Saturday, August 8, 2009

Health Care, Tea Parties, Lies, Racism and Capra

On Thursday evenings, in a business plaza located in Tucson, Arizona called La Placita, a local theater exhibits old movies in the courtyard for free to those who'd like to attend. This last Thursday, the movie shown was Frank Capra's classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. That particular night's (August 7th, 2009) event was sponsored by Gabrielle Giffords, a Demoncratic Party Congresswoman. In honor of the event, and as a means of politicizing an otherwise enjoyable evening which had nothing to do with politics, the Tucson Tea Party decided to attend and conduct a protest of President Obama's desire to reform health care and the Demoncratic Party's approach to achieving that end in Congress.

On its web page, the Tucson Tea Party (who maintains a web presence with its Facebook page in addition to its own website) describes itself as, "a venue for people who are against the over $12 trillion dollars in government bail-outs, stimulus, loans, entitlements, and guarantees since September, 2008, to come together and find their voice. We come together to send a message to our elected officials that, if they voted for any one of these measures, they had better be prepared to collect unemployment in 2010! We believe that the government is taking America away from the ideals that have made it great. We believe in individual liberty and responsibility, a small federal government whose constitutional powers are limited, and the pursuit of happiness. We do not believe that the government has the right to take your money in order to bail out big financial institutions, delinquent borrowers, or make it harder for you to earn your own living. The government is spending future generations into debt slavery. If you care about your future and the future of your children, join the Tucson Tea Party."

Now, anyone who has read any of the blog entries which I have posted here on economics and the bailout ("On Reviewing the Realities of Reaganomics' Supply Side Strategies and Their Effects on the Current American Economic Recession," "On Solutions Offered to Politicians for Averting an Economic Calamity" and "American Economic Decline - Stop the Bailout", will know I have been against the methods chosen initially by George W. Bush, Henry Paulson and Ben Shalom Bernanke, and which have been perpetuated by Barack Obama, Timothy Geithner and Ben Shalom Bernanke. I, too, have decried against the mountains of money being given to the wealthiest men in America, the most corrupt financial leaders who led us into the economic collapse, the businesses and corporations which have failed to adapt to the conditions in the current marketplace, and the corruption within both government and the systems set up for government to monitor and police the financial sector and thereby protect the American public from exactly the kind of greed induced corruption and failure of ethics and morality which has led to the current economic climate.

Let me be perfectly clear, while the Tucson Tea Party and I may agree that the bailout has been handled incorrectly and is not going to solve our economic problems, we couldn't disagree more about everything from that point forward - from what led to our current economic malaise to how to solve the problems to who caused the problems to who best serves the interests of the American public to the nature of Capitalism to the veracity of the information the Tucson Tea Party dissemenates at its functions to how it uses the children of its members to promote their cause to the racist slander and bigoted libel is slurs the current government with and even to the misinformation regarding the nature of and planned programs for the proposed health care overhaul being discussed in Congress.

I was appalled at what confronted me when I arrived at La Placita to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, not knowing a protest had been planned for the night by the Tea Party. When I arrived, one of the first things I noticed were large placcards emblazoned with the face of President Obama, but altered, with a white face and red painted lips to imitate the appearance of Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker in the Batman series of movies. Signs contained messages such as spelling out OBAMA in caps vertically, and horizontally stating One Big Ass Mistake America. Another placcard stated "Social Health is not Free." Another stated "Socialism Chains We Cannot Afford." However, perhaps the most appalling thing I saw was the doctored photo of Obama as the Joker, pasted onto the backs of the Tea Party members' children, and beneath the photo was, in bold lettering, Communism, with the C being replaced by the communist symbol of the hammer and sickle. Every single member of the Tucson Tea Party who was present at the rally, and I am not exaggerating, was white and WASPish looking. Not one member present at the event had as their ethnicity any other segment or minority of society. In perusing the photos on their website and their link to Flickr, I only found one photo which depicted non-white Americans in it, and in that photo, only one person of minority heritage wore the red T-shirt uniform of the Tucson Tea Party (and the event which drew the non-whites was concerned with an anti-rent tax rally).

