STAR FOR TUCSON
There was a time when I regarded the Tea Party as noisy, but mostly harmless geeks -- with their Triangle Hats and Jefferson quotes, they reminded me of the same dopes who were in the Civil Defense League when I was a kid. A crowd of Dolts and Dumb-bells who were mostly in it for the hats, the walkie-talkies, and the opportunity to hold forth like the assholes they watch on TV. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and other lesser McCarthyites who'd like to tell the rest of us how to be Americans and have cast themselves as victims since Barack Obama was elected. You know the types -- they forswear big Gub'mint, until their particular industry goes tits-up and they need a bail-out -- they hold the Constitution sacrosanct, but gave not a fuck when the Bush administration shreds Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights in the name of Homeland Security. Where were all the Triangular Hats back then?
When John McCain picked Sarah Palin for his running mate, a little over two years ago, I thought it was his way of giving up. If you look at the tape of the end sputter of the McCain campaign -- one could tell this was a guy who really didn't want the job -- He was always a temperamental fuck -- a guy who honestly resented being asked questions -- any question -- he was clearly a man far more used to giving orders than having to explain himself or his position. You see, John McCain, for all of his years as a political animal, thought he was running for CEO of the United States. He cultivated the skills of an executive and not those of a President. You can't fire Congress. At the end of his campaign, one could tell he was relieved to have lost.
Palin, if you believe all of the subsequent reportage, was a disastrous candidate, unable to stay on message, full of platitudes and an appalling lack of depth when it came to issues of a global nature. Her home-spun, golly-gee, small-town Dip-Shit act played with the Republican base -- the culturally conservative South loved Caribou Barbie. Never mind the howls of protest from her own state colleagues, claiming she wanted to remove books from public libraries she found objectionable. Sarah Palin was able to take a threadbare ideology and stretch out its shelf-life. She parlayed her Gidget goes to Alaska shtick into a now-canceled TV show, in which she takes almost surreal delight in blowing the brains out of Alaska's native wildlife. It is odd to see a public official that turned-on by firearms.
She then saw her opportunity with the Drool-Cases in the Tea Party -- this was a huge pool of disaffected, low IQ ass-hats who could be mined for votes. Give her credit for being able to read the God, Guns and Country zeitgeist. She saw them coming -- the Birthers, the Tea Party, and the Anti-Immigration crowd -- the newly minted Constitutionalists so infuriated by the idea of a President of color; they'd follow an ideological husk like Palin -- no matter how hollow. It was about then I started to think of the Tea Party and its ilk as something less innocuous. When one of their number brought a loaded handgun to one of our President's speeches, I came to the conclusion that these guys were essentially David Duke without the linen.
She used all of the amped up "lock and load" rhetoric -- the "Obama wants to kill your Grandpa" scare tactics about Medicaid and Social Security -- the ugly anti-immigration bigotry -- She used it so well, Rupert Murdoch made room for her on the FOX network, to help spoon feed the hatred to the yokels, shit-kickers and stump-jumpers.
I still think the Tea Party is largely comprised of underachieving Slap-Dicks, looking for someone to blame for where they are in the world. Your basic, garden variety bigots who chafe at the idea of an African American as leader of the free world. I'd like to think they are mostly harmless.
And then came Saturday. . . Congressman Gabrielle Giffords -- a fairly conservative Democrat -- was gunned down -- and seven others were murdered, including a nine-year old girl, by some nut with a belly and head full of muddled rectitude and hatred.
The Tea Party and Right Wing went in to full on denial mode -- trotting out the 'lone-nut' scenario almost immediately -- listing every whack-job tract Jared Loughner had ever read from his My Space page, including a few of their own. It should not be lost on us that this is the first Assassin with a My Space page -- fortunately, also not lost in the furious denials were Palin's own propaganda with the gun-sights marking political targets -- Congressman Giffords’ district among them. If this is an act of an isolated madman, why Representative Giffords? Why Tucson, Arizona? -- whose own sheriff lamented that his state had become the capital of hate-speech and prejudice.
A year ago, my publisher and I took a road trip through the American West. Of particular interest to me was New Mexico and Arizona.
These states were at the white-hot center of the debate on immigration. National xenophobe Lou Dobbs was frothing at the mouth about the threat of Illegal Aliens and the Minute-Men fools were "helping" the Border Patrol in what looked like vigilante squads comprised of bigots. Not long after this, Lou Dobbs' fat ass got canned and there seemed to be some rationality returning to this discussion. But everywhere we went in those states -- it was made clear to us that we were in their America -- was the culture of the gun. At a restaurant we stopped at in Tucson, there was a sign at the hostess stand that said, "Please check your Firearm before you are seated." I honestly thought they were kidding -- the waitress assured me they were not.
Surely there were other places the disaffected "lone nut" Loughner could have unleashed his fury on -- places where guns are easy to get and the Second Amendment is just as revered.
Jared Loughner chose Tucson. He chose Representatives Giffords. And sadly, he chose 19 others as well. And the reason is that this discourse of fear and hatred is in the air in this state -- part of its language currency at this moment -- fueled by a very focused bigotry and a shitty economy -- the heated-up anti-government, anti-Obama, anti-immigrant speech took up residence in Mr. Loughner's tin-foil hat and it rattled around like a BB in a box-car until this fucked-up, pissed-off American decided to make somebody pay.
It is days like Saturday, January 8, 2011, I fear that we have the country we deserve.
TONY FITZPATRICK is an artist from Chicago. For his blog, click here.