Thursday, April 28, 2011

A response to the Tea Party's letter to the editor

This is an answer to the letter dated 4/27/11, from Mr. Amagi, the Morgans, the Lowes, the Smiths, the Cannons, and Grillis, and Mr. Olsen entitled “Not dupes” about my alleged misrepresentation of the tea party movement and the Constitution class sponsored by the Ukiah Valley Patriots. 

First, I would like to apologize if I have offended you.  Please forgive me if I have misrepresented you or your affiliated group to be something it isn’t.  Next, I’d like to state that the Ukiah Valley Patriots do not have a monopoly on patriotism.  Although I don’t enjoy membership of their group, I am also a middle-aged Ukiah Valley patriot, as well as a Constitutional scholar. 

I originally heard that there was a political activist group meeting monthly at Jensen’s. Being a political activist myself, I was not only curious, but also intent on forging bridges and ties in order to unite all of us political activists into a great coalition.  I was shocked to find that the activist group I had made so much effort to attend was the Tea Party.  I had to decide whether to continue in the door, or leave.  I chose to enter and listen with an open mind.  The abovementioned letter states that I have only been to one Tea Party meeting.  In fact, I have gone to three, but two of them were cancelled for various reasons, leaving only one meeting actually attended.  I agree it is not at all easy to take time out from one’s busy life to attend meetings.  I made great efforts to arrive at the Tea Party meetings, only to find most of them cancelled without even a note on the website or on the restaurant door. 

The abovementioned letter assumes that I get my information from far left blogs or news programs.  It is true, that the media portrays the Tea Party movement as screaming, gun-toting individuals with an agenda to disrupt.  That’s why I was originally struck with fear when first I discovered the political activists I was pursuing were the Tea Party.  But I decided to find out for myself right from the horse’s mouth. 

At the meeting I attended, I was immediately struck by how much we had in common.  We were in agreement that the tax code needed reforming.  We agreed that taxes were not all bad; they only needed to be made fairer.  We were all in accord about corporate tax loopholes, offshore tax havens, and the Federal Reserve printing up too much money.  Another thing we all had in common was our love for the Constitution.  We also agreed that both the Democrats AND Republicans were representing corporations more than they were representing the will of the People.  Pretty soon I was starting to feel comfortable and excited about the Ukiah Valley Patriots.  I also admired how they could recruit 40 people to a meeting when I could barely recruit seven.  And I loved the fact that they were sponsoring a free class on the Constitution.  Why didn’t I think of that? 

Although I was agreement with them on many points, I also heard many things that disturbed or terrified me.  The calls of “Evil!  Evil!” that I heard while one man gave an exposé of the political and financial involvements of George Soros seemed radically extreme.  When someone mentioned that Senator McCarthy was on the right track and should not have been stopped, I admit, chills of terror shot up and down my spine. 

I saw a tome of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in a position of honor on the table.  Since I had recently read it, I was excited to discuss it with this group. It turned out that only a few of them had read it.  Noting the honor bestowed on the book, I assumed that the Ukiah Valley Patriots were free market neo-liberals like most of the other folks that admire Ayn Rand’s philosophy.  I engaged the secretary in a discussion about free markets and the Constitution.  She explicitly stated to me that the Constitution supports free enterprise.  I argued that there is nothing in the Constitution about free enterprise.  The secretary contended, as did Ayn Rand, that the Founding Fathers established the Constitution to protect free enterprise.  I responded that the only thing even close was the right to own private property.  She, and several echoes from around the room stated that this right IS about free enterprise.  Now, in the abovementioned letter, the authors make it very clear that the Constitution was NOT established to promote free enterprise, contrary to what was discussed at the Tea Party meeting.  So it is true, if the Ukiah Valley Patriots were sponsoring a class on the Constitution and they stated at their meeting that it was established to promote free enterprise, and they admired the philosophy of Ayn Rand, I jumped to the conclusion that they were planning on spinning the Constitution classes to support their neo-liberal beliefs.  Please forgive me for any wrong assumption about the Constitution class.  I regret not having attended them all. 

The one Constitution class I did attend was excellent.  But it did have some spin.  I didn’t think they could teach me anything new about the Constitution but I was happy to have been proven wrong.  I learned how some rights were for citizens, some for individuals, and some for the People.  I saw the underpinnings of armed revolution designed right into the Constitution not only in the right to bear arms, but also in the government’s right to raise taxes to enlist armies to put down insurrections.  I had never put those two facts together before.  The spin came in when the teacher emphasized that it is not only our right to bear arms, but it is our obligation.  He then went on to say that we have the right to bear arms and petition the government for redress of our grievances in BIG groups, implying that we are obligated to get into an armed militia to petition the government for redress at the end of a gun barrel. 

 Believing that we can have an unarmed revolution pressuring the government by force of massive coalitions of disparate groups, I saw an opportunity to plant a seed of Peace.  I suggested to the teacher that a trade union is a huge mass of people who use collective bargaining to non-violently petition the government for redress of grievances.  I was particularly thinking of the government workers in Ohio that were having their Constitutional rights to bargain with their boss, the Ohio government, stripped from them by their Tea Party governor.  The Constitutional teacher was taken aback for a moment, with objections heard muttered around the room, that THAT was different.  Case closed! 

So when I hear everyday middle-aged working class people at a Tea Party meeting tell me that Senator McCarthy and the HUAC was right and shouldn’t have been stopped, and that Soros is evil but the Koch brothers are heroes, and boast to me about their license to carry a concealed weapon, it is not from left wing blogs that I draw my conclusions.  And it is true, that the UVP do not say who is underwriting their program; I assumed that it was the Koch brothers who are notorious for underwriting other Tea Parties.  And it is true that the Tea Party movement is not monolithic.  And just because a few individuals Tea Party members boast about their license to carry a concealed weapon doesn’t make all Tea Partiers armed, wild-eyed extremists. 

After a brief 4-sentence mention of the local Tea Party in my letter to the editor “Feeling Powerless,” it was interesting that a dozen people felt compelled to write over 1100 words in response. Nor was I even referring to the Tea Party in my letter when I talked about neo-con fascists.  It is also interesting that the non-monolithic Ukiah Valley Patriots assumed I was talking about them when I mentioned neo-con fascists.  I was actually thinking about Milton Friedman, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, signers to the Project for the New American Century, Erik Prince, Paul Wolfowitz, Ben Bernanke, Donald Rumsfeld, Ron Regan, Alan Greenspan, Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Charles & David Koch, Rahm Emanuel, William Daley, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and many more. 

And as far as deficit spending, although the government should NEVER be run for profit like a corporation, it is commonplace for fledgling businesses to run on deficit spending until their product improves or their market share expands enough to turn a profit.  If Toyota Motors didn’t run on deficit spending for nearly 2 decades with protectionist government tariffs, there would never have been today’s Prius or Lexus.  History demonstrates that government deficit spending and protectionist tariffs stimulate economic growth.  Of course, I wouldn’t include racking up deficits on bank bailouts or endless wars.  Usually the spending that stimulates the economy is in improving the infrastructure and upgrading the human capital with education and skills training.  Or to provide a social safety net during economic downturns. 

If we expect to change our government to one that represents the People, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, instead of securing the profits of big corporations at the People’s expense, then we need to join together instead of contending with each other.  I invite the Ukiah Valley Patriots to join together with other patriots to work in concert to establish a more representative government. 

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