Posted tagged ‘Tea Party’

Questions of the Placement of Man (And Woman) In the Grand (or not so grand) Scheme of Things – Tea Party/Here and Now

October 23, 2010

At a kind of center

Dashing across Broadway to the corner of Fulton, late for work, and thinking about my next blog post–an off-shoot of “Lord Help Us!”, about the Tea Party’s doubts in man-made climate change.

One major distinction between Tea Party types and students of science and history is their view of Man’s place (especially the place of American Man) in the whole big scheme of things.

Swing past the thick green posts at the top of the train entrance, the heavy iron scrollwork now muted by a zillion and one paint jobs; to my left, a T-Mobile (I think) store, petals of yellow ad flash in the darkly reflective glass.

Tea Partiers, pattering down the stairs, especially those who identify themselves as Christians (with a capital “C”), believe that Man (particularly American Man) is made in God’s image, the apple (only not the apple) of His eye.  As a result, creation revolves around Man; the Earth is at his disposal.

By American Man, I also mean Woman. I grimace in frustration as I slow for one carrying a baby carriage.  (I usually do offer to help women with carriages but this one is already mid-stairs, and taking up the whole stairs too–no way will I get past her.)

Few serious students of science or history can truly believe this.   Scientists tend to be conscious of the fact that the Universe (and even the Earth) have had a long life span that didn’t include Man in a starring role, and also that it’s possible for Man to write him/herself out of the future script.  Serious historians, for their part, cannot truly believe that all of human history has been one big build-up to Sarah Palin.

I chuckle inside, feeling suddenly energized by snarkiness.  But now I see with absolute certainty, even though just from the corner of my eye, the dull sliding silver of the train.  Still moving, meaning it’s pulling in, but there’s that baby carriage and mother, and now an older lady too, and it’s a narrow entrance, but there are three turnstiles–THREE!–the rectangular lights of the train windows slow–

If all of the Earth is supposed to be FOR man, how can we wreck it, thinks the Tea Party–

I really don’t want to be rude, but oh come on–train doors opening–I jog to the left of the baby carriage, the mother, the older lady in black wool coat, slightly bent, carrying a bag, Christ–got to get around that too–determined not to discombobulate them,veering to the farthest turnstile that I never use–what did someone say the other day?–that that turnstile didn’t work, no, that the closer one didn’t work?  Random notes of random sentences depress the fervor of my Metrocard slide until the green “GO” magically appears and I push the heavy slots (it’s one of those floor to ceiling turnstiles), galloping towards the bright rectangular squares at the end of the dim concrete–

Ohnoohnoohdamn.  On hands, ouch, knees, face burning–I really should never wear a scarf–this purse–did I break anything?  The older bent lady in the black coat alarmed–I try not to think about how my hands sting and what kind of germs are crawling onto them, looking up  around tangle of neck–

The doors are still–open–I scramble upright, lunging stiffly, mumbling apologies to the old lady–oh no, my necklace unclasped, my lucky necklace, about to fling itself–grab it with one hand as I stumble into the white light of the car, the other holding open the door, turning back to those left behind.   The mother with the carriage hasn’t yet gotten through the turnstile, the old lady at the far edge of the platform–

“No no.”  She shakes her head with a smile.  I can’t tell if she’s wise, or heading for a whole different line.

I let go of the door, reclasp my necklace, resettle my scarf, wipe my hands on my pants, then don’t wipe my hands, then–ah–sit down, pretending that no one is looking at me.

Head in the clouds, theories, egocentric snarkiness, leads to–scraped knees, stinging hands, I bend down over my notebook.

Wait–that’s my stop!  Already??!!!

(Isn’t the “here and now” part of what science is all about?)

Hurry hurry hurry out the door.

Magical Thinking, Cake, Tea Parties

February 28, 2010

Magical Cake

I’m all for certain types of magical thinking.

I’m completely sold, for instance, on the idea that food eaten standing in front of an open refrigerator has no calories.   Just like the slivers of cake that are eaten as part of straightening the cuts made by other people’s pieces;  these are purely aesthetic slivers, consumed in the name of maintaining order;  they cannot possibly go to your waistline.

