Tuesday, July 27, 2010

That's No Angry Mob, That's My Mom

In the interest of full disclosure, and before I begin discussing That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom, I want to acknowledge that I am the veteran of two Houston tea-parties. I attended the first event out of curiosity, the second out of hope that someone in government might actually listen to what was said there. Of course, no one did.

Let’s face it. Politicians think citizens pay so little attention to what happens in our national and state capitols that they will believe anything a government spokesman tells them. These same “representatives of the people” believe, often correctly, that a little bit of spin will cover even the dumbest legislation, most vile criminal acts, and worst wastes of taxpayer money imaginable. But, at some point, politicians are no longer able to baffle the public with BS – and that is when things get ugly. When character assassination of its critics becomes the government’s weapon of choice in political debate, a tipping point has been reached.

Radio talk-show host Michael Graham has organized tea-parties in the Boston area, events attended by his mother, among others. Graham sees who attends the tea-parties (“retirees, military vets, small business owners, and suburban families”), has read the hundreds of handheld signs, and has experienced the tea-party atmosphere first hand. What he describes in That’s No Angry Mob is almost exactly what I observed for myself in Houston: a gathering in large numbers of citizens concerned that the country is being relentlessly driven toward bankruptcy and that the future of their children and grandchildren is in jeopardy.

The government’s response to all this citizen concern has been to label every single attendee of a tea-party event as a racist and/or a domestic terrorist. Even the Speaker of the House, tear in her eye and tremor in her voice, hints that she fears a deranged assassin or two will be motivated by what he or she hears at a tea-party. And, of course, the national media share the Speaker’s concerns, as well as her lack of subtlety and self-awareness.

That’s No Angry Mob, That’s My Mom offers little new information to those who have paid attention to recent current events. It does, however, offer a nice recap of the absurdity of the government’s response to the threat it feels from citizens (many of them elderly) wanting to ask questions of those who should have their best interests in mind. Graham, who is also a former stand-up comic, has a keen ear for comic timing and uses comedic one-liners throughout the book to keep it relatively light despite the intensity of the hatred directed at him (and all tea-party attendees and talk-radio listeners) by those so determined to minimize them by destroying their reputations.

Despite the way Graham uses humor in discussing the very personal attack on Americans who dare openly disagree with the administration’s policies, he makes serious, and distressing, points like this one: “And the liberals who suspect (and some who openly proclaim) that most Americans are selfish, bigoted dolts, have amplified that message. They divided America into two groups: people who support Obama and his policies on the one hand, and racist holdouts on the other.” To many tea-partiers this is the most distressing thing of all about today’s politics. Never in recent memory has the race card so often been pulled from the bottom of the deck to shut down legitimate public dissent. Is this what we have come to?

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