The Tea Party brews up a Boston Banner Day

BOSTON - APRIL 14:  Former Alaska Governor Sar...

Image by Getty Images North America via Daylife

When Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express descended on the Boston Common today, this liberal city not only survived the onslaught but managed to exercise  a sort of rough-edged democracy with a hint of humor and a modicum of decorum.

No, I’m not talking about the idiot who warmed up the crowd with just enough “Barack Hussein Obamas” to satisfy the closet birthers and racists in its midst. I’m not talking about Palin herself, who delivered a stock stump speech, presumably at a hefty price tag, with just enough calls for tax cuts, liberty and oil-drilling to keep the applause coming. Forget, too, the token and disheartening black dude who,  after announcing “I’m not an African-American, I’m American,” sang soulfully while a bunch of  blondes around him pumped their hands skyward in their best Rockettes rendition of Motown.

No, the real action wasn’t on the stage but in the crowd,  where protesters and counter-protesters came armed with enough dueling signs to muster the political equivalent of the old Banner Day at Shea’s Stadium, where fans had to do something to survive the awful play of the then hapless New York Mets.

The Tea Partiers punched with signs proclaiming, “Our Wallets. The only place liberals are willing to drill” and “Obama debt-laden,” a two-fer that could imprint the president as an A-rab terrorist and big spender in just three words.

Liberal counter-protesters parried with a Palin look-alike carrying a sign that read, “Am I full of lies, hate and BS? You betcha,” and a group of Harry Potter fans from Emerson College, where I teach, who paraded around enthusiastically with a proposed ticket of  “Palin-Voldemort” in 2012.

And for those who forgot signs?  No problem. This Tea Party is a for-profit operation, so you could buy just about anything even (and this may be unAmerican) Italian sausage with hot peppers.

Small “Don’t Tread on Me” flags sold for $5. T-shirts with the same logo for $15 (discounted to two for $25). There were star-spangled hats, standard issue American flags of all sizes and even a Betsy Ross design manufactured by a guy who proudly informed me he’d slipped a few hundred into a Scott Brown rally.  (Alas, though Scott’s special flags made it to Monday’s affair, the new Massachusetts senator hedged his bets and stayed in Washington.)

Some signs on both sides were, perhaps, just a tad in bad taste, such as the one on the pink T shirt of a busty young Tea Partier that read, “Waterboard Obama.”  Or the large naked photo of Levi Johnston, father of Palin’s grandchild, with a picture of Palin pasted on his most private part.

Where signs dueled participants did too, with spirit, but, surprisingly, without overt hostility. While representatives of the two camps periodically traded insults, they seemed to do so without a lot of shouting or profanity and, as far as I could tell, without a single raised fist.

The kid with lacivious Levi soon fell into a spirited debate with a guy wearing wrap around sunglasses and a T-shirt that read “Certified Right Wing Extremist.”

Their one-upmanship lasted but a few lines before sun glasses said,  “I think you look like an idiot,” and poster boy countered,  “I think you look like a nut job.”

Nothing too profound, mind you. But at least something approaching discourse, which is entirely missing in the propaganda that spews from the mouths of Rush and his ilk. Others, with diametrically opposing viewpoints, parried and parted with nary an insult, standing their respective ground in a Common created in part for just such political debate.

I left no less convinced that these Tea Party folks are deluded, but could tolerate them somewhat better than the mean-spirited propagandists who manipulate them like marionettes.

It helped that the sun was shining, the trees blooming,  the temperature in the 60’s.  But in the end I guess I was surprised that the event was as mild as the weather, if considerably less uplifting.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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3 Responses to The Tea Party brews up a Boston Banner Day

  1. mcorcoran says:

    My view is twofold. There is, for sure, a portion of the Tea Party that is flatly racist, and there is little one can say about that, other than to dismiss it as hateful. But surely, there are some people that are filled with anxiety — especially economic anxiety — and they put on Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, who then provide answers, even if they are misguided and distorting.

    I think it was Noam Chomksy who suggested saying to that strand, and I paraphrase: “Hey, I am scared too, let’s work together and take over the factory.”

    The truth is the world is a scary place. All of the wealth is concentrated in the top few percent, who then use their money to lobby Congress and DC to establish policy in their interest. And the Democrats do not appeal much to populists, because they don’t provide clear answers. Many of them are openly hostile to the idea of having the government help out, or to “redistribute” wealth more equitably. And they are so beholden to corporate interests (Dodd and cozy loans, Obama and massive donations, back room deals, the House Dems making the TARP bailout possible over House GOP rejection)… See More

    If the Democrats were actually fighting, clearly, on behalf of working-class folks, I doubt the Tea Party would be able to get away with this populist rhetoric, when in reality, GOP policies are even less freindly to the masses than Dems, and more tilted toward that top few percent who own virtually all the wealth.

    I also find it facinating that when economic times are tough, people — even some liberals — start to blame either the poor (welfare reciepents are taking all my money!) or the middle class (those darn unionized teachers, autoworkers or public-sector employees who make $50 k a year are overpaid!) and not the people who own 90 percent of all wealth. It is amazing that this is the narrative that so often wins out, when it is clear why everyone is struggling so much: all of the growth from the last 30 years has gone to the top, and real wages have remained entirely stagnant.

    I think it is important to focus on building a serious labor movement, as opposed to merely voting and donating to Democrats, if we really want to give workers a fair shake. Look at how much better the quality of life was for workers when they were organized (see the 1950s, for example).

  2. Jerry Lanson says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think it’s a really good analysis. And I agree that if Democrats hadn’t forgotten their more progressive roots, Republicans couldn’t be whipping up this mock-progressive sham. I’ve never been able to understand how the GOP, with its incredibly regressive policies, has been able to dupe large numbers of those stripped of jobs and retirement by the very big business moguls it represents. Actually, I do know how the party does this — through code words and fear. But it’s remarkable how well that old formula still works. Maybe some day it will change.

  3. Pingback: Don’t be too quick to count out the Democrats in November - Jerry Lanson - News Prints - True/Slant

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