I didn't attend one of the "tea parties" on Tax Day this week. I'm lucky enough to have a job and I was working at it.
If I had gone, I probably would have done no more than take a few pictures -- and likely felt sad about the state of U.S. education that leaves so many people prey to media that sell a regressive populism as entertainment. My instinct would have been to mock the protesters -- and I would have been wrong.
The Salon.com writer Joan Walsh did attend and did interact with folks. According to her account, they were just as white, suburban and bamboozled as I might have anticipated. Also not unfriendly. But she talked with one woman whose perspective deserves more exposure.
That one, Christina Plutarkos, responded to Walsh's story with a note that deserves wider circulation:
Once upon a time I was a tax protester. I thought it immoral to pay for U.S. wars and largely lived under the radar of the I.R.S. throughout the 1970s. Eventually life led me to compromise and now I do my tax bit for our shared community, still knowing that 50 percent of my payment goes for wars past and present (and this year some large fraction goes to shoring up rich guys.)
I have no business dismissing the Tea Party folks as mere crazies. I've been to any number of incoherent progressive protests where folks are mostly just getting their sense that they share outrage confirmed.
The administration's "Change" mantra may just be a useful buzzword, but objectively the lines of division between people in this country are changing. Though I'd certainly contend there is still a left-right axis to our politics, we have come into a new time and that axis need not cut exactly as it has for the last decade and more.
Progressives do need to talk with those among these folks who will talk with us; we can be sure that if we aren't trying to communicate with them, dangerous right wing proto-fascists will be scooping up and organizing their legitimate anxiety.