But some kinds of magical thinking are too much even for me to swallow, such as the ideas that (i) the United States would thrive with a government that had no taxing authority or system for monetary regulation (sorry to change gears so abruptly);  (ii) the United States could support its army without a taxing authority;  (iii) a government with no central taxing authority could provide services to, among others, senior citizens and the disabled;, (iv) that, if government stopped providing such services, private charities would fill the gap;  (v) that, in the absence of governmental regulatory agencies, business would protect the environment,  the consumer, and ensure food and product safety.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice? (This notion doesn’t even work out in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, a magically-thought-up world that exists on the back of a turtle supported by four elephants.)

Government is very far from perfect; it can be arbitrary, unreasonable, officious, corrupt.  (Just like a lot of big companies.)  But, as poorly as some rules and agencies function, it’s important to keep in mind that they came into being to fill specific needs;  virtually all of these needs were historical, many ongoing.

However, some of the Tea Party persuasion seem believe in a kind of creationism.   (I’m not talking Genesis here.)  They see rules and agencies as products of spontaneous generation, like Athena sprouting from Zeus’s head ( in this case it’s the governmental many-headed hydra.)    In this world view (which fails to take either history or reality into account),  the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency were formed not because of unclean food, water, air, but because some bureaucrat woke up one morning determined to ruin some decent person’s day.  (Does anyone remember The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair?)

(It’s interesting to note that both the EPA and the Pure Food and Drug Act, were established under Republican administrations, Richard Nixon, in 1970, and Teddy Roosevelt , in 1906.)

The Tea Party belief system is further skewed by conspiracy theories (weird magical thing);  the claim, for example, that global warming is a hoax, the product of a worldwide cabal of scientists desperate to take away Americans’  SUVs, air conditioning,  automatic lawn watering systems.  What is never explained however is (i) how disputatious scientistscould form such a secret cabal, and (ii) why they would want to.  Are they all just sourpusses?  Have they invested heavily in wind?  Is it a push for more government grants?

I, for one, can’t understand all these connections.

All I know is that there’s a cake in my kitchen which was cut in a way that could really use some calorie-free straightening.

Blowing His Stack

February 18, 2010

It’s very hard to know what to make of Joe Stack, the apparent pilot of the plane that crashed into an Austin, Texas IRS office today.

My first reaction was that this is what you (we) get when it becomes popular to demonize the U.S. tax system, to talk about revolution and seccession, and to push diabolical conspiracy theories.  But Stack doesn’t seem to exactly fit into a Tea Party profile (whatever that is.)   For one thing, he comes across as extremely anti-capitalist.  For another, though he specifically targets the IRS, his enemies are too diversified to represent a particular partisan viewpoint.

All that’s really clear from the internet letter Stack posted before his plane crash is that he was very very angry—angry that corrupt and self-defeating institutions (he names GM in particular) are bailed out while he seems to get financially hit again and again.  Angry that all kinds of people and things present obstacles to him and his retirement plan–GW Bush,  Arthur Andersen, Patrick Moynihan, sleazy accountants, tax lawyers, specific inequities in the tax code, the closing of bases in Southern California in the 1990’s, difficulties with air travel after 9/11, low pay rates in Texas, the FAA, drug companies and insurance companies, the Catholic Church, fat cats in general.

Because Stack’s’ attack was against the IRS, some people have already expressed sympathy for him (while acknowledging the horror perpetrated on his victims.)     He’s clearly someone that was pressed beyond his breaking point; reading about someone who is under such internal (and possibly external) pressure invokes a certain sympathy (in addition to a whole bunch of fear.)

But the sympathy (or at least any sympathy that I feel) ends with the bloodletting:  “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer,” Stack writes.

Here’s where I question the influence of our culture.  The guy was clearly mad—and perhaps not just in the sense of angry.  But the fact is that we have a ‘tit-for-tat’ culture, a culture which seems to admire, or at least, accept, vigilantism.  It’s a culture that espouses hitting back, standing up for one’s self with a gun (or some kind of weapon); it is not a “turn-the-other-cheek” kind of culture, not even among much of the Christian right.

Stack complains about “taxation without representation,” but what this seems to refer to is not that he did not get a chance to voice his views, but that his views did not carry the day, that, in other words, he didn’t win.  (Does this sound familiar?)

I’ll stop right here.  Who knows yet what was really going on with the guy?   Craziness all around;  unhappiness all around.