Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tea-baggers and town picnics: an Independence Weekend remembered

It's certainly a tumultuous time in our country... we are in the middle of a vast economic crisis, that is only showing the slowest signs of recovering. We have a damaged international reputation and a world of international strife centered mainly in a place on the other side of the world engaged in a struggle that few of us can even explain the reasons for being there...

We have a new president, a progressive that represents almost the exact opposite of the regime that dragged us into this abyss in the first place, and yet we have the party leadership of the defeated republicans, whose only real platform at this point seems to be unified objection too every initiative put forth by the current leadership. The idea of doing what's best for the country has been shelved in favor of personal gain and survival. The republican party is throwing stones from the bottom of the well they dug themselves into, instead of working together to find a way to climb back out, or even to take hold of the rope the president has tossed them time and time again.

They've forgotten the first rule when in a hole: stop digging.

This was made more apparent over this past weekend when republicans again took to the public squares for their now comically infamous "tea-parties". These things are such a bad idea that even most republicans know to stay the heck away from them (except for the staff of Fox (faux) news, who wouldn't know a bad idea if it slapped them in the ass... remember when news agencies at least gave the appearance of being politically neutral? Thanks Mr. Murdoch).

Most of the people at these rallies have no idea what they're actually protesting, except that they don't like that Barrack Hussein Obama fella and they want him to stop spendin' their money, gal-dangit! They also have no idea what the original tea-party stood for; they are at best ignorant, and at worst confusing losing with tyranny. Worst of all, no-one at any of these rallies has the most important aspect of a well thought out protest: a better idea. There's quite a bit of complaining about... well, they're not really exactly sure what... but very little in the way of actual solutions, beyond "stop spendin' our money!". Fiscal Conservative Andrew Sullivan put it best:

"These are not tea-parties. They are tea-tantrums. And the adolescent, unserious hysteria is a function not of a movement regrouping and refinding itself. It's a function of a movement's intellectual collapse and a party's fast-accelerating nervous breakdown."

And this dovetails into the other common event that took place over this 4th of July weekend: the display of fireworks. This is, of course, a time honored tradition across the country in both big city and rural small town. I happen to be a resident of the latter. Often times, these celebrations are held in conjunction with local picnics, where residents come together to share food, friendship, and community. It's a time for everyone, regardless of political affiliation or idealogical belief, to celebrate the very reason they have the ability to display those traits and qualities. It is a time for true patriotism, even for those who have forgotten the real meaning. And more often than not, they are supported financially with funds from the local government, however in rural areas this is often supplemented with contributions from locals.

I attended one of these local rural picnic days on Sunday. It was a beautiful summer day, and people from all around the surrounding area showed up, carrying with them food items to be shared freely with the rest of the community. It was a magnificent spread, complete with every type of picnic food you could ever imagine... there were no fewer than 11 trays of some type of macaroni salad. So I sat there on the picnic bench as the line for food wound around the pavilion, and I listened to the people talk. They spoke of layoffs and tough times, but also of hope for the future. There were Conservatives griping about the release of prisoners and Obama's stimulus plan and how their grandchildren would never be able to afford college because of it... all the while ignoring the man behind them who just started his new construction job repairing a local bridge, paid for of course by the Obama stimulus package. Did he at least appreciate where the money for his new job came from? Nope... he chimed right in, totally unaware that his good fortune was a direct result of the president's action.

And there were progressives and liberals... talking about community and how they hoped that someone would be able to figure out a national health plan, and how much they wanted to get our troops out of the middle east... while complaining still that the "change" they hoped for was slow in coming at the very least, and hopiing that the president would live up to his word.

But as the line-standers got their meals and sat together, they talked more about family, and local goings-on... the kids that had just graduated and summer activities that were just starting up. And they looked down at the beach where the children were playing in the water and laughing and screaming. And there was smiling... lots of smiling; the sort of physical display of pleasure that has become all too unfamiliar these days.

And at the end of the night we spread out and covered the hillside above the like a quilt, and we watched with oooohs and aaahs as the pyrotechnics exploded in the night sky in colors of blue and gold and red and yellow... kids blocked their ears and toddlers clapped and shrieked with glee. For that day... in that place, the world was... right.

And we, the people... we needed that. It was a perfect day to celebrate who we are, and it was done so in the most perfect way without anyone even realizing it or intending it. A community getting together and organizing a day of fellowship and celebration, as an act of patriotism... accepting people in from all communities to share in what they had to give, sitting and standing together to watch the sky light up... smiling... and hoping.

Yes... the community needed it, desperately... and having watched and been engaged in the celebration, I wondered to myself what it was worth. What price can you put on what was on display on that Sunday afternoon? I had a hard time doing it. The joy and peace of that event, the sense of community... these are all priceless. The fireworks are a tradition... people look forward to them and the rewards that come from the celebration far outweigh any cost... and so it saddens me to read that so many communities with short-sighted leadership were so easily able to justify cancelling similar celebrations in towns and cities all across America.

Now is not the time to throw out the baby with the bath-water, people. Read what I wrote above again and remember how important things like this are. In places like Providence, RI, Caseyville, MO and even Colorado Springs, CO, the people were deprived of the experience I just wrote about in an effort to "save money". Believe me, I understand the importance of saving money in this environment, but in doing so, it is the responsibility of our leaders to also consider the morale of the citizens. The loss of these important celebrations in such a trying time has a much larger effect than simply the bottom line.

This is America, and we need to celebrate that now more than ever.

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