An Article by Guest-Writer Jeff Eyges
[Note: You last saw him guest-blogging in Pharyngula. Now, in a major career blunder, Jeff Eyges lowers his standards dramatically and agrees to write an article for Bay of Fundie. Risking his sanity for your entertainment, Jeff goes undercover at a teabag rally.]
A few days ago, I received an email from United for Justice and Peace, asking for volunteers to help stage a demonstration against Sarah Palin, who was going to be speaking on Boston Common. I do little enough apart from fire off protest emails, so I figured I’d go. I hadn’t realized it was a fully-fledged Tea Party rally. Of course, I arrived about an hour late and couldn’t find the group (I heard later they were segregated from the rest of the crowd behind a fence). I’d missed hearing Palin speak (I was told she began by saying, “Look at all the cameras! They want to hear our message!”, then started trashing the “liberal media”), so I wandered about for a little while and observed.
There were probably around two thousand people there, in addition to the vendors selling crap (including a prodigious number of “Don’t Tread on Me” flags). It was pretty much a circus of crazy. With many of them (I daresay most), one could tell by looking at an individual’s face whether or not he or she was a Teabagger; there was an obvious cognitive deficit. One guy was sitting behind a table, wearing a three-piece suit and a pig’s nose, squealing, with a sign that said, “Bailout Barney Frank“. Near him was a frail young man with a quavering voice, calling out, “We’ve got to get Obama out of there, folks! We’ve got to get him out of there!” Some of them just looked haggard. From what I could see, the movement seems to be comprised mainly of people to whom, for the most part, neither life nor nature has been particularly kind.
Nearly any sign you could imagine was in evidence. All the different flavors of anti-Obamaness, from “ObamaCare is Unconstitutional!“ (there must be a Godwin-like principle covering that one by now) to “We Don’t Hate Your Race, Just Your Policies!“ Also in attendance were the obligatory religious lunatics—”Don’t Take God Out of [the Institution or Icon of Your Choice]!“ There were a few protest signs held up by liberal and environmental groups, and some that were obviously satirical, e.g., “Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus!“
Then there were some I couldn’t figure out at all. One young man in an MIT sweatshirt was carrying a sign that said (note the spelling): “MIT Nucular Engineers for Palin“.
Another read, “I’m Gay For Palin!“ Acerbic, or a fiscally conservative gay person desperate enough to overlook her religious views—a Log Cabin Teabagger?
One sign said (I promise you), “Know Who Else Was a Kenyan Muslim? Hitler!“ Funny, the young man carrying it didn’t look crazy. Later, someone explained to me that it was probably meant to make fun of their accusations. I was embarrassed; I actually hadn’t gotten it, but it shows how far over—or under—my head most of this was.
Without question, however, my favorite was one that said, simply, “Generic Angry Slogan!“
I’m not much of a one for crowds, so I only stayed for about twenty minutes. While I was there, a woman ascended the stage and began by asking, “How many Republicans are here?” Some hands went up. “How many Libertarians?” Considerably more. “How many Democrats?” A few, and, naturally, they were booed immediately. “Don’t boo them”, she said, “They have every right to be here!”, then she immediately began trashing Nancy Pelosi and the Dems. That was when I decided to leave.
As I headed out of the Common, I noticed three enormous buses, painted stem to stern with Tea Party motifs. I learned later these are for carting around the staffers, as they take this dog and pony show from city to city. It’s supposed to be a populist party, a party of “honest, hard-working Americans” who are against profligate spending (although I’m quite certain most of them would have no idea as to what “profligate” means), but meanwhile, they have enough money to buy three customized buses—and I imagine they don’t come cheap.
As I was going home on the subway, I got into a conversation with a college-age young man who showed me a few of the many photos he’d taken, one of a young woman who stood in the front of the crowd while Palin was speaking, crying tears of joy (I’m not really surprised by the devotion that woman inspires, but still, it’s very disturbing). I expressed dismay over the fact that it was such a sizable crowd. He told me he’d spoken to a number of people, and, in his opinion, most were Emerson College students on lunch break, working people also out for lunch, or just locals passing by who stopped out of curiosity. He also told me that most of the speakers were either entertainers (he showed me a photo of a guy in a cowboy outfit who sang their theme song—yes, they have a theme song), or individuals who just wanted to vent. The woman I mentioned above, for example, was the mother of a young man who was killed in Iraq, trying desperately, I imagine, to convince herself his death had been in the service of a worthy cause. There were no elected officials present. A number of signs expressed support for Scott Brown, our new Republican senator who got Ted Kennedy’s seat. The Tea Party endorsed him while he was running, but, apparently, he’s attempting to distance himself from them as he tries to position himself as a “moderate” Republican. (Yeah, good luck with that. There’s a term for a moderate Republican—a Democrat.)
However, the most interesting thing he said by far was that he’d spoken with a CNN cameraman, an “old-timer” who’d covered more than his share of political events, who told him, “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—these Teabaggers are going to be the end of the Republican Party.”
One can only hope.