Personal Experience With Tea Bag Mentality
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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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Personal Experience With Tea Bag Mentality

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This is a sad post for me to write.  I live in northwest Missouri – in the isolated world of simple people relishing ignorance.  The reverse discrimination against education and professionalism permeates the culture.  My sadness surrounds my family – a people proud of being in the lower economic class.  Most of them are adamant followers and champions of the 2010 Tea Bag movement.

My parents were born in the early 1920’s to a working class family.  Their teen years were dominated by the Great Depression.  They learned to make do with what they had.  Sadly, they also learned their station in life – they and their family were relegated to the bottom of the economic ladder.   Frustrated and resentful they became embittered toward anyone who obtained an education and a profession.  My parents had seven children, five of whom bought into the lower class mentality, two went to college and wore a coat and tie to work.  I was one of the two.  My parents and other siblings were never happy about my career – preferring to discredit anything I said as ‘elitism.’

A few examples might prove useful.  Many years ago I was visiting at my parents home early one evening while they were preparing supper.  I watched my mother chop an onion.  I said, “Hey Mom, let me show you another way of chopping that onion.”  She bristled at my advice and snapped at me, “I don’t care how you peel onions.  My way is good enough for me.”

The midwest flooded in 1993 – and one of my brothers lost his job at a warehouse – the warehouse had flooded and the business closed rather than try to re-sanitize the building.  On hearing this I commented, “Well, it might be a blessing.  He might go back to school and get an education.”  My Mother snapped again, “Ohg,” she said, “Not everybody can be lawyers and doctors.  Someone has to clean the streets and pick up the trash!”  My simple reply was, “That is true.  But it does not have to be me or my brothers.”  Sadness abounds in my family.

Fast forward to 2010.  One brother told me he hated that Katie Couric news woman.  “She asked Sarah Palin what magazines or newspaper she reads.  What does that have to do with anything?  Couric thinks that just because you read you must be smart and if you don’t read then you must be dumb.  I don’t read shit and look at me.”  I sat quietly – looking at him.

christian nation posterMy sister and a couple of my brothers belong to fanatical fundamentalist religious organizations.  I cannot bring myself to call them Christian Churches.  In their minds the only book with any legitimacy is the Bible – and the only legitimate reading of the Bible belongs to their respective organization.  They are members of different denominations and they do not agree with each other – but each persists that their interpretation is divinely inspired.  The only interest they have in the history of Christianity concerns the failures of the Roman Catholic Church over 2,000 years.  They all agree that the Catholic Church is the church of the devil.

Because modern science supports the concept of evolution my fundamentalist family members have come to the conclusion that science in general is a product of the devil.  Because Global Climate Change is predicted by scientists the idea is immediately discredited.  They laugh at the idea of Global Warming, “Those are the same people that said we came from monkeys.”  Yuk! Yuk!  Real funny stuff there folks.

obama facism nazi signI think it is safe to say that I have personal experience with people on the radical right of America’s political spectrum.   They are not just pro-working class – they are blatantly anti-education, anti-professionalism, and anti-government.  Every single one of the people of whom I speak have benefited from government programs.  They do not know this because they do not bother to think about what government is.  These are the people who shout things like, “The government should leave my Medicare alone!”  and “Why is the government messing with my Social Security?”  and  “How come the Government took away my COLA?”

Many of the people in northwest Missouri do not understand the difference between local, State, and Federal Government.  They do not understand the difference between the County Commission and the local School Board.  “Vote against the Mayor because the School District is cutting high school football funding”  Or “Vote against Obama because the Mayor did not fix our potholes.”  “I don’t read shit and look at me,” the proud smirk of a man on his way to vote.

My brothers do not like President Obama because he graduated from some big school and was a Law Professor somewhere.  Those facts qualify Obama as an elitist who will try to tell them how to chop an onion.  Next thing you know he will be telling us how to cook fried chicken.

