Sunday, February 28, 2010

Frank Rich, David Barstow...And a Nutty World

As usual, the New York Times op/ed column by Frank Rich this morning (“The Axis of the Obsessed and Deranged”) was easy reading. It was about the Republican Tea Party. And because Rich mentioned David Barstow’s “chilling” investigation of the Tea Party--Barstow’s NYT article (“Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right”) was printed in the NYT on February 16th—I downloaded the Barstow piece. It was not easy reading. Not because the writing is turgid...quite the opposite, the writing is clear and a very good read. But the subject matter is hard to get through. Although there are, of course, sane and thoughtful people who have allied themselves with the Tea Party because of frustration with the current lack of leadership and disorganization in the Republican Party. But a majority of the Tea Party constituents are (as Dorothy Rabinowitz noted in the Wall Street Journal) “conspiracy theorists, anti-government zealots, 9/11 truthers and other cadres of the obsessed and deranged”. And that’s hard to read about. Barstow says, “the Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent”. But it’s also a lunatic fringe dump site where proponents of militias taking over Washington, DC meet with “No Government Whatsoever” nutcases and talk about the morality and beauty of dying for one’s country and say things like, “I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show”, “you’re either with us or you’re the enemy”, and they chew over the possibility of fighting “another civil war”. And underneath all the rhetoric and bombast, under all the gun-totin’ bluster and ill-thought-out mechanics of getting rid of all government agencies is the very real racism that still exists in the United States. One faction of the Tea Party is a core of folks who despise Barack Obama just because he is black and who want to have done with all government because we now have a black president who has tainted our government forever. It’s not as though the Tea Party has co-opted the Republican Party and has an agenda for a plan to democratically change things. The Tea Party's point is that they have guns, they are pissed and they will use their arms to make their point if given half the chance. Recently, Louis Menand noted in an article in the “The New Yorker” magazine about mental illness and the trend of mental health professionals toward pathologizing depression, that being depressed is not a disease but a very sane response to a crazy world. The emergence of the Tea Party is major evidence of how crazy our world is.

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