Dare I Speak of the Tea Party Once More?
Last April was by far the biggest month when it comes to readership of this blog. It received 493 hits, which is over twice the number of hits it received on the next most viewed month (last May – 243 hits). When you consider that the average hits per month are 218 and that the lightest month had only 105 hits, the volume for April is really quite remarkable.
Why this significant spike in readership? Controversy! Everyone loves to savor a juicy controversy.
What was the source of this controversy? It centered around two of my postings – “The Perfect Storm” and “The Perfect Storm Revisited.” These postings addressed my deep concerns about the actions and directions of the growing Tea Party movement, and my concerns about the connections which I perceived existing between the Tea Party and the Republican Party.
Well, let me start off by saying that my posting of “The Perfect Storm” was far from perfect. Indeed, the very fact that I followed it up with, “The Perfect Storm Revisited” testifies to my own sense that it did not successfully communicate the message I intended for it. But one need only read the comments to the “Revisited” posting to see that my critics were far from satisfied with my clarifications within expressed in this revisiting. While today, I could readily revise my statements in that posting as well, I still maintain that the heart of its message was on target.
Recently, the Tea Party has once again become the center of public attention. This time it is because the NAACP, in convention, ratified a resolution chastising the Tea Party for not repudiating (or as Sarah Palin would say, “refudiating”) those elements within its ranks that proclaim a racist ideology.
When I first heard that report, I admit that I smiled. After all, that is the very message which I attempted to communicate in my “Revisited” posting, and for which I was so thoroughly castigated by so many, even to the point where the leadership of my congregation strongly encouraged me to place an open disclaimer on the blog itself, distancing the congregation from the contents of the blog. Now, my posting did not only reference the racism found in elements of the Tea Party, but other hate ideologies and the endorsement of violent actions as well. But then, of course one would rightfully expect an organization like the NAACP to focus on racism. After all, that is their mission.
Though I smiled at first hearing the news reports, that smile quickly faded as I started to hear the responses coming from Tea Party supporters, and even from some who would not be considered supporters – such as President Obama and Vice President Biden. From the Tea Party itself came a rather bizarre mixed message. The first thing they did was to remove from their coalition one of the most offensive of groups along these lines – the group called the Tea Party Express. But then Tea Party spokesmen started making remarks about how the NAACP itself is a racist organization, even pointing to the fact that their name uses the “racist” term “Colored People.” In other words, while on the one hand, they admitted that racism was a problem within their ranks, and needed to be repudiated, on the other hand they sought to deny that racism was their problem but rather chose to declare that it was far more the problem of the NAACP. Talk about projection!
It should come as no surprise that I support the NAACP in their recent action. While I hesitated to publicly proclaim this support at first – for fear of stirring up that previous hornet’s nest – I came to realize that more than I feared being caught up in another controversy, I feared that my silence on this matter could somehow make me complicit in the promulgation of hatred and prejudice. Our past is full of bystanders who may not have agreed with the purveyors of hate, and who may have been repulsed by the actions of those hate mongers, but who, for various reasons, but mostly out of fear, chose to remain silent and on the side lines. I cannot and will not become one of them.
As I stated in my “Revisited” blog, in no way do I challenge the right of the members of the Tea Party to hold and express their political opinions, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. That diversity of thought and expression is what makes America great. However, when such free discourse turns into expressions of hatred, that is where we need to draw the line. All people of good conscience – whether they be Democrats or Republicans or members of the Tea Party – should and must feel duty and honor bound to purge such prejudice from their political rhetoric, and they must actively denounce and distance themselves from those who promote such messages. That is what I said in April. That is what the NAACP has said in July. I stood by that message then and I stand by it now. However, I have to admit a certain relief in finding that others, especially those of the caliber of the NAACP, seem to agree with me.