As you can see by the photos which I have copied from their Flickr page above, one sign even went to the extreme of calling Obama a dictator and advocating the President's death. Now, one can go all the way back to Vietnam era protests during both Johnson's and Nixon's presidencies and recall that, while both were burned in effigy, no one ever actually came out and called for either American president's assassination. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that such a position is treasonous. Let's be real here, the members of the Tea Party may disagree with Obama's positions, but the man was duly elected, the members of Congress who are pursuing the health care legislation were also duly elected, and indeed, are pursuing a bill which differs in many ways from the proposals Obama would prefer if he could actually dictate anything. We are witnessing the same machinations of government today for the inquiry into and passage of any bill as those which we've witnessed, at the very least, since the mid-'60s.

Let's also be honest about the details of the health care reform bill passing through Congress. These Tea Party members call it socialism and Communism in their remarks concerning the bill verbally, in their literature and on their signs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Socialism is a system whereby the government provides services without charging the public for the services. Communism does the same thing. The main differences between Communism and socialism are in the methods regarding how the government exercises power/control. Socialism has been administered by all kinds of governmental forms from democratic to fascist to Communist. Socialism concerns the economic system, not the form of government which administers it. In fact, some of the most free and most prosperous economies in history have been or are socialist, but democratic: Sweden and Denmark provide two examples.

Communism, however, includes the political apparatus which administers the socialist economic policies of Communist governments. In theory, Communism was meant to place power into the hands of the "proletariat," or workers. However, what arose with Communism was a bureaucratic class which assumed responsibility for administering (and even formulating) not only the economic direction and policies of the nation, but also every other political policy. As Communism developed, and as power centralized into the class known as the bureaucrats, and as power corrupts, the bureaucrats in most Communist nations eventually wielded power in a manner which served that class most predominantly, and the rest of the populace secondarily.

Some of the benefits of socialism are the manner in which the socialist society apportions social services. Schooling, health care, living quarters, jobs and other similar services are guaranteed to all, and all receive their fair share. There is no wealthy class, but there is no poverty class, either. The state makes sure that the economy runs efficiently and that it moves forward in directions which best serve the national agenda and national interests. One of the things a socialist nation was able to do in the past was industrialize extremely rapidly. Both Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union used this to their advantage in the years between the two world wars. For instance, the Soviet Union, through its 5 year plans, was able to engineer the industrialization of its economy far more rapidly than either Britain or the US through Capitalist means. Had the Soviet Union not been Communist and not industrialized in roughly a period of 23 years years to a degree which took the US to achieve in a period of roughty over 150 years, the Nazis likely would not have been defeated during WWII.

Communism evolved into a dictatorial form of government. A small body of bureaucrats usurped control by forming an alliance with the military industrial complex of their nation. The authority over an amassed, modern, technologically armed military together with the centralized control over the economy gave these few bureaucrats an iron-fisted regulation over the machinery of government. The institution of a secret police provided that governing body with ironclad domination over the public as well.

Now, to suggest that Barack Obama is a Communist is utterly absurd. Whether or not he is a socialist or has socialist leanings may yet be up for conjecture, however, pinning the Communist tail on the Demoncrat donkey is not appropriate in the least since Obama is not dictating any of the policy matters with which the Tea Party disagrees. The bailout was begun by the Repugnican Bush Administration and set in motion without any real disagreement from other Repugnicans or other right-wingers (where were the Tea Party players when the policies they decry against in their mission statement were initiated by the previous white, Repugnican President Bush?). It has only been since Obama's election and his continuance of the program set in place by the Repugnicans that the right-wing Tea Party groups have come out of their white-sheeted closets to bash the policy. In actuality, the idea of giving money to businesses has always been part of the Repugnican agenda, and though most of today's right likes to take it back only as far as Ronald Reagan (insinuating that he was successful in his use of it, even though Raygun's stratagies actually led to a similar fiasco in '87 with the S & L failures as well as having led to the situation the US economy suffers from today), however, those strategies extend all the way back to the failed Herbert Hoover Administration and the ushering in of the Great Depression.

Furthermore, the suggestion that Obama's heath care reform is Communist again fails the "do you have any grasp on reality?" test. Not only is Obama not dictating the details of this bill, he can't even get Congress to get busy with it in the time frame he desires. The Demoncrats are also preparing a bill different in many ways from what Obama has stated he prefers. So, the suggestion that Obama is a Communist is just purely ridiculous because he is not a dictator which is one of the requirements for a government to be honestly and accurately called Communist.