I am deeply saddened by the proud ignorance of good people.  But wait – the situation gets worse.  The modern Republican Party has intentionally rallied the simple folks of America.  In the process they have crimped their ability to legislate or govern.  We see men who have traditionally been thoughtful Republicans, people like John McCain of Arizona, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Charlie Christ of Florida, are forced to cater to the dumbed down mentality of the stirred up ignorant class.

We expect a few wackos to participate in the national political process.  People like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman.  The crime here is not really the ignorance of the lower economic classes – the crime is that some would take advantage of the naive innocence for political gain.

republican tea baggersThe GOP and the Tea Party Movement are guilty of using words like socialism and communism and Hitler to define the Democrats in general and Obama in particular.  The crime is that these people know exactly what they are doing.  The GOP has no intention of addressing the needs of the lower classes – metaphorically, they want to keep the women bare foot in the winter and pregnant in the summer so they can continue to manipulate the system.

Philosophically, I am infuriated with political leaders who take advantage of ignorance.  Political leaders who would deny educational opportunities, who would deny health care, who would manipulate bank regulations to steal from people who do not understand interest rates – and then rally those same people with the language of fear and hate.  I wish these Rovian politicians would leave my family alone.

Spiritually, the height of sin – to take the name of the Lord in vain (using it for your own purpose).

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There Are 32 Responses So Far. »

  1. It’s very sad that you’re ashamed of your heritage. America is made up of all kinds of people – you don’t have to agree with them all. Hopefully when you are older, you’ll understand the contribution your family has made to your life and to the fabric of this country.

  2. A thoughtful piece…and very very true…I’ve had similar experiences. “I don’t read shit and look at me”…funny and sad at the same time.

  3. Mack Maak,

    Thanks for commenting. I am older – in that category of people referred to as Senior. I am not ashamed of my family – they are hard working people – but they do discriminate against people with education – they are against immigration (Our great grandfather came here from England in 1849). I believe the American dream suggests that through hard work, and education, we can improve our life – and we don’t have to be mad at those who have been successful.

  4. As Stan said: A thoughtful piece…as was your reply to Mack Maak, who seems to have completely missed your points. Must be difficult for you to contemplate family get-togethers.

  5. The sad truth is that there are so many people like this, who refuse to learn anything, and happily let others in their chosen Fundamentalist camp tell them what to think, who to hate, and how they should vote.
    Why are they so afraid to question the spin doctors and the blatant distorted lies of Fox News, Tea party fools and bigot-babble that seems to have become the blind substitute for reasonable discourse?
    Please, can’t they THINK for themselves, just for a little while?

  6. I’m really concerned by this mentality… If it makes up the majority of our country we are truly doomed. If the Tea Party Republicans take over the country over the next couple of elections I really feel we may not make it back for another shot at this…

    I am deeply sickened by the Republican party and the way they use these people. They really just don’t seem to care about this country at all… “country first”? Hardly.

  7. My family was GOP as far back as the Civil War. My great-great-great-grandfather was Horace Porter, a Union Lieutenant Colonel present at the signing of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, and who later became the personal secretary to President Grant. So our GOP credentials are well established. However, today you won’t find a Republican amongst our family, the exodus from the party beginning with George H.W. Bush and ending when the last family member left the party when disgusted with the Tea Partiers. I left the party in the second term of Ronald Reagan, disgusted with the waste I saw while in the Army, an institution I proudly served for 13 years.
    Upon my induction into the Army, I took an oath, one which I still hold dear to this day, to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic. Make no mistake about it, the Tea Party, which includes many in its number who wish their states to secede from the union, is a domestic threat to the sovereignty of the United States. It is the new American Taliban. They’re potential terrorists and they’re traitors. We should do with them what we do with traitors – try them, hang them, forget them.
    Political discourse is good and necessary to the maintenance of a democracy, but threatening secession is NOT discourse, it’s an act of cowardice and it’s treason.

