Don’t let a foolish Tea Party ruin your taste for patriotism

It breaks my patriotic heart to see tea partiers using
– nay, abusing – the American flag to push a political agenda at
rallies across this nation and here in Morgan Hill.
What is most irksome about the Tea Party Patriots is their expropriation of the word ‘patriot,’ with the implication that if you disagree with them, you’re not a patriot, or at least you’re less patriotic than they are.”

~ The Atlantic’s Michael Kinsley

We’re in the midst of what I think of as the patriotic season – Memorial Day’s just behind us, Californians are voting in a primary election today, and Flag Day and Independence Day are just ahead.

As a patriotic American – I love my country, support its enduring foundational principles, and defend those ideals with my words and deeds – this is one of my favorite seasons.

But this year, sadly, I’m hesitant about displaying patriotic symbols, especially the flag. And I blame that on the faux patriotism of tea partiers.

I disagree with almost every position that tea partiers advocate and would be horrified if anyone saw me with a flag and associated me with their terribly misguided, outrageously hypocritical, sometimes racist political agenda.

Tea partiers say that the government spends too much, but oppose defense, Medicare and Social Security spending cuts. Never mind that defense, Medicare and Social Security account for more than 60 percent of the federal government’s spending.

Tea partiers say that taxes are too high (they claim that TEA stands for “taxed enough already”), but they ignore the fact that taxes are at their lowest level in 60 years. 

Tea partiers support draconian immigration reform, some advocate wholesale deportation of illegal immigrants and their citizen children and changing the U.S. Constitution so that babies born here are not automatically citizens, and oppose anything they think smacks of “amnesty.” Tea partiers often claim – falsely – that illegal immigrants increase crime.

Tea partiers also ignore this country’s history as a nation of immigrants and reject the positive economic effects of illegal immigrants. Fox Business recently reported that in Texas “state and local governments spent $1.16 billion to provide services like education, health care and safety, but raised an estimated $1.58 billion in tax revenues. Based on the data, the Texas taxpayer made a $424.7 million profit on its illegal immigrant population in 2006.”

Illegal immigrants take jobs that most Americans won’t; much of our agriculture industry, for example, relies on migrant farm workers to harvest crops. Fox Business noted that “Arizona lettuce farmers, who produce the bulk of the nation’s domestic lettuce between November and February each year, will need 40,000 laborers to hand-pick greens. … Chili growers on the east part of the state need a similar labor force.” That workforce does not exist without migrant – mostly illegal immigrant – laborers.

Kinsley notes that tea partiers – especially in their opposition to the recent moderate health-care reform bill – frequently tout the importance of personal responsibility while ignoring their hypocrisy in claiming that “all of our problems are the fault of the government” that was duly elected by a majority of voters.

I’m horrified by the subtle and overt racist overtones in much of tea partiers’ rhetoric. I’m stunned by tea partiers who say they want to “take their country back” even though it has a duly elected government. I’m disgusted by tea partiers who question President Barack Obama’s birthplace and, in turn, his legitimacy as president.

I agree with Princeton Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell that tea partiers are not analogous with Revolutionary War patriots, as they’d like us to believe: “Obama is no monarch sitting on a throne and taxing hapless colonists. He and the Democratic majority in Congress were duly elected in a democratic election that included one of the largest and most diverse voting publics in American history. How exactly is this like the Revolutionary War?”

It breaks my patriotic heart to see tea partiers using – nay, abusing – the American flag to push a political agenda at rallies across this nation and here in Morgan Hill.

Just like the answer to bad speech is not censorship but more speech, the answer to misuse of the flag is not less flag flying but more flag flying. 

Tea partiers get away with misappropriating the flag as the symbol of their movement – when it should be the symbol of our country – only if we let them. If you’re a progressive and a patriot, fly the flag. If you’re a moderate and  a patriot, fly the flag. If you’re a conservative and a patriot, fly the flag. 

Patriotism is independent of political agendas, and the flag belongs to all Americans. Let’s not allow this – or any – extreme fringe group expropriate patriotism or our country’s symbol.

Lisa Pampuch is a technical editor and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. She lives in Morgan Hill with her husband and two children. Reach her at [email protected]

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