It's also absurd to suggest the bill is socialist. The bill does not provide for the government to pay for health care for EVERY citizen in the US, or even ANY citizen in the US. That would be socialism. No, the bill provides for every citizen in the US to be required to be covered by an INSURANCE POLICY. The mandate that every citizen have an insurance policy has nothing to do with socialism, but merely forces every citizen to take part in one industry of Capitalism (an industry which has for years been granted exceptional protection by governments with the requirement that every auto owner have an automobile insurance policy and the requirements for nearly every business in the US to purchase health insurance coverage for their employees). In the case of health care reform, the government is proposing to pay the health insurance premiums for some citizens who are too poor to pay for health care insurance on their own. The government already does this for people receiving state medical relief. The health care reform bill only proposes to extend that benefit to a few more people - the ones who fall through the cracks because they work, but their employers don't cover them and they don't earn enough to afford to pay for their own coverage or they are self-employed and do not earn sufficient funds with which to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families. This is far from socialism!

No, what we are witnessing is a right-wing attack on the Obama Administration. They are throwing around the same words that were inaccurately thrown at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., socialist and Communist. Like the attacks on Dr. King, the rhetoric today is nothing more than a racist attempt to sway white voters away from supporting a black leader who is guiding a movement which would assist the poor, the infirm, the troubled, the mistreated, the maligned, who are discriminated against and who are the forgotten Americans, desperately needing the assistance of their government, especially at this time of economic crisis. The doctoring of the photographs of President Obama to look like the Joker are really more intended to be a play on the old racist use of "black face" in the theater - in this instance "white-facing" Obama.

These Tea Party bigots force their children to take part, putting the photos on their clothing and making them carry signs and attend events, indoctrinating these young and highly impressionable minds with lies, misinformation and rascist imagery. They have the children carry signs with racist slogans and with lies about the President. They force the children to attend events where other participants carry signs suggesting the President should be killed! And they do all this in the name of patriotism.

My friends, this is the same brand of patriotism as was brandished by the Nazi Party as Hitler rose to power in Germany in the 20s and 30s. These are the same tactics as were used by Hitler and the Nazis, too. The White Supremacists in the United States like the John Birch Society and Klu Klux Klan followed these tactics throughout the first half of the 20th century to keep black Americans in positions of servitiude and poverty. Those same groups used the same kinds of lies and tactics to try to smear Dr. King and other black leaders and organizations during the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Americans, you must not be fooled by their lies and their pretention for innocense and patriotism. Paint them as the bigots they are and refuse to allow them to paint your President as something he is not.

Irony rose to greet the night after the Tea Party protest failed. First, Congresswoman Giffords showed enough class as to avoid attending the showing of Capra's movie which she sponsored. She understood that the movie presentation was not intended as a political event, but merely as a kind gesture to the public, to offer free entertainment on a hot summer night. So, the Congresswoman stayed away to remove the focus for the Tea Party's denonstration. The Tea Party people milled about, tried to enlist members of the public to sign up for their literature and forced their propaganda on the public in attendance. They stood in the way of moviegoers, brandishing their racist, lying placcards, destroying the festive mood of people who merely wanted to enjoy a classic film about America and real American patriotism.

As the movie unfolded, the intense irony was revealed. Capra's tale, about corruption and graft in government and one man's fight to expose it showed the Tea Party movement for what it actually is. In Capra's film, the forces of Capitalist greed, graft, corruption and domination of the real interests of the American public used their wealth and power to strong arm the voice of Mr. Smith and his army of boys who only sought to tell the public the truth as they also sought to provide boys with a summer camp venue. Like the Tea Party movement, the corrupt machine of the greedy Capitalists (who wanted to steal the land for the boy's camp, put a dam on it, and make a profit on the sale of the profit at the expense of the taxpayers) spread lies about Mr. Smith, branded him with false epithets and accusations, and shouted down his supporters to silence them. Like the Tea Party movement supporters, the political machine sought to strong arm the opposition and force their own lies into the media at the same time as they stamped out an honest public debate of the issues. Nothing could have been more appropos as a metaphor for revealing the frighteningly corrupt, dishonest and repressionist tactics of the Tea Party and its advocates than Capra's brilliant movie.

Those of us who stayed and enjoyed the show went home with a clearer picture as to who are the real villians and patriots in the real life saga being played out by Tea Party fascists amid the actual democratic process of reform currently in progress.

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