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On surviving a Tea Party interview

On surviving a Tea Party interview

It’s not my custom to direct the readers’ attention to a competing newspaper, nor is it my custom to

It’s not my custom to direct the readers’ attention to a competing newspaper, nor is it my custom to direct attention to myself, I being both a loyal Gazette employee and a modest soul withal. But now we have an exception, for which I beg your indulgence.

I refer you to the website of the Times Union and specifically to the Tea Party blog therein — if you dig and scratch I’m sure you can find it amid the digital clutter. Look for the last two postings by Elizabeth Lemery Joy, who is a member of that newspaper’s stable of Tea Party bloggers, and what you will get is a two-part interview with me, your cantankerous servant.

Yes, mocker of all things Tea Party that I am, I still sat down, if not to tea, then to coffee and hot chocolate with a citizen of the Tea Party persuasion.

All I can say is I got what I deserved, if not necessarily what I expected.

I expected a spitfire confrontation with a Bible-quoting, gun-toting fanatic, wrapped possibly in a Gadsden flag, but what I got was a gentle mauling from a perfectly charming lady who was most impressed by the fact that I was “not rude at all,” as she duly reported.

Not rude at all! I don’t know if that will be enough to get me into heaven, but it was enough to get me a reprieve from Liz Joy, who further confessed that she liked me.

Well, I liked her too, though I wouldn’t have been so reckless as to put such a thing in print.

In the news business we want animosity, belligerence, confrontation. Just look at the success Fox Propaganda has had with those attributes.

If I do an interview with someone I unexpectedly wind up liking, most of the time I’ll ditch it, which is what I resolved to do with my half of the interview with Mrs. Joy. (The deal was she would interview me, I would interview her.) “If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all,” is the exact opposite of the principle I operate on. I have an obligation to sell papers, after all.

But how can I say anything harsh about someone so charming as Liz Joy, even if she did cancel her subscription to the Gazette because of me? I absolutely can’t.

But to business:

In her first blog entry, dated June 18, though she was perfectly sweet to me, she did neglect to mention my chief objection to the Tea Party movement, which, as I have often stated, is that it’s dishonest.

Many of its adherents — not all — do not really dislike big government as they claim. What they dislike is benevolent government — government that tries to provide health care, government that is generous to people who don’t work, government that tolerates illegal immigrants. They call it the nanny state and worse.

They like big government just fine when it tortures prisoners of war, when it bombs foreign countries, when it wiretaps telephone conversations. (Not their telephone conversations, of course, but other people’s.) The underlying value of the Tea Party movement, which to a large extent overlaps with right-wing Republicanism, is a belligerent selfishness, embodied in the bumper-sticker slogan: “I’ll keep my guns, freedom and money. You can keep the change.”

In her second blog entry, dated June 25, dealing with Christianity, she was even kinder to me than in the first one, and I’m afraid it would imperil my soul to offer any rebuttal, so I don’t.

But I can’t help observing how versatile Christianity is in the hands of its believers, being used to justify anything from the most blatant greed (the Prosperity Gospel) to the most gentle charity.

Liz Joy refers to a passage in the first letter of Paul the Apostle to Timothy — she gave a wrong citation, but never mind — in which Paul urges women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array,” the meaning of which is pretty clear but also clearly inconvenient to a woman of her attractiveness.

What is her response? That Paul notwithstanding, her “make-up foundation, mascara, blush, flat irons, crest white-strips and stilettos” make her husband “wake up every morning, throw his hands in the air, give thanks to God and hum a little ‘Hallelujah.’ ” The hell with what she calls “legalistic rules that only end up demeaning women, lowering self-esteem and ultimately causing more harm than good.” And by inference, though I know she would never say it, the hell with Paul the Uptight Apostle. Let’s praise God for good old-fashioned sexual allure, the same kind evinced by birds, bees and most other species.

How can you not love a religion that has so many uses, that can be bent to any purpose the believer desires?

It can even be bent to waterboarding, about which Mrs. Joy professes to be unsure, because, “We are talking about terrorists and killers!” What is Christianity? She says it is following Christ, but you see it’s anything a believer wants it to be, which is the main reason I mock it.

As I’ve said over and over, the in-your-face Christians with whom we are nowadays inundated claim the Bible is the perfect word of God but then disregard all those parts that don’t suit their convenience, from the barbaric laws of Deuteronomy to the impractical instructions of the Sermon on the Mount.

They throw it down and trample on it, and then look at us with the most pious expression and assure us we’re going to hell if you don’t accept it ourselves.

As gracious as she is, and as unteapotlike, Mrs. Joy told me she admires Glenn Beck, the loony-toon commentator of Fox Propaganda, and especially appreciates the history lessons he has lately given with the assistance of pseudo-historian David Barton, whose one-note theme is that this is a CHRISTIAN NATION. I capitalize it, because it is of capital importance to these evangelical Protestants who insist on calling themselves generically Christians.

That’s what the Tea Partiers want, as near as I can determine: a state in which religion is dominant, private self-interest is exalted, the central government is next to invisible, and the citizenry is armed to the teeth.

I have offered Somalia as a living example of such a state, and they take offense, but I don’t see why. I’m just trying to be helpful.

Now I promise I will resist all future temptation and confine myself to interviews that are purely hostile. It works better that way, and I won’t be led astray.

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