What did I do yesterday? Well, I got into my car and drove down a few socialist roads, highways and streets to the socialist park called Corning Preserve in Albany to attend a Tea Party rally, that’s what.
There was good turnout for the event, considering it was a gray, chilly day and it had been raining earlier — maybe a thousand people, by my guesstimate — and of course they were all against socialism.
That was a given. They were very much for freedom, and they were very much against socialism.
Naturally they didn’t say anything about Corning Preserve being supported by tax money for the benefit of rich and poor alike, and therefore socialist by their own harebrained definition, nor did they say anything about Broadway being a socialist street or I-787 being a socialist highway, either. That was my idea, interjected in the interest of irony.
Tea Party people are immune to irony. A recent New York Times/CBS poll, which got a lot of publicity, purported to probe what Tea Party people really think and really want, but it had the fault common to all polls of taking people’s answers at face value, and therefore it missed the immunity to irony.
Well and good, Tea Partiers are angry — I’ve been calling them the Angry Ones right along; I didn’t need a poll for that.
Very well, they have such and such incomes and such and such educations. And very well also they are against government spending, or say they are, but that’s where the irony deficiency comes.
They not only drive merrily on tax-supported roads and conduct their angry rallies in tax-supported parks, the older ones among them happily collect Social Security payments and get Medicare too.
“Send back your Social Security checks,” I suggested to a couple of these gentlemen as I circulated through the park interviewing Partiers at random. “Reject Medicare,” having in mind that one of them had just assured me that private insurance companies were much to be preferred to government health insurance.
It might be a new entry for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — Irony Deficit Disorder. The Partiers could be poster children for it, except they’re mostly too old.
Oh, sure, they’re against government spending, especially spending beyond what the government has, but did they come into the streets with their protest signs when President Bush was spending hundreds of billions of dollars that we didn’t have to invade Iraq on false pretenses?
I asked around, and I couldn’t find a single person at the rally who had. Not a one. What’s more, they got very defensive on the subject and right away started talking about how the United Nations itself (a socialist body if there ever was one) had agreed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and Ted Kennedy (the prince of liberals) had also agreed, and so forth. Nothing about deficit spending.
I asked them — and here I’m conflating at least a dozen interviews — when was the first time they had come into the streets to protest excessive government spending, and they all said the same thing. About a year ago.
Which tells me, even if it doesn’t tell the New York Times/CBS poll-takers, that excessive government spending is not their real concern but only a cover, an excuse, like weapons of mass destruction were a cover or an excuse for George W. Bush.
What they’re really against is government benevolence, as I have said many times before. The nanny state, they call it. And especially they’re against it when a black liberal Democrat is in the White House.
They’re not against big spending on misbegotten wars. They’re against big spending on health care. And not all health care either, but just other people’s, especially poor people’s. They’re perfectly happy to get Medicare for themselves.
“Socialism: Tax Dollars at Work for Those Who Won’t,” read one sign that I noted.
That’s their real objection, paying taxes to help other people, invariably regarded as loafers.
“Thank you for the freedoms we have,” a preacher prayed to open the rally. “We ask that You open the ears of those governing us & in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
“Official Angry Member,” read one button.
“What are you angry about?” I asked the wearer.
“Pretty much everything,” he said.
I pressed, as I did with everyone, and the answer was “taxes.”
Always taxes, meaning basically our contribution to the common good. Nothing said about how the grass gets mowed in Corning Preserve or how I-787 gets paved.
“Give Me Liberty Or Else,” read a sign.
Or else what? I inquired.
The carrier of the sign didn’t know, but he thought, “We’re on our way to something else already.”
“The county and the town governments coming up with more that you can’t do.”
Amorphous stuff. A general disgruntlement, projected onto their bogeyman, government.
Discontented people who fancy themselves patriots, as opposed to the rest of us, who are presumably not. Waving their flags, wearing their tricorner hats, holding up posters bearing the 10 Commandments with a legend at the bottom, “America’s Moral Foundation.”
I chatted up one fellow carrying such a poster, and pointed out to him the commandment that says, “Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Graven Image.”
“That’s an important one,” I said. “Where would America be without that part of our moral foundation?”
But like the others, he suffered from Irony Deficit Disorder, and I got no satisfaction.
There was a fellow from Ballston wearing a “Tyranny Response Team” jacket — Partiers have a weakness for self-aggrandizement — who was reluctant to talk to me because, “The media makes up stories all the time.”
I asked him if he didn’t think we tell the truth once in a while, and he said, “Not by design.” Which is typical of the Angry Ones. They feel put upon not just by the government taxing them to support loafers but by the media deceiving them.
And naturally they do not include such behemoths as Fox News or Rush Limbaugh when they say “media.” They mean the media that endeavors to report objectively, the despised Mainstream Media.
I got so, circulating around, I introduced myself as so-and-so “from the Mainstream Media” just for the mischief of it.
One woman in all seriousness began shouting, “Infiltrator! Infiltrator!” when she realized who I was, alerting other Partiers and pointing to me, apparently under the misapprehension that Corning Preserve was a private park.
So it was a jolly time, and the only thing missing was Her Perkiness, Sarah Palin, to assure these folks that they are the Real America — which increasingly they seem to be. Alas, alas.
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