  8. Your continued use of the term ‘Tea bagger’ let me know how small-minded and hate filled you are. Then seeing you call others hate-filled, let me know you are a hypocrite to boot.

  9. Wow. This is just sad. I mean, I know there’s always been a strong strain of anti-intellectualism in American culture (you don’t have to read Hofstadter, you just have to look around), but this degree of *anger* and *bitterness* about it is just baffling to me. For someone not just not to care about reading, but to actively disdain anyone who *does* care about reading as some Other deserving of loathing an enmity?…

    There’s nothing wrong with blue-collar work, nor with taking pride in it. But there is something wrong with taking pride in *ignorance*… in not understanding the social context in which your work functions, in not knowing the history behind the heritage you supposedly value.

    Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical of elites who may not have your best interests at heart… so long as one can actually *recognize* who they are. To imagine that George Bush or Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck care one whit about “ordinary Americans” (as opposed to lining the pockets of themselves and their cronies) is to demonstrate a really shocking detachment from reality.

    I’ve lived in the midwest my whole life… but, honestly, I don’t know *anyone* as died-in-the-wool reactionary as what you describe here. Surely all of your siblings must at least have attended school through the 12th grade? Surely at least some of them have traveled outside their hometown? Surely the must know some people besides you with different worldviews? How can none of that have left any lasting impression? What sets you and your one other sibling apart?

  10. ‘Proud to be ignorant’ sounds so much like a common London, England saying that it is scary – I spent 11 years in the British Army listening to plenty of that before immigrating here. What was most odd was hearing on bases throughout the world – you might think travel would broaden the minds, but most of these men rarely, if ever, left the base and mixed with locals.
    Some people do seem to need to be led, but they only allow ‘their betters’ to do so – which puts the like of us in the wrong for ‘not knowing our place’, I guess. This is the only explanation which makes any sense to me after years of seeing grown men follow ‘upper-class’ idiots (many of whom never graduated from High School) while refusing to listen to anyone who ‘didn’t go to the right school’ even when the advise given was clearly better.
    Maybe this is why Tea Party types listen to Palin, Bush, Cheney, Beck and the like while rejecting anything upstarts like us have to say.

  11. I’m a proud Conservative, military vet, I like guns, and et al of the conservative fashion, so my affiliation with the GOP always finds me guilty of events I take no activity.
    Reading about the pride in ignorance, I become conflicted. I always blow my colleagues out of the water when it come to who has the best “Ol Lady”, one even commented that I custom ordered my wife just because she is fantastic at being a mother, wife, taxi etc. Were I loose ground is when I gloat about the two college degrees she holds, and they ask how much does she make, well, her monthly salary is about as much as I make per week. My point being, it is no wonder common working class folk despise education. Who want’s to spend thousands of dollars and 4 or more years of your free time studying to make peanuts?

    So while I don’t disagree with most of your post I have problems with a few point. Not all hard working blue collar Americans, that harbor contempt towards the educated are Republicans and if you believe that sir, all your liberal ideas become paltry.

    The failure isn’t in uneducated working class folks who fear what they don’t know, the failure lies in our representation and that should not fall entirly on the shoulders of Conservatives.

    Here is what those uneducated people see about the educated professionals; greedy, corrupt individuals who steal their pensions, take government bail outs at our expense, then go to luxury summits on our dime.

  12. You confuse me. Did your wife choose a field where salaries are traditionally below the requirements of education – like education or social work? There is a great disparity in what is required of these folks and what is returned in the form of pay. I may be a liberal but I believe the Teacher’s Union is out of control – our educational system has digressed while teachers with tenure are protected.

    Also – It seems like it is the conservative who want to protect the rich wall street whizzos. Why do the Tea Party people not protest Wall Street? Where is the Tea Party on taxing the greedy rich? It seems like the Tea Party folks protect the most corrupt.

