional family values... and "encouraging" means legal enforcement? The bridge to the theocracy you so dearly want lies that way. Whose traditions? Those of Abraham, where it's all right to sacrifice a son to your invisible friend? Those of Lot, for whom it was deemed moral to give his daughters to the mob to be raped so that his male guests would be left alone? Those of the Southern Baptist Convention, which believes that the man is the head of the household, women should be pregnant, barefoot and silent, and that homosexuality should be illegal because their invisible friend likes to interfere in peoples' bedrooms? Honestly folks, Leave it to Beaver was fiction, and subjugating slightly more than half of your population because they happen not to have a penis isn't economically viable even if it were ethical. I suspect you'd also like to bring back lynchings, ban inter-racial marriage, and expand those places where non-Christians don't have a chance in your fictional hell of holding office as well. Keep your prying noses out of other peoples' business, and you can shove your "traditional family values" in the same place that your fabricated account of the "America that was" came from... your imagination.

Some other points to address
The Tea Party dream includes all who possess a strong belief in the foundational Judaic/Christian values embedded in our great founding documents.

Where in those founding documents, particularly the ones carrying weight of law, are those foundational Judaic/Christian values? Of our "founding fathers", Washington, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and Jefferson were all Deists or Atheists (Deist to be fair). Some thoughts from those founders:
"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries." -James Madison

"I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." Thomas Paine

" Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." Treaty of Tripoli, 1796, as authored by John Barlow and signed by John Adams, ratified by Congress.

You were saying? Oh, right, all the "In God we Trust" and "One Nation Under God" stuff... well those are more recent additions. "In God we Trust" was added to paper money in 1957 (although it was placed on some coins during the Civil War solely in the Union, which also used religious sentiment to justify abolition and the war in general). "Under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, in part as a means of further separating us from the (at the time) Communist enemy, since Communism recognises religion as nothing more than a means of socio-political control. Sorry folks, but the "Judaic/Christian foundation" is, like that 1950's dream world you invented, completely in your mind. Glen Beck's call for a "return to faith" does nothing better than show his ignorance.

He believes the responsibility of our beloved nation is entrenched within the hearts of true American Patriots from all walks of life, every race, religion and national origin, all sharing a common belief in the values which made and keep our beloved nation great

Deifying capitals should frighten anyone with an ounce of sense, and the statement about including everyone reeks of bullshit when your movement consists almost solely of white Christians, just to point out the inconsistency.

"Obama is a Muslim."
"Obama is a Communist."
"Obama is an Atheist."
"Obama isn't an American citizen because we don't have his birth certificate."

I don't particularly want to defend Obama, but I do want to attack your ridiculous arguments. It is ideologically contradictory for someone to be both Muslim and a Communist (Communism is atheistic in its outlook). It is entirely possible that he could be both a Communist and an atheist, neither of which damage his credentials whatsoever. I suspect the issues you have are that 1) Obama isn't a neo-con lackey and 2) Obama isn't white. The resistance to H. Clinton wasn't solely because she was female, but it does seem like she might not quite fit your "traditional family values" view of what a woman is supposed to be like, as Princess Palin does. The greatest absurdity of all is the "birther" nonsense. You forget, people had to run against Obama that weren't Republican. Can you really imagine that Clinton, Dodd, or Richardson wouldn't have exposed that Obama was disqualified for office in order to win in the primaries?
Some things that might be more worrying about your movement: the constant barrage of terms like patriot, the iconography from WWI and WWII posters on Tea Party affiliated websites, and all this 'bring back our glorious past' drivel. You're treading dangerously close to the core tenets of Fascism with your rhetoric, although I suspect the propagandists involved are aware that they've stolen a few lessons from Goebbels.

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