Whether it was the hundred-degree heat, or a hangover from all the recent hoo-ha over racist elements in the Tea Party movement, Saturday’s “Back to Basics” rally at the state Capitol, featuring a George Washington impersonator on a gleaming white horse, was relatively muted by comparison with previous statewide small-government and secessionist jamborees.
By comparison, I say. And only if a “patriotic” speaker denying that Barack Obama is “our president” sounds muted to you. Or if referring to undocumented Mexicans as “cockroaches” strikes you as mild. But for the most part, folks really were on their best behavior. Despite the usual plethora of media-bashing, a few, noticing my notepad and my suspiciously liberal aspect, even smiled and said, “We’re glad you’re here. Thanks for coming.”
Hey, thanks, wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
Most speakers stuck faithfully to the patriotic “back to basics” theme of the day, celebrating the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Tea Partiers’ unique grasp of these documents’ meanings. Not surprisingly, given the recent controversy sparked by the NAACP’s mild request that the Tea Party movement renounce its racist elements, almost everyone at the microphone on the Capitol steps made a point of emphasizing the “colorblind” nature of the movement. “I’m Not Racial, I’m Not Violent, And I’m No Longer Silent,” read a sign held by one woman in the sweltering, and almost exclusively Anglo, crowd of a few hundred. Most of the people of color in evidence were trooping in and out of the Capitol building with their families, on a Saturday stroll; one African-American man, embracing the occasion, had his friends snap a photo of him smilingly holding up one of the Tea Partiers’ signs (“When You Elect Clowns, Expect a Circus.”).
Even the fiery Janet Thomas of the Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas insisted that “It’s got nothing to do with the Hispanic issue.” But that was merely a preface to the most, shall we say, racial remarks of the three-hour rally.
Noting that nearly all of the 9/11 terror-plotters were in the country illegally, Thomas suggested using this fact to defend the Tea Party against allegations of racism. “People who want to look at you and say you’re a racist and you hate Hispanics, you tell them that,” she said. Moments later, however, Thomas was decrying the “twenty-one billion dollars that illegals send” to Mexico annually. “How much more can we stand before this country is no better than Honduras … or Mexico?” she asked.
She was just getting warmed up. “How many trucks do you see out there with signs saying ‘Juan Rivera Home Remodeling’?” Thomas rhetorically lamented. “We used to have Americans with landscaping companies.”
Thomas went on to liken the “illegals” crossing the border to “a bunch of cockroaches coming out at night.” These people, she continued, “don’t necessarily want to be parts of this country; otherwise, they’d have already done it.”
And in case anybody was wondering, “It’s here, folks,” Thomas announced. “Reconquista’s here!” (This is the theory that the “invasion” of illegal immigrants is part of a plot to recapture the parts of the United States that once were Mexican territory.) Thomas went on to cite the outbreak of crime she attributed to “illegals” in Houston (including, as usual, a supposed wave of rapes).
After praising recent immigration laws passed in Fremont, Nebraska, and Arizona—a state that won hearty cheers and applause throughout the rally—Thomas promised: “If we lose this immigration fight, we will lose this country.”
Losing the country was, as always, the thread that knit together the Tea Partiers’ passel of laments—you know, the ones about health-care reform, “the media,” Nancy Pelosi, judges, the soaring debt (estimated on one sign at a revelatory $510 trillion), illegal immigration, incipient communism/socialism/fascism/Maoism/Stalinism/Nazism, government-imposed atheism and, worst of all, that long tall straw that stirs the dark waters of our national catastophe, President Barack Obama.
In the stem-winder of the day, attorney and preacher L. Scott Smith of Corpus Christi blamed the president for the “debilitation and desecration of America,” partly through his “post-Christian” agenda. And Smith, too, was just getting warmed up—as was the crowd.
“Let me be blunt,” Smith said. “Barack Obama is supposed to be, but he is not, and he never will be, your president or mine. It’s a sad and disappointing fact. …
“Many things have happened since January 20, 2009, that are not the way America is supposed to be. Barack Obama does not listen to you. He does not speak for us. He could care less about representing us. His goal is to do whatever he can to reinvent the United States of America into the aggressively, militantly, secular socialist and post-Christian state he wants it to be.
“This means killing every vestige of capitalism. It means murdering free markets. It means deconstructing the Constitution however he pleases. And it means transforming the culture of this country into something that he and his friends might appreciate. Friends like Jeremiah Wright.” Boo! cried the crowd on cue. “Bill Ayers “. Boo! “Bernadine Dohrn.” Boo! “Louis Farrakhan.” Boo! “Khalid al-Mansour.” Boo! “And Frank Marshall Davis.” Boo!—and who the heck is that?
“I’ve stopped trying to wish these harsh facts away,” Smith declared, his voice mournful. “They’re reality. In case it hasn’t dawned on all of us yet, Barack Obama hates what you and I love about this country.”
As the emcee said after Smith finished his well-received oration, that pretty well “dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, ironies tend to pile on top of other ironies at Tea Party gatherings: America-first messages blend with secessionist rhetoric (though there was little of the latter on Saturday, aside from a lone fellow carrying a sign that read, in bold, bold letters, “SECEDE”). Declarations of color-blindness clash with denunciations of Mexican immigrants. Deist founders like Thomas Jefferson are “proven” to have believed things quite similar to your average megachurch-goer, while Barack Obama, who professes a mainstream Christian creed, is transformed into a contemporary Madelyn Murray O’Hair. (And hey, did you know that “invoking God’s name in a public space is unconstitutional,” as Smith informed the audience? Maybe things are worse than we knew!)
But the end of this rally might just have topped them all, so far, when it comes to irony. General Washington, atop his faithful steed, mustered the folks who weren’t already fleeing back to their air-conditioning and led a rag-tag march around the Capitol. He then asked the patriots to raise their right hands and swear an oath of enlistment, which included this line: “I will obey the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States.” As I glanced around, I spotted the fellow holding his “SECEDE” sign, and couldn’t help thinking what a deep sigh and rueful chuckle the current commander-in-chief surely would have let out if he could have witnessed this spectacle.
To view a video of the Tea Party rally, click on the image to the right or click here.