I have a question for you:
What is the difference between: a) Mohamed Morsi in Cairo and the far-right agenda of his Muslim Brotherhood and b) John Boehner in Washington and the far-right agenda of his tea party?
And the answer is: Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood won a national election.
It was with this thought in mind that I observed the recent events in Washington as our elected representatives struggled to govern around a recalcitrant ideological goiter called the tea party. I wondered at what point the commander-in-chief would send a squad of Marines to the House to arrest those representatives engaged in blatant perfidy, sedition and treason.
Those last three words were a headline I used some years ago when Rush Limbaugh advocated that Republicans should pray for Obama’s presidency to fail. There are similarities today. Using the behavior of brewers as a contrast to Limbaugh’s words, I wrote then:
“Brewers compete head-to-head for share of throat. But in that intense competition no brewer prays for another brewer to fail, or advocates his failure or works toward that failure, or gathers others to promote failure of a fellow brewer. And the reason is that a competitor’s failure is a loss to the entire community of brewers and is not a cause for celebration; our community loses, we all lose.
“And so brewers do not undercut each other but compete in fair and tough ways and work together on industry-wide and community-wide issues and problems. And so I find myself looking up the meaning of Perfidy, Sedition, Treason and Traitor.”
I am reminded of these words as I contemplate the actions of the tea party representatives in the House and Senate. I can find no parallel to tea party behavior among brewers; sure, we have our Beer Nazis who advocate for extreme beers and have more than their share of voice in the media to persuade others to make and drink such beers, but they cannot stop a brewery from brewing beers nor make it default on its bill for malt and hops.
“The reason I looked up perfidy, sedition and traitor is to see if they fit the recent statement of Rush Limbaugh: ‘I hope Obama fails.’ I could perhaps have brushed this aside — but he is now a hero to millions of my fellow Americans, to whom, apparently, the perfidious, seditious, treasonous or traitorous implication of these remarks has not occurred.”
I think we have a raft of new candidates for the Rush Limbaugh Perfidious Performance Prize.
What is an act of piracy or of banditry? What is an act of hijacking? What is an act of kidnapping? What is an act of extortion or of blackmail? They are acts by which criminals achieve their objective. And, if the tea party Republicans did not engage in piracy, hijacking, kidnapping, extortion or blackmail by threatening to drive our nation to default, what did they engage in? It was a criminal act to achieve their objective. Now when we meet pirates or hijackers or kidnappers we generally know what to do with them a) we do not negotiate and b) we arrest, prosecute and jail them.
In this case I’m still waiting for part b).
I wonder from where comes the raging madness, the blind arrogance, the impervious righteousness that makes tea party Republicans justify such ludicrous actions? Is it some warped anachronistic vision of what it is to be an American? Do they forget we are no longer 13 colonies clinging to the Atlantic Coast, as we were when the words and sentences and promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written?
Do they imagine we still have a wilderness, known only to those natives who live there, stretching endlessly to the west and waiting to be exploited, where white men could be free, truly free, that is free of those laws and regulations and taxes with which they do not agree and free to be cavalier about the rights of others?
I’ve news: We are now a different, mature America; that’s the reality. Even if tea party members imagine and, perhaps, wish we were still that nascent emerging nation, we cannot return to the 18th century.
The men who wrote our founding documents would be much more comfortable in the world 250 years before their time, when Will Shakespeare, Elizabeth Regina and Sir Walter Raleigh lived, than in our world 250 years after their revolt. The Constitution was written by candlelight, when horsepower came from horses, water wheels ground corn, wind drove ships and guns took minutes to load and fire.
Those who wrote the Constitution understood their own world well; but they could not, even in their most kaleidoscopic and turbulent dreams, have conceived of our world. While the ideals upon which this nation was founded are simple, honest and eternal ones, the context in which we must understand them has vastly changed; the tea party, I think, clings to and yearns for and acts within an 18th century context; after all they are named for an event of 1773 that helped spark the Revolutionary War; are they are still fighting it? Do they realize we won? Can’t they savor the victory?
We are no longer a new nation on the rim of the known world experimenting with modern democracy but a mighty power, a dominant democracy and a nation called to lead by example. We should not allow the audacity and recklessness and childishness of some of our elected representatives to make us look like a nation of fools.
— Reach Michael Lewis at [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com