Wednesday, March 31, 2010

License to Shill

I keep hoping that one day the Tea Party movement will have its' Jaws moment. I don't mean the shark movie, but the character played by Richard Kiel in two James Bond films in the 1970s. A assassin sent out to kill Bond, Jaws was 7 foot, 2 inces tall, had metal teeth, and was apparently indestructible. For instance, in The Spy Who Loved Me , during a fight scene on a train, Jaws has Bond by the throat and is about to take a metallic bite out of him. But Bond grabs a broken lamp and shoves it in Jaws mouth, temporarily (!) electrocuting him. Jaws is then pushed off the fast moving train, lands hard on the ground, and rolls down an embankment. Afterwards, he gets up, brushes himself off, and straightens his tie. I always loved the straightening of the tie part. It's hard to hate a villain who manages to retain some semblance of dignity after a rather humiliating defeat. Jaws, after all, was a freak of nature, and didn't really fit in with all that Bondian glamour. Maybe that's why he was so homicidal.

The Tea Party movement is no freak of nature. Is it homicidal? Well, some of our elected officials, the ones who voted for health care, have been receiving death threats. And the Tea Partiers have been known to carry signs with targeted representatives on them. In their defense, the Tea Partiers (I'm trying very hard not to refer to them as teabaggers; that joke's gotten kind of old) claim they're only targeted for defeat in the next election. If the representatives make it to the next election. On the day of the health care vote itself, John Lewis (D-GA), a significant figure during the 1960s civil rights movement, was called a nigger, and Barney Frank (D-MA) was called a fag by Tea Partiers as both gentlemen entered their office. I think Jaws showed more dignity when he bit into the broken lamp.

Until now, I've been somewhat reluctant to criticize the Tea Party movement. Most of them seem to come from the white working-class, about the only group left in these politically correct times the sophisticates feel free to malign. I've long felt the white working-class could be won over to the liberal side, at least when it comes to economics. Social issues, such a gay marriage, would be a much harder sell. Still, once you had them securely in the liberal fold, maybe you could win them over on those as well.

However, the way the Tea Party movement has reacted to the economics of health care reform has given me pause. Sure, this is not the best bill Congress could have passed, and some aspects of it, such as the mandates, have me worried as well. But a simpler way of doing it would have been labeled socialism. Of course, the Tea Party movement has labeled it socialism anyway, as well as communism, fascism, and Nazism. Supposedly what bothers the Tea Partiers most is government spending. Fair enough. So where were they during the war in Iraq? That cost the taxpayers money, as well as some taxpayers' lives and limbs. OK, they're supposed to be proudly patriotic, and lot of them probably equate patriotism with any military action someone in power deems necessary (which reminds me, the expansion of the war in Afghanistan is the one policy move by the Obama administration they don't seem to have a problem with), but what about George W Bush's expansion of Medicare? Where were they then? They claim to be upset with both political parties, but where were they during the eight years Bush was in office? They claim to hate the bank bailouts, but again, never protested until after Bush moved out of the White House.

The Tea Partiers claim to be against "elitism". Well, one definition of elitism is people who believe themselves to be better than others. When they call others "nigger" and "fag", doesn't that mean they think they're better? Or do they think Lewis and Frank enjoyed being called that? Apparently, elitism is relative.

I've often wondered if the Teabaggers--oops--Tea Partiers aren't paid to protest at town halls and the like. There's no proof that they are. But even if there is no direct change of cash, I nevertheless believe they take their marching orders from people with much bigger bank accounts than them, who live in much bigger houses than them, who have many more options in life than them, and who no way in hell identify with or understands them. I take the last part back. If you're going to manipulate people, it helps first to understand them.

Which brings me to the second James Bond movie with Jaws, Moonraker. In that film, an evil tycoon sends Jaws out to dispatch Bond before he can discover his nefarious plan. Jaws falls short of killing Bond, but at least captures and brings him to the evil tycoon's lair, in this case an orbiting space station. Confident Bond can't escape, the tycoon lays out his plan. Jaws listens in as well, probably hearing it for the first time. The tycoon is going to release a bunch of globes filled with poison gas into Earth's atmosphere, thus killing everybody on the planet. Aboard the space station are dozens of what the evil tycoon considers genetically perfect humans. Once the effects of the poison gas wears off, these perfect humans, these elite humans, will return to Earth and live in a perfectly elite world.

As Jaws listens to this plan, a look of realization appears on his face. There's not going to be any room for a freak like him in this perfect world. He's being used. Jaws switches sides, and helps Bond save the day.

Here's hoping the Tea Partiers have their Jaws moment.