  13. Quote: Why do the Tea Party people not protest Wall Street?

    Because average people are somewhat inherently like sheep. A good speaker with charisma can just about get anyone to do anything, history proves that. If you stood in a crowded parking lot and started looking up at the sky for no reason, everyone will look. If at the same time you starting shouting “oh my God” Then took off running you may cause panic to others. Play on peoples fears, make them feel vulnerable, then tell them to do (whatever) to get power and control back into their lives and they will follow and believe you.
    Why on earth do you think Rush has such a following.
    Jesus asked forgiveness for us saying “they know not what they do”.

  14. You are correct – even Jesus understood the Tea Party as sheepish followers, ready to do anything.

    Good characterization – thanks.

  15. Thank you for this thoughtful, compassionate piece. I think my father would have fit into the “ignorant” category in a way. He was academically bright but went only to the 8th grade. My mother is the one who pushed us to get a college education. When my brothers and I finished college and had well-paying jobs, my father would jeer at us saying that he never went to college and “look at me!” I could never truly understand his irrational thinking…until I read your article.

  16. My family and religion were much the same. I hate religion because it ruined my relationship with most of my family.

  17. I think the hardest part about being someone who is educated but originally from the “backwoods” of America is how little acceptance there is for you, even among your own family. I moved away from my home state and it’s so difficult to go back. You hear about the Teabaggers and you think, well, I know there are lots of ignorant people who just think anyone with an education is out to get them, but surely my family, surely the people who know me and like me, will be able to understand my point of view. Surely these people know me and will realize their hostility towards all educated people is a bit unfounded. Surely exposing these isolated people to an actual liberal will soften their stance.

    My dad will call me and go on and on about the young generation and the liberals with their degrees and big words and laziness and refusal to work. And I say “You do realize that I am a young person, right? And that I have degrees and use big words and actually do support myself, right?” He insists he’s not talking about me, but of course he is. These conservatives are so insulated and afraid of the world, they don’t realize people who are different are still human beings. They’ve dehumanized the other side so much that they simply cannot process it anymore.

  18. Ashley – I have great sympathy for you – by getting educated I became the black sheep of the family. ……

  19. @Ohg – I am really lucky in a lot of ways because I did get to have an education. I think it’s a great tragedy that the educated people of the South are constantly trying to get away because they’re so ostracized and different. It seems impossible to break that cycle and it’s a mutual loss, the South loses a chance to broaden its horizons and the educated people lose their families and communities.

  20. Ashley – I don’t normally go on like this – but you have a way with words. You use simple words in profound ways. There is a feeling of genuine gut level emotions, expressed by someone who is not showing off an education.

    Your family did something right when they raised you.

    I am educated, and in many ways I am different from my family. But ultimately my family gave me my sense of self. Your deep understanding of generational tragedy is inspiring.

    Thank you.

  21. I just stumbled on this article. I am from a similar background. I am not ashamed of my family, but I do find myself cringing when I hear similar sentiments expressed. I grew up in rural North Carolina. Senator Jesse Helms used this tactic successfully throughout his career. Keep the little man down by finding a boogeyman “out there” that is oppressing him, whether it is the university, the “lib’ral,” African Americans, “Mexicans” or whatever. Meanwhile, the powers that be get stronger. What really galls me now are the college education professonals who spout all this nonsense about Obama being a Nazi. Poor oppressed suburbanites.

