Dear Tea Party Neighbor

Dear GOP/Tea Party Neighbor,

I can’t help you.  I can’t help you if you continue to get your information about politics and economics from right wing talk radio and Fox News. The misinformation you are receiving should be an insult to your intelligence.  [HuffPo] That you don’t find it insulting leads me to the conclusion that you don’t want to delve more deeply into political or economic topics lest you discover something that doesn’t re-enforce your biases.

You are worried about your freedom.  I’m worried about it too, but for entirely different reasons.   You’ve expressed your concern time and again that “we’re losing our freedom.”  “The Government is Taking Over.” “There’s too much Socialism.”

You want to be free! Free to what?  I’m getting the impression you want to be free to go back to a time when it was “better.”  When was that?

Was it when there were still restrictive covenants in real estate transactions which prohibited the sale of homes in some neighborhoods to people of color?  When you didn’t have to live next door to people you didn’t understand completely, and didn’t trust because they were ‘different?’ I can see your problem, you are no longer FREE to have the government protect you from having neighbors you don’t want.

Was it when schools were carefully segregated and white students didn’t mix with those of color?  Little wonder racially based mis-understandings are common, there are so many who having never shared common social institutions don’t know how to find common interests.  Or, did you attend a de-segregated school only to stick closely  with your own kind? Did you go home each day to a house in which the “N” word was common, and those who might be described by it were routinely denigrated?  I conclude from this that you are no longer FREE to use the “N” word in polite company, that your racial biases are no longer socially acceptable — you make that point each time you sneer about people who are “politically correct.”

Was it when ‘the little woman stayed home?’  (and followed orders)  After World War II women depicted in radio programs and a bit later on scripted television programs kept house and nurtured the children — This is an imaginary world that never really was.  Most women of color have worked since the age of slavery, most immigrant women worked since the day they hauled their worldly possessions down the gangplank, most farm women worked sun up to sun down.  However, you’re correct — because of stagnant wages and the increasing redistribution of income to the top 2% you are no longer FREE to have a home in which only one person is in the work force.

Was it when ‘women knew their place?’  Your definitions confuse me.  Your men are “assertive,” but your women are “bossy.”  Your men are “rational,” while protesting that there really were WMDs in Iraq.  Your women are “emotional” when they are concerned about homeless veterans.  It must be disconcerting to find that in this day and age you aren’t FREE to avoid having a woman as your boss.

Was it when only the worthy poor received assistance?  When private charity was sufficient to meet individual needs?   You seek what never was.  The English enacted Poor Laws beginning in 1601 requiring parish governments to tax households in order to care for the “worthy” poor.  The colonies followed suit. That’s right, the last time an English speaking country didn’t tax households to provide for public relief was in the 16th century.  You are no more FREE to avoid taxation to support public welfare than your very  distant ancestors.

Was it when only the right people could vote?  Would that have been during the Jim Crow era in the American south, when African Americans were prohibited from voting using a variety of statutes the interpretation of which allowed county registrars to void African Americans from the rolls for failing to pay a poll tax, or “failing” a test on the state constitution, or “failing” to know how many angels could dance on the head of a pin  or how many bubbles there were in a bar of soap?  No, you aren’t FREE to live in this kind of world anymore.

Was it before there was a sizable influx of Mexican and Central American immigrants to this country?  You are afraid they are taking “American jobs,” they aren’t. You are afraid they are using our health care system; they aren’t. You are afraid they are filling our schools? They aren’t. You are afraid they won’t assimilate.  Sorry, but the rule still holds that by the time you get to the third generation the ‘native’ language and culture is all but gone.  All but gone like the German in east central Missouri; like the Gaelic in Boston; like the Polish in Chicago; like the Czech in Pittsburgh.  Getting harder to find like the Italian in NYC, or the Basque in Boise.   We can tell in this country when a group has all but become immersed in Middle America — they start forming centers to teach the language to the 4th generation.   You have nothing to fear from recent immigrants any more than your grandparents had to fear  from the immigrants of their era.  But, no you aren’t FREE to castigate them as free loading lazy un-Americans — especially while they are desperately working (perhaps two jobs) to secure their own all-American Dream.

