Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tempe Tax-Day Tea Party 2010


Today, Thursday, April 15, 2010, I attended the Tea Party Rally at Diablo Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The event started at 6 p.m., but I left early to beat the crowds. I saw enough there to get some impressions.

There were, of course, a number of speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds, including a talk-show host, politicians, and local organizers. Here is the list of speakers.

I will organize this brief essay by first referencing those things about which I felt positive, and then those things about which I felt negative.

First I would like to point out those things that I liked. First, I noticed a number of bikers, which I always enjoy. Second, there was a strong emphasis on low taxation and limited government, which is always a winner. Third, the emcee, an "African-American" or, as he put it, an "American with African heritage", James T. Harris, was funny, clever, entertaining, and inspiring. Fourth, I got to meet a couple of politicians, including J. D. Hayworth himself, whose physically monstrous size surprised me. Fifth, and finally, I enjoyed the amazing and fascinating diversity (age and race) of people, which is something I have consistently seen at similar rallies in spite of so many reports to the contrary. Permit me to be a little salty and say that, based on my not insignificant experience, the claim that the Tea Party phenomenon is driven by racism is, at best, a clearly ideologically-driven exaggeration based on the most fringe elements. It is simply not true. I offer myself to the universe for judgment.

I was disappointed in a number of things, however. First, I was approached by a patriotic riders group, which is good as far as it goes, and bikers have a strong tendency to be conservative in any case; however, this group was too far right for me. Specifically, they expressed great disappointment in Sarah Palin for endorsing John McCain instead of J. D. Hayworth. They said that she had abandoned her principles. I, in contrast with that, think highly of Palin for her endorsement of McCain, because I think it shows character and loyalty on her part. Although I disagree with McCain on some things, I think that a great variety of things matter in politics. This gave me the sense that they were too ideologically driven for me. Frankly, I'm glad that Palin pissed them off. Good for you, Sarah! Fists in the Wind, Sister! One of their members even suggested to me that she liked McCain only a little better than Jane Fonda! "Good Lord", I thought. It was time to move on.

The second thing that disappointed me was that the speakers, including the excellent Mr. Harris, emphasized religion--specifically Christianity--far too much. I am fond of Christianity, and I respect its contribution to the United States, but I am not a Christian. At least four of the speakers I saw referenced Christianity in a way that struck me as too exclusive. Additionally, many people associated with the Tea Party movement are totally secular, such as the libertarians and objectivists. Tonight's speakers emphasized Christianity to such an extent that it came off borderline aggressive to me. This is unacceptable. This movement should be inclusive enough to make clear that anyone from any religious background is welcome.

Third, the John Birch Society had a table set up. I never saw anyone milling around it, but they were there. Enough said.

Fourth, one of the speakers, who represented KFYI radio, made a joke about Obama's birth certificate. I have no patience for this stuff. It is poison. I think the audience reaction was mixed about this. Ideological purity is leading some people to get carried away.

I have been to a number of similar rallies, and this one had more of an edge than the others. Since it was out of the norm, I will keep an eye on how things develop.

So yes, I am conservative and feel generally comfortable at such rallies, but yes, I am angry about edged humor, ideological purity, and lack of focus.

I have many friends who are liberal and progressive politically, and I love them with all of my heart. I never forget that even at a rally. The other people there shouldn't forget that, either! That, of course, goes for progressive rallies, as well. Hopelessly human, we are all.

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