Monday, May 03, 2010

I'm a Yankee Doodle Teabagger

Yankee Doodle is now the state song of Connecticut, but it was created by the British during the French and Indian War to make fun of American soldiers. I don't know how the word “Yankee” came to refer to Americans in general or New Englanders in particular, but I did find out that the word “Doodle” came from the low German word “dudel,” which means fool or simpleton. In the first verse of the song, Yankee Doodle sticks a feather in his hat and calls it macaroni. Macaroni does not refer to a kind of pasta, but to a kind of wig that was considered highly fashionable. The unsophisticated Yankees were being made fun of for pretending to be high society. So, a song that was intended to make fun of and possibly to intimidate Americans is now sung proudly as a patriotic song. As Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

The modern equivalent of the British singing Yankee Doodle is making fun of members of the Tea Party movement, accusing them of racism or even violence, or calling them “teabaggers.” In a column in Nation magazine dated May 3, 2010, Richard Dreyfus says that the recent bungled car bombing attempt in Times Square was likely the work of either a “... lone nut job or a member of some squirrely branch of the Tea Party, anti-government far right.” I for one am not even mildly intimidated by such an outrageous mischaracterization of the Tea Party movement. I have a bumper sticker on my car that proclaims me to be a Tea Party Patriot and have considered buying a tea-shirt from Cafe Press that says “Teabagger and proud.” I think I will not buy the tea-shirt, however, for the very reason why members of the Tea Party movement have been called teabaggers – because “teabagging” is a slang term for a particular sexual practice. If you are unfamiliar with it, you can consult the Wikipedia article, “tea bag (sexual act).” I don't mind being called a teabagger, but I don't want to have some dudel read a tea-shirt I am wearing and think that it refers to anything other than my political beliefs. I have other tea-shirts and bumper stickers to make it clear what kind of teabagger I am.

The accusations that the Tea Party movement is racist, anti-government, and having violent tendencies are completely off base. I forget where I saw it, but a survey found that 79 percent of members of the Tea Party movement are non-Hispanic caucasians, which is not far from the 75 percent of the general population that is non-Hispanic caucasian. I have been to several Tea Party events and have not yet heard a racial slur, although there is a particular President of the United States that is not totally caucasian that many at these events are not particularly happy with. They are also unhappy with non-Hispanic caucasians who share his political philosophy, such as Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Christopher Dodd, and Barney Frank. What these upsets Tea Party members about these people is their political philosophy. Race has nothing to do with it. Neither does Nancy Pelosi's gender or Barney Frank's sexual orientation. The accusation about having violent tendencies is backwards. The only violence I have heard of associated with a Tea Party was when Kenneth Gladney was physically assaulted at a Tea Party in St. Louis and called a “nigger” by some thugs wearing SEIU tea-shirts. Note that it was the people attacking a Tea Party member that were the violent racists. The charge that Tea Party members are anti-government is partially true. We are not anti-government; what we are against is big, bloated government. I, for one, fear that if the federal government doesn't get its debt under control, the time will come within a decade or two that nearly the entire budget will be composed of entitlement payments and payments and interest on the debt. When that happens, the government will not be able to function effectively. I am not anti-government and I don't know anyone who is. I am for government that is sustainable. and does things that only governments can do.

As in any large group of people, the Tea Party movement does contain some kooks. There have been some people who oppose the Tea Party movement who have advocated infiltrating it and exhibiting extreme behavior in order to discredit it. We shouldn't be judged by the fringe and by whatever moles there may be, but we have been and will be again.  Critics don't have our consent to make us feel inferior.