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Laramie Movie Scope:
Where Were They?

The many contradictions of the Tea Party

by Robert Roten, Film Critic

September 13, 2009, updated Jan. 31, 2010 -- The Wyoming 912 Coalition rally at Conwell Park in Casper, Wyoming yesterday was supposed to be about uniting the country and remembering the way it was united on 9/12/01, but it was really about divisiveness and about forgetting what happened on 9/12/01.

The rally was supposed to be about freedom, but it really wasn't about freedom at all. It was about giving up freedom and power, including the right to choose our health care, and giving that power instead to soulless corporations.

People carried signs that read, “Who gave unelected czars authority over us?” and “Freedom did not need change,” according to an article in the Casper Star-Tribune. The article quoted Casper resident Nancy Rinn as saying: “I think the people in Washington are stomping on the Constitution; they're trying to pass laws that are unconstitutional.”

Where were they, these tea party protesters, when George Bush and Dick Cheney were tearing up the constitution? Where were they when the government was listening in to their phone conversations with illegal wiretaps? Where were they when the government was reading their emails? Where were they when the government suspended habeas corpus and threw people into prison, “disappearing” them in the same way Josef Stalin used to make people vanish without a trace? Where were they when the United States government illegally tortured and killed prisoners of war?

Dave Kellett of Powell, president of the Wyoming 912 Coalition, reportedly said at the rally, “We were all Americans.” Kellett added, “There were no Republicans or Democrats, whites, blacks, Hispanics or Arabs,” on that day. The Arabs disagree with that, like the poor guy who was mistaken for an Arab (he was actually an Indian Sikh) and murdered by Americans in that spirit of unity that prevailed after 9/11. The Arabs were immediate suspects in the 9/11 attacks and anyone of Arab descent, or anybody with dark skin who looked like an Arab, was in for a tough time after the attacks. Arabs in America are still not above suspicion.

Just ask Cat Stevens about that supposed post-9/11 unity of Americans. They wouldn't even let the “Peace Train” singer back in the country. Judging by what I saw on TV of the crowd in Casper yesterday, there weren't a lot of blacks, Hispanics or Arabs among the tea-party people there, or at the big march in Washington, either. It is pretty much a pure white, far right, Fox News-watching bunch. Dave Kellet's idea of national unity is not what I'd call “fair and balanced.”

That's not the only thing about the post-9/11 climate the tea party people seem to have forgotten. They forgot the nation was united behind their president, George Bush, despite the fact that 9/11 happened on his watch. They must have been watching Fox News back then when wingnuts like Bill O'Reilly were saying that anybody who criticized President Bush was a traitor, or words to that effect. Fox News and the rest of the right-leaning news establishment bullied anyone who dared criticize our beloved President George Bush, and they said he did nothing wrong. They still claim he was damned near perfect to this very day.

Where were these Tea Party people when the Bush Administration let the country down and failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks? After all, it was pretty spectacular failure that would seem impossible to top, but Bush managed to do just that, with Katrina and the Iraq War. Through all those disasters, all those deficits, all those illegal acts, all the loss of all those personal freedoms, the Tea Party people kept silent. Where were they?

So why all those anti-Obama signs at the Wyoming 912 Coalition rally? Where is that old spirit of unity? What happened to that unity where everybody stood behind the president and you were a called a traitor if you did not? Obama has only been in power a few months and has yet to initiate any disasters like the ones that Bush did on an almost monthly basis. On the basis of protecting the country alone, he's already 100 percent better than Bush was. How could they forget the unity of 912 on this occasion? How could they keep quiet when this nation was literally falling apart and only now, when the country is starting to get back on track, they suddenly want to protest their very own president?

Why? What has gotten them stirred up? Health care reform? They actually like the fact that their insurance company can drop them from coverage when they get sick? They like the fact that they have to stick with a job they don't like, or face losing their coverage or paying sky-high COBRA payments? Do they enjoy being jerked around by insurance companies that are not held accountable by anyone, including their own government? They ought to be protesting outside insurance companies, not protesting the guy who is trying to fix this mess. The Tea Party people act as if they are being directly paid by the health insurance industry to put a stop to health care reform.

The Wyoming 912 Coalition people are also very concerned about the federal budget deficit. They are afraid they will have to pay for health care reform with higher taxes, and that might be true, but where were they when the Reagan Administration and two Bush Administrations ran up deficits in the trillions? Where were they when the Bush Administration cut trillions of dollars of taxes on the wealthy, and started two wars at the same time? Where were they when the Bush Administration started a war in Iraq that would end up costing trillions of dollars, and paid for it with deficit spending? Even as the Obama Administration begins its second year, only 7 percent of the deficit can be credited to the Obama stimulus bill and 3 percent to his other initiatives, while 53 percent of the federal budget deficit can be credited to Bush-era legislation and programs like TARP and the Iraq War. A total of 37 percent of the deficit is caused by economic declines.

The Tea Party people cheered when Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at President Obama, and they put that proudly on their signs, even though Wilson, not Obama, is the liar here. Where were they when President Bush lied about the reasons for going to war with Iraq? None of them had the courage to stand up and call President Bush a liar, even though he was. Fox News, the rest of the media and most of the American people just went along for the ride. Now they stand up, but what do they really stand for?

Now, after more than 4,000 soldiers were killed and trillions of dollars have been wasted in the Iraq war, now, they finally stand up for principles they completely abandoned for the past 20 years. Now, they stand up to avoid paying for the health care of poor people. That's not what you'd call noble, or Christian, or Muslim. They are willing to finance the death of hundreds of thousands of people and spend trillions of dollars for war without complaint, but they don't want to spend a nickel to pay for the health care of needy citizens of the United States of America, including those wounded fighting for this nation. Shame on them.

The tea party people weren't concerned when our soldiers died for nothing. They weren't concerned about a war that made this nation less secure, rather than more secure. They weren't concerned with the mounting deficits caused by deeply irresponsible government fiscal policies. They weren't concerned when the government did little to avert the Hurricane Katrina disaster and did less to alleviate the suffering of Americans afterward. The tea party people were silent then.

Now that the nation has been brought back from the brink of another Great Depression, thanks to government fiscal intervention, now that the United States is once again gaining some respect in the world for more rational foreign policies, after being a laughing stock and a pariah for the past eight years, now, the tea party people are protesting. They want to get rid of Obama and all he stands for. They want to return to the good old days of George W. Bush, the good old days of letting insurance companies decide who will live and who will die.

God help us all if they get what they are wishing for.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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