Monday, February 8, 2010

Tea-Party Phonies

I only saw the first minute or so on YouTube, but it was enough to give me the willies. Watching Sarah Palin is like being back in 6th grade music class with Mrs. Holmberg. We always suspected she must be bald underneath the wig because her hair was always, every day without fail the same -- big, bouffant and artificial. It never slipped, but behind the facade and the grim smile, we knew she was living on the edge of madness. Our Sarah, this epitome of small town womanhood riding the grim smile of her Reaganesque certainties, will either take the train of faux populism that is the Tea Party movement to the limits, (see Peter Beinart's essay) or crash and burn in a bigger wreck than she has bargained for.

I like the idea of a tea party as much as anyone, but who are they revolting against? Obama's only been in office a year. Any mess we are going through now is surely not his fault. The arguments for it, the Tea Party movement, that is, and the defenses put up in its favor on various lists, are so obtuse as to be proof they are unassailable by reason and more a product of prejudice, ignorance, and knee-jerk emotion. All you can do is shine a light on it and watch it fizzle away. But we be certain of one thing. They will be back. Don't underestimate the tide of reaction in this country. It is as strong and deep as our history. The hope is that Obama will not back down but instead get more involved in the fight as seems to be happening. He's at his best when he's in community organizer mode, talking straight up to regular people.

I can't help wondering what J.D. Salinger would say, or more appropriately, Holden Caulfield, the eternal teenager seeing through the phoniness of intellectuals and snobs, about the tea partiers. He certainly shared their anti-elitist impulses, but I'm pretty certain he would also have recognized their pathological ignorance and small-minded fears, rooted in racism and fading sense of entitlement. Now that he's dead, (J.D., that is - Holden will live forever), I'm reading his daughter Margaret's memoir of growing up in Cornish, NH, "Dream Catcher." It's amazing, the deadpan tone reporting on her bizarre and abused childhood, proof of the stereotype of the literary genius as paterfamiliar monster.
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