Was it when Christianity was the religion of the United States of America?  We’d have to go back some distance for that, especially since the Touro Synagogue was established in Newport, Rhode Island in 1658.  Well, the country was “mostly Christian,” but what of the religious tensions between the Puritans of New England and the Church of England adherents in Virginia and other southern colonies?  The English fought a Civil War between Parliamentarians (reformers) and Royalists (Church of England) in the late 17th century — a fact not lost on the framers of our Constitution. What of the Quakers in Pennsylvania and the Catholics in Maryland?  The Presbyterians in western Pennsylvania and the Dutch Reformed Church members in New York.  Little wonder the First Amendment prescribes a separation of church and state, had confessional politics been paramount during the founding of this country it would have made adopting a Constitution all but impossible.

Was it when prayer was required in public schools?  Whose prayers?  Evidently someone forgot to tell you about the 1844 Philadelphia Bible Riots which happened after Irish Catholic parents began complaining about the use of the King James version of the Bible in their childrens’ schools.  There are about 330 million people in this country split into all manner of religious groups; 78.4% describe themselves as Christian, but this group ranges from evangelical Protestant to Russian Orthodox; then there are Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish synagogues; at least three kinds of Buddhists, three kinds of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Native American groups in our mix. 16.1% describe themselves as unaffiliated, some agnostic, some atheist, and some nothing in particular. [Pew] If we really respect minority rights in this country — then whose parents do we insult? No, I suppose you really aren’t FREE to cram your religion down some other parent’s throat.

Was it when you didn’t have to worry about someone taking your gun away?  When was that?  The United States of America has really light regulations on fire-arms, and it shows.   You are just as FREE to own an gun in 2012 as you were in 2000. Maybe even more so.

Was it when you didn’t have to worry about government regulations? From which regulation would you like to be free?  Would they be regulations regarding safe food and medicine?  How about clean air and drinking water?  Or, perhaps you would like to be free of regulations preventing lending institutions from practicing predatory lending?  Would you like to be free from regulations requiring the approval of health inspections for out patient surgeries, restaurant kitchens, or gas station bath rooms? When you complain about regulations in general the removal of the specifics would significantly affect your life.  But, no, you really aren’t FREE from regulations designed to protect your health, your children, your property, or your wallet.

Was it when you were free to use your favorite epithets about gay and lesbian persons?  Or, when it was socially acceptable among large groups of Americans to bully, taunt, or discriminate against LBGT persons.  Does their lifestyle seem “icky” to you, and you want to be protected from it?  That ‘s not the definition of Small Government —  when you want government to shield you from those who don’t share your gender orientation. Sorry, no you aren’t FREE any longer to use gender epithets in polite conversation.   And, no, the marriage of the gay couple down the street shouldn’t be causing any problems in your own marriage.   If you truly believe in individual liberty, then why is discriminating against members of the LGBT community acceptable?  If it’s uncomfortable for you to acknowledge the gay son in your neighbor’s family or the lesbian daughter of the family across the street, then how does this square with your “Live and Let Live” philosophy?  If they aren’t FREE then neither are you.

I suppose I can partially understand your frustration.  The government, you rarely call it OUR government, won’t protect you any more.  It won’t shield you, cover you, or applaud you when you behave as though you are the only person who matters. It won’t protect your individual prejudices, your predilections, your biases, and your fears.   It won’t reinforce your ignorance or sanction your lack of civic spirit.   It must feel confining to live in a world in which you are not FREE to exercise  those prejudices, predilections, predispositions, biases, and fears.  However, those are chains of your own making.  I cannot break the shackles by which you’ve bound yourself.


Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, feminism, Nevada politics, Politics

2 responses to “Dear Tea Party Neighbor