I first want to start with a warning; this post isn’t going to be bitchy so much as hippy dippy and full of sunny optimism. I know what you’re thinking, and I’m sorry. I’m not feeling like myself today but I can tell you from past experience that it won’t last. I can assure you that I will be back to my usual bitchy self soon enough so please forgive my temporary bout with optimism.
I, like most of you, have been following the stories of violent teabaggers gone wild over the past week. At first I was scared. Okay, I’m still scared. But something struck me as I was reading through the stories. I’m going to focus on one teabagger in particular because I think he’s emblematic of most of them.
Mike Vanderboegh is a blogger that has stepped up to take credit for the brick throwing through windows of some of our democratic representatives’ offices. He sent out a call to arms last Friday, urging his readers to “Break their windows. Break them NOW”. He did this in protest of health insurance reform. The Washington Post discovered that Mr. Vanderboegh is a 57 year old man from Alabama. He receives $1,300 a month in federal disability checks. He’s on disability because of congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. My immediate reaction to this man focused on the utter hypocrisy of taking an anti-government stance WHILE receiving government hand outs! After I let that stew for a while, it occurred to me that this was a very sad man. His life obviously didn’t turn out the way he had hoped it would and he’s full of rage because of it. I decided to go to his blog. It was full of vitriolic anti-government rantings as I suspected it would. Then I looked at the comments that people posted. There were supportive posts from his batshit crazy supporters and there were posts from “liberals” telling him off. I felt compelled to leave a comment myself, not to tell him off but to tell him that I was sorry that his life turned out in a way that has filled him up with so much rage. I suggested that he take steps to make some positive changes in his life like starting a small business or taking some classes that might qualify him for a desk job. I told him that I really believe that taking some positive steps would make the rage disappear before he even realized it. I clicked the “post comment” button when I was done and, to my surprise, received a message telling me that my comment would appear as soon as the owner of the blog approved it. I was surprised because the comments that told him off led me to believe that he wasn’t moderating comments. I waited a day before I went back to look at his blog again, curious to see if my comments made the cut. They did not! Once I realized what was going on, I was struck by the fact that Mr. Vanderboegh is a person that responds to rage. He’s filled with it, and he feels comfortable being surrounded by it.
I think he represents most teabaggers. From what I’ve seen, these are not wealthy people. They don’t appear to be a crowd of people who have seen their dreams realized in their lifetimes. They all seem to be full of rage. Dick Army did a pretty impressive job of misdirecting their rage and motivating them to go out and protest against their own interest.
We can’t respond to them with rage because doing so amounts to pouring gasoline on a fire. Rage is the only thing they understand. They’re filled with it, and they feed off of it. We can’t educate them. It’s obvious that their anger makes them impervious to facts. They have no use for them. So what do we do?
I feel like we only really have two options.
We can ignore them. I don’t mean ignore them by not reporting on their violent activities. I mean ignore them by not reacting with rage. Berating them publicly only seems to increase their resolve. If we just pass the reporting along to everyone we know without reacting, we ultimately win because the majority of Americans are appalled by what they’re doing. We can let them do what they do and just watch as Americans turn against everything they believe in.
The other option is admittedly a long shot, and it’s where the sunny optimism comes in so bear with me. Maybe we can throw in with them. I don’t mean that we should all go out and fill wheelbarrows full of bricks to hurl through windows. I mean that we should leverage their rage and point it where it belongs. Maybe we can band together with them on things that we all agree on to build a productive coalition. Everyone hates wall street right now. That’s one thing that teabaggers, republicans, and democrats can all agree on. Maybe we can agree that good government isn’t possible as long as our political system is wholly owned by corporations. They surely must agree with that premise so why not work with them to get ballot initiatives in every state across the country to make our elections publicly funded. Clean elections is the only way that we’re actually going to have ideological battles about the direction this country to take. Until that happens, we’re relegated to fighting for corporate America. The only thing that separates democrats from republicans is the pace at which the corporate takeover of America happens.
That second option isn’t likely, but we won’t know that until we give it a shot.
What I am certain of, is that combating teabagger rage with rage isn’t going to work. Let’s give something new a shot.