Folk Letter

Peoria, Illinois

Were I an unkind person I'd say the boobacracy has awakened, but then I'd have to say "been there done that". I remember in my callow youth, at eighteen, in 1964 standing on one of the main streets in Peoria holding my Goldwater sign aloft as Lyndon Johnson's motorcade drove by. I was against "segregation" but nervous in an inchoate way that LBJ was proposing giving rights to blacks at the expense of the "rights of white men" and would usher in a socialist revolution. I was afraid, even then, that some bogyman was going to take my guns, though I didn't have one and wasn't interested in buying one. It was just the prospect of not being able to wave one any time I wanted at some perceived threat that the Goldwater people had convinced me was an assault on my liberty and the beginning of tyranny. (It seems ironic now that LBJ gave me my first gun and provided me the training in its use.)

I had little grounding in politics and almost no understanding what a modern nation state was about. I didn't realize that we had gone from an agrarian nation to an urban mass society where a highly structured hierarchy was required for cars to move seamlessly from New York to California and a coordinated system of higher education was necessary for all of the technological changes that were to improve my life in so many ways. I was wedded to the idea that if I followed the common sense of any 18th century yeoman farmer democracy would be saved. At eighteen, the life I'd known was changing all too rapidly for me and I was afraid. JFK was dead and LBJ was co-opting his magnificent political vision to his own unsavory ends. The draft and Vietnam were lingering in the not to distant future. The prospect of bombing North Vietnam "into the stone age" seemed preferable to having to risk my own life in the much more reasoned approach of limited warfare in the world of international power politics.

I suspect that this is how many of those attracted to the Tea Party Movement are feeling today. Mr. Obama's characterization when he spoke in San Francisco was apt, if somewhat poorly constructed, when he talked about people "wedded to their guns and their fundamentalist religion". These are basically good people, neighbors who I've worked with and talked to. People who want the world to be as it was, and have no clear understanding that it can never be that way again unless there is a catastrophic change in demography that will sweep many of us away, along with the fears that they have. Nourished by the pabulum of cynical demagogues-- like Glen Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Lyndon Larouche and exploited by self serving politicos like Richard Shelby, John Boehner, and Jim Demint they are looking for simple answers and people who promise to bring yesterday, a more understandable time, back. One always listens for the simple explanation first, not just because it's the easiest to understand but also because it takes less effort.

Lenin's promise was simple "bread and peace" and eventually the Russian people got bread and peace, but at a horrible price. Hitler's promise was equally simple to restore the German nation to its rightful place on the world stage. The Germans got that, but the price the they and the world paid was horrendous.

Many of the people coalescing around the Tea Party Movement, young and old, are at the beginning of their political awakening. They are angry and frustrated by what they see and rightly so. They're in the midst of a personal storm. They see their own little boats on the verge of capsizing and they're looking for the calmer seas of yesterday. Eventually many of them will realize that there are no simple solutions and reason will moderate their fear struck emotionalism. In the meantime let's hope, for all of our sakes, that God does indeed protect fools, drunks, and the United States of America.

No comments:

Blog Archive