  22. I liked your heartfelt story but I do take issue with your use of the word “Tea Bag” which you know is derogatory. You wouldn’t call a black person a n***** so what the derision? Also, you state that Obama was a law “professor” — he wasn’t. He was a part-time lecturer. There’s a huge difference. Becoming a professor takes years of work, securing tenure, publishing scholarly books, etc. (Incidentally, the post he was given as a lecturer was largely in name only. the media has not been able to find any students who attended his classes.) You also state that tea party members are “blatantly” anti-education and anti-professionalism. Not true of all tea part members. I have a masters degree, earn six figures and own my own business. All of my friends in the tea party are educated professionals. Maybe that’s just the difference between California and Missouri. Finally, you state that the tea party is “guilty” of using words like socialism….what exactly do you call a style of rule where the government takes over car companies, banks, student loans and health care? Certainly not a constitutional republic, which is what our country is. You’re right about this: sadly, most Americans don’t have a clue about how our government is structured. That includes what rights remain those of the states. Our form of government is one of limited federal powers. Everything else is under the jurisdiction of individual states. That’s why you can carry guns in Arizona or gamble in Nevada. We do not have a “national” government like France or Canada or Australia. And whether the socialists of the left like it or not, those are the rules of the game. And thank God, we are in the process of taking our country back. Just wait until November.

  23. My use of “Tea Bag” was just a slip of the keyboard, but if I had been aware of the derogatory nature I would have used it anyway.

    Obama is a top tier constitutional lawyer – quibbling about whether he was a lecturer or professor is splitting hairs and missing the point.

    Obama did not choose an economic situation which required government intervention in major industry – but he acted decisively and responsibly to slow the economic bleeding.

    I look forward to November – when rational people will cast their ballots.

  24. Hi – Saw your post on re recent Republican primary upsets. I am also the sole moderate in a family of right-wingers. Not active Tea-Partiers, but their views are not so far off. I simply don’t talk politics (or religion) in my family; keeping the peace seems a better strategy. But I recognize their determination to not read, examine or adjust any opinion they acquire through listening to Fox News’ talking heads, Limbaugh and any right-wing friend who repeats misinformation as if it were proven fact. I am starting to worry about how poorly Democrats have explained what they are trying to do in difficult economic times, and how late they are leaving their November get-out-the-vote drives. But I agree with other posters on this page – Tea Party supporters are not all low-income, uneducated prats who have been brainwashed by right-wing media. This is a serious uprising against big government, no matter the reasons why the government got so big. It should be one heckuva November 3…

  25. Read “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank.

    Once upon a time, the Democratic party was the party of the working class. They unionized them, worked to increase union power, and enacted big “socialist” projects like SS & Medicare. The working class was the backbone of the big Democratic victories from FDR to LBJ. Read speeches by Truman & FDR. They were full of brash, full-throated populist calls to class warfare. The GOP could not win just by running on economic issues, so they used social issues and race starting in the ’70’s to split the Democratic party. The Democratic party, starting to lose elections, became more like Rockefeller Republicans. The GOP became the party of cynical Crony Capitalists, demogoging on social issues to win elections and then passing laws that benefitted the rich (and running up deficits) once in power.

  26. So Real American wants you to think that he represents the “real American” average way of thinking in this country. Well guess what. He doesn’t. He represents the way the 20% who are mad that their President George Bush messed up so badly think. They project madly, calling Obama illegitimate in any way possible, and also the “worst president ever”. They either don’t know, or don’t care that it was George Bush who bailed out the banks, and that it was done in complete haste, with no careful deliberation, because a total meltdown was happening. They refuse to even acknowledge this, which means they haven’t bothered to educate themselves about the facts. The student loan industry? Please. All that has happened is that the government has saved billions of dollars that was going to banks, but will now go to educate students instead, the way I was educated, taking out National Direct Student Loans in the 1970s, and becoming a self-supporting tax-paying citizen, without having to spend decades hopelessly snared in debt as a result of loans at interest rates that take advantage of those new to the financial world. These people live in another world. A Fox world. It is far, far from reality. I and many like me will be there in November, cancelling out their votes with pleasure.