  1. These tea partiers look just like me. Middle age working class, many of them veterans, Some getting medicare or some other government benefit. One on one they would help a fellow out in whatever way they could. Yet somehow they have planted themselves firmly against their best interests. A "jaws moment" is what is needed

  2. I like what you said, Tag, about "one on one". Maybe it's like George Carlin once said, that people are great on an individual basis, it's when you get them in a crowd that the trouble begins. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Great piece. I remember Jaws in those movies.

    In an article I read recently on Teapartiers demonstrating against the health care bill on the grounds that it was too much government in our lives, the Tea Partier interviewed as on disability. He did not see the irony in this!

    I have sincere hopes that this movement will die a natural death. I tend to think it attracts people who don't fully grasp the complexity of social problems or that they can be fixed, at least to some degree. And you are right on about the waste they are NOT protesting. Hello!!

  4. Those rascals gathered last Saturday in Harry Reid's home hamlet of Searchlight, NV, with Palin pouring the tea. Alas, I was not able to go out and throw spoiled produce as I'd threatened to do as I was otherwise engaged for the weekend. I wish Jaws had shown up at the gathering and laid those mighty metal teeth into some of them, with Palin being the hors d'oeuvre.

  5. @Dreamfarm--Glad you enjoyed it, Dreamfarm. Social Security and Medicare are apparently such successful government programs, people no longer remember that they ARE government programs.

    I heard on the news that some Republicans would now like the tea partiers to protest finance reform. Let's just see how these anti-elitists make THAT argument.

    @LimesNow--Not hors d'oeuvre, but dessert: baked Alaska.

  6. Oh, Kirk, how could I have let baked Alaska escape me!?

  7. I have just now read this post after sending you a long long email about my struggles.

    I can see links almost anywhere, and certainly here, when you talk about people who see themselves as better than others. I see a link with my tale - the elites who want to keep their so-called inferiors oppressed and the degree to which some people might identify with their superiors and keep themselves oppressed, as sort of servants, while others, like your Jaws here, choose to fight for the underdog and with it greater freedom.

    I know little about American politics other than the broad outlines.

    I had trouble with America when Bush was at the helm. I have far less trouble now with Obama in charge.

    That said, I have found it difficult to understand the vast opposition to health care reform that is clearly so necessary in America.

    This is the wealthy country where you cannot afford to be ill.

    I'm glad the bill was passed. However inadequate, it's a start.

    This post reminds me of the efforts some have made in Australia to become a republic. We had a referendum years ago to change from being one of England's satellites into our own republic and it did not get passed. Perhaps because the alternatives were not yet well explored and it needed more work, but essentially I think because people are generally comfortable with the status quo.

    They therefore resist change at all costs, oftentimes to their own detriment.

    Thanks, Kirk, for a thoughtful and beautifully written post.

  8. @LimesNow--Here's how it works, Les. I wrote a post about the Tea Party movement. You responded with a crack about Jaws making hors d'oeuvre out of Sarah Palin. I topped your crack with my baked Alaska crack. This involved very little brainwork on my part. It's all in the sequence of events. If, under different circumstances, I had initiated the hors d'oeuvre crack, and I very well may have, you would have thought about it for a moment, and come up with baked Alaska. It's all in the order the comments appear.

  9. Elisabeth--I think you figured out where I'm coming from, Elisabeth.

    Your referendum story reminded me of an online coversation I had a while back with a Brit who writes a blog called Cosmic Navel Lint. I asked him why Britian is always referred to as a constitutional monarchy when they have no constitution. He replied that technically it's not, but, as they choose their leaders and have the same personal liberties as Americans (without a Bill of Rights, I may add) they're essentially a republic in all but name only. A republic with a taxpayer supported group of folks called "royalty". I wonder what the tea partiers would make of THAT? Knowing them, they probably wouldn't even care. Anyway, in spite of all the kings, queens, princes, princesses, lords, dukes, duchesses, counts, and whatever else they have (how in the world do they keep it all straight?) Britian ended up in the same place as the USA. I imagine the same is true of Australia. Makes me wonder what all that fuss back in 1776 was really all about.

    Since you've uncorked the genie known as the private email, I'm going to be sending you a brief reply. I found both your essays very interesting.

  10. You're right, my friend! We just play the cards in the order they're dealt.

  11. I get lost with US political/social troubles, so I can't properly comment on your well written post.
    I really like the way it flows, even if I do not like politics I couldn't stop reading your post.

    Great piece!


  12. @Gabriela--If it's the flow you like, that's fine with me. Incidentally, I don't know that I necessarily like politics all that much. It's just that, in my more pretensious moments, I think of myself as someone who writes about the human condition, and the people who get to preside over that human condition, seems too big of a factor to leave out.


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