Until last night I'd thought of Tea Party craziness as being mostly confined to the national and state levels.
But after attending a meeting of our rural south Salem (Oregon) neighborhood association last night, I'm wondering if that sort of free-floating irrational anger is making its way into deeply local concerns.
I've been the secretary of our association for many years -- almost twenty. In the not-so-good old days, soon after we moved into this area, some of the neighborhood association meetings were so vehement, people would almost come to blows.
Then the hotheads departed, or got older and a bit wiser.
For a long time we've had a pleasurably neighborly neighborhood group, a board of directors with members who have divergent political views and personalities, but who come together to make our community a better place.
After all, maintaining the common property (riding/hiking trails and a lake) doesn't have anything to do with conservatism or liberalism, Republican or Democrat, or such. I'm a Suzuki scooter-riding vegetarian Prius-driving Democrat who gets along great with a Harley-riding meat-loving pickup-driving Republican board member.
A recent election, though, brought some fresh faces to the board of directors. I don't know exactly what these two guys' political leanings are, but they strike me as quintessential Tea Party types.
Last night's meeting went on for three and a half freaking long hours. I think this is a record for the hundred or so neighborhood association board meetings I've attended. Since I had to take notes for the minutes, I almost had writer's cramp by the time my watch showed 10:30 pm.
The main reason: an astounding amount of anger, negativism, and criticism from the two Tea Party'ish guys. This was their first board meeting after being elected. It didn't take long for them to question whether a homeowner's association should even exist.
They run for the board of directors so they can try to dismantle the organization that is charged with maintaining the common property that makes our neighborhood so livable.
This is just like Tea Party candidates who are running for Congress so they can do away with the federal government, which is illogically bizarre. If you don't believe in people coming together to pool their money and effort so they can do things together which individuals can't on their own, why would you become part of the government that you hate so much?
Why not simply do your own thing? Why so much anger at people, like me, who value the common good rather than rampant "me, me, me" separatism?
It was interesting, and also more than a little disturbing, to watch the Tea Party philosophy in action at such a neighborhood level. These guys like living in our community, but they dont' like spending money to keep it livable (again, just like the crazy "Keep government out of my Medicare!" attitude).
Mark Morford's recent column is called "I am outraged! Are you not outraged?" This is right on:
It all adds up to one conclusion: We are so wildly, stupidly free, it's rather hilarious. And savagely ironic. Because you can also say it culminates in perhaps the ultimate expression of Outrage USA, the single place where all such screeching congeals in a shrill, silly little group, signifying nothing.
It's called the Tea Party, that gaggle of terrified, white, middle-aged men whose actual slogan is "mad as hell." What are they mad about, exactly? They have no idea. What do they want to do to change it? No clue. From whence does their timorous fear and dread come? They can't quite say. Perfect.