  27. I feel very sad for you. I and my husband are registered democrats. We both have post graduate degree’s. 3 of our 5 children have post graduate degrees.
    I have never been on welfare or medical assistance and only know of one person in my family who was. My niece who was raped and became pregnant. She decided to keep the baby and needed medical care. After the baby was born she went back to school and her family now supports her.
    I think you are sadly mistaken if your view of the tea party movement is just a bunch of naive dummies.
    We did not call Van Jones a communist he called himself one. Cass Sunstein wrote about nudging; slowly the people like your parents into his socialized way of thinking. Bill Ayers blew buildings and sadly some human beings up. He admits he should have done more. No body made this stuff up it is in their own words and not taken out of context.
    If I had a better way to show my mother how to cut an onion; I would have said “Mom, sit down for a bit and let me do that for you. Just sit here and keep me company”.
    The way you spoke to your mother insulted her. But I guess you are too educated to realize that fact.
    My advice to you would be to keep thinking us tea drinkers are all a bunch of dummies and no one to be nervous about. Keep that thought.

  28. Maybe my father was correct when he referred to people as “educated idiots?” Who knows?

  29. Ohg, maybe consider that not having degrees doesn’t necessarily mean ignorant or stupid or even uneducated. Did you read the “Uranium Widows” article in the New Yorker last week? It’s not online, and the abstract doesn’t give you a good picture of it, so if you can track it down, do. It provides a good example of the fact that sometimes when you think you’re protecting the ignorant and powerless, it turns out you’re hurting people who know much more than you about their situation. Your Mom was chopping onions before you were born; she knows what technique works best for her. Don’t be so quick to write off political positions that haven’t been stamped with the academy’s seal of approval.

  30. The ‘chopping onions’ story was only intended as an example – My mother resents anything that resembles progress or change for any reason. An onion chopped any other way is still an onion.

    I have written a number of times about redneck culture. Some rednecks are the smartest people I know – their critical thinking skills are superb when applied to their world. The problem arises when they apply their skills to subjects on which they remain ignorant – and tragically do not see any need to be better informed.

    Check out this post:


  31. Tea Party people are not likely to read any of these posts as they are highly unlikely to own a computer let alone have internet service. Also, they probably would not be able to read what it says.

    The saddest thing is that they will go out and vote for Republicans or TEA partiers that will only make their lives worse. They do not understand that the Democratic party fights for them. The Democrats fight so they can have decent wages and job protection. Democrats are the ones that fight to protect their Social Security and Medicare.

    Republicans are the party that wants to dismantle Social Security and Medicare and make them subject to Big Business and Wall Street. Wall Street would drain our money from Social Security. The Republicans want to get rid of public education. They want the American people to be uneducate so they can manipulate them as they do the TEA party now. The TEA party candidates that do get elected are going to be swallowed by the Republican party. The Republicans will control them because they do not know what they are doing. That is why the Republicans are backing them. But the Republicans are owned by the wealthy elitists.

    It is alright to be a poor Democrat, but it is not a good idea to be a poor Republican. You end up voting against your own best interests.
    I know the Republicans make up horror stories and lie to these people to get their vote. Republicans are on the side of the greedy. Democrats are on Jesus’ side helping the poor and downtrodden.

  32. I nearly came to the decision to NOT respond as this is over five years ago. That thought didn’t come quickly enough, because here I am responding.

    First, when I was perhaps ten or eleven years old, I remember watching my aunt make a cake. I wasn’t sitting quietly watching. My mouth was going a mile a minute about “my mother doesn’t do that” and “she doesn’t do this either”. My dear aunt responded in a non-chafing way, that she was not my mother and had her own way of doing things. One of the best lessons I have ever learned. My mother had her own way of doing things and changing was not anything she was inclined to do. She did however acknowledge “There’s always more than one way to skin a cat”. As for which party is smarter or dumber, well each of them carry their fair share of both. Most politicians of this age are in it for themselves. Altruism is rare these days. I used to worry about my mother and siblings a lot. They haven’t always seen my caring and help as anything they really wanted. I have learned to love them each and all for their own and not what they possess. Take what you need and leave the rest. God Bless

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