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The Tea Party Feeling

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One of the Chicago Boyz, with a nom de blog of Lexington Green, figured out what Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally was all about:

Beck is building solidarity and cultural confidence in America, its Constitution, its military heritage, its freedom. This is a vision that is despised by the people who have long held the commanding heights of the culture. But is obviously alive and kicking.

Beck is creating positive themes of unity and patriotism and freedom and independence which are above mere political or policy choices, but not irrelevant to them. Political and policy choices rest on a foundation of philosophy, culture, self-image, ideals, religion. Change the foundation, and the rest will flow from that.

Sounds to me like Patton’s America.

Beck himself found the post and confirmed that Lex had it right. As part of the ensuing buzz, Lexington invited one of his lefty pals to post about the rally from an outsider perspective. I took the guest poster at her word for her purpose for engaging in discussion:

He’s saying that Beck is taking a broad view, going up a couple of levels.

But I don’t feel like I get the rest of it. I can do a sentence-by-sentence exegesis, but that wouldn’t be quite right. I’m trying to get into Green’s and Beck’s heads, not dispute them.

As the discussion swirled away from inquiry and toward conflict, I figured the best way to help an outsider get into the proper frame of mind was not to get lost in arguments about which facts are just “facts” and who is qualified to tell us what really happened in the past, but to paint a picture that might generate empathy. I commented:

One cannot feel what a Tea Partier feels without being one. The feeling comes first. To feel it, you have to have social and cultural values in roughly the same weight and rank as the TPs. And you have to have heard for decades (for most, their entire adult lives) that this value hierarchy is flawed, corrupt and evil. But you look around at the people you know in regular life, and at the people you meet at a TP event, and you do not see evil people. You see decent folks.

And the more you reflect on all the abuse heaped on people who prefer to live more like most Americans have since the founding and in familial arrangements most common across the history of humanity, you get angry. Why do they hate me? You learn you are not alone, that your circle of friends is not an oddity. Why do they hate us?

You realize that, to force the analogy, your kind have been discriminated against. Not so much legally, but culturally. You are heartened that our country has killed Jim Crow, but wonder why you feel scorned because your son chose to become a Marine. The electeds and the talking heads on TV news grate against your own experience. It is like you have been living in someone else’s world as an unwelcome guest. Or even as a servant.

Beck, the Tea Partiers, and those factions remind you that this is your world, your country, and the decency you see around you is at the core of the American identity. You feel “home”.

My gambit failed.