Surrealistic Pill-Dough: A Journey into Tea Baggers & Healthcare Brighton MI
Crossposted from The Wild Wild Left with highly offensive tea bagger language intact- reader beware.
All images found and used below from google are courtesy of electablog, from his awesome blog of the same name’s post,“The Tea Party Express ORGY OF ANGER”
We parked at Mexican Jones, a small and empty restaurant I worked for at one time, when it was thriving. In the very back of the lot, there was a neglected trellis that lead to the almost invisible path that follows the waterway along the back of the business district to the Mill Pond where the “festivities” awaited.
We could hear the roar of the crowd, and the speakers a mile out. My 10 year old was nervous. “We have to walk through all that Mom? They’ll kill us,” he said laughing, but with the tinges of fear in his voice. I assured him we would be fine, as we came around the bend into the open where our wet footsteps squeaked on the slippery boardwalk that went over the swampy creek leading to the pond.
I opened my video camera as we neared the crowd, and asked him to hold my hand in unity. I told him despite my “Liberal” t-shirt, no one would mess with a Mom holding her son’s hand, told him it would make me safer. That appeased his queasiness at being “almost 11” and holding his Mom’s hand. There were thousands there, and as we approached the outskirts, groups of ten here and five there, their wild-eyed glares, almost drugged, hate-filled ecstasy told me I had to keep him close, keep him safe. He fell for it.
Safe, from these self-acclaimed “Real Americans.”
“Don’t run your mouth, we’re here to report, not fight, Jake,” I warned him. He heard, but couldn’t help but say, “Unbelievable!” when we passed a black woman standing with a sign, standing and cheering the toward the stage from the bridge, not 15 feet from a middle aged businessman, whose sign read, “We don’t want no BaLack Obama.” “Mom why would she support these Republicans, they hate people like her, they’re racists,” his voice rising in the pitch of a distraught youth, whose voice has not yet changed. I saved the explanation that Brighton was chosen for a reason for a later date. Making it in Howell, the National Seat of the Klan for many years was too overt, so they made it 8 miles away in Brighton. They knew what base they were tapping. Hard core racists.
Then we entered the crush, the belly of the beast, circling to the right across from the roped off stage area to our left. A swarm of middle-aged whiteness, dotted with the elderly and swaddled in flags, crosses, fear and rage. A smattering of hard-core skinheads rubbed elbows with them, and were accepted in every quarter like family.
I felt like my Liberal shirt was a Star of David and I was pushing my way through a Hitler Youth rally. Yet somehow, I found myself smiling, and laughing aloud at them. At the sheer fallacy of them.
A Grateful Dead concert could not have been weirder, with the costumes and chanting, yet this was the antithesis of the vibe. These people wanted blood, not elevated consciousness. I was well armed with the assurance of my convictions. With a dare-you gleam in my eye, a video cam in one hand, and my son’s hand in the other, I met their looks dead on. I opened my jacket a little wider, to show my shirt, and began to press my way through the crowd. Most of them looked away, deferring like the dogs they were to the presence of an Alpha. I had no fear, I laughed at them. They didn’t know what to make of it.
I listened intently, as the press of human pig-flesh and the acrid smell of cigars made looking or taping impossible. I kept the camera on, and got incredible bouncing footage of feet and wide asses as I glided between the gaps to make our way around the pond. It was highly evident that this was an affluent crowd, even by trousers and shoes. Most of the Polo shirts were ironed, and I was wishing the little alligators on their yuppie breasts would come to life and chew through to their black hearts. Certainly none of them had missed a meal. These were people who HAD theirs, and were daring anyone to take even a crumb from them. The metallic taste of greed was in the air. “I worked hard for my money and no commie president is gonna give it to a bunch of lazy ass people.” “No taxes, fuck them, get a real job and you’d be covered. Fucking niggers and wetbacks.” Oh yeah, greed is good had stuck and was present in every yacht club and golf member bragging about it and planning luncheons.
There was too much, too many of them, and it was too loud now, as Joe the Dumber began to rant. The lemmings were fully in the thrall now, and we were invisible. Glassy-eyed echoes of “No Communism! No Death Panels! America!” were rattling our ears as their eyes locked to the altar of hate.
We were only a quarter way around the thing.
There was a small break in the press, a smidgen of room left in front of three senior citizens, fronting a larger group of elderly people. I paused, camera in hand, as I overheard, “I cannot believe anyone would want the government involved in deciding if we live or die, that anyone would support Socialism Medicine in this great country.”
“Can I interview you for a second,” I asked, “Do you have Medicare, or collect Social Security?” Her husband started to answer for her, “Obama’s gonna take that away next, really, its part of the plan, its gone!” The woman broke in, “Yeah, I do, but I don’t want it, I don’t need it, not if it leads to THIS!”
“Leads to what, ma’am? Social Security and Medicare are social contracts that have been in place for 40-50 years. Why would he try and expand that to everyone if he plans on ending all those programs. This just makes it for everyone.”
“He’s trying to take away all that, you don’t understand!” She was now getting angry. “No,” I replied kindly, “He’s just trying to give the young people like my son here the same coverage you get. Medicare works.”
“No, they are going to take it all away, deny us care because we are old. They are going to have Death Panels and kill us.” The white hairs around them pressed in, murmuring agreement. They looked truly terrified. Fear had been planted, taken root and wrapped them completely. Rational dies in the face of terror.
I decided to respect the elderly, and not give them the heart attack they all looked to be on the verge of, shaking visibly, faces reddening, veins bulging, “Thanks for giving me your opinions”
I moved on.
We were at the widest part of the valley in which the pond lay, where moving through the crowd was impossible, as they swooned at the stage across the water. I looked down at Jake and said, “We’ll cut around the back here, this is pointless.” I cut up toward the alleyway behind the buildings on Main Street and made our way to the eastern side. I felt like breaking one of the flag-wavers poles and staking them, letting the blood spatter the “Muslim Terrorist wants to kill your Gramma” signs. I knew 10 would rise where one had fallen. This was now looking like a Ralph Steadman painting of a bad acid trip by Hunter S Thompson. The other side was mostly greedy yuppies, skinhead racists and terrified old people. We were now on the primo turf, with the imported astroturfers. If you wanted to picture nazi brownshirters, this was your image. They were shoulder to shoulder creaming themselves in a mass hysteria delusion of having again won something. There was no way through.
Yes, I had seen the buses travel down Grand River all day, through the windows of my workplace, and knew they had imported astro-turf to call grass roots. I had just never imagined there were so MANY of the stooopid. So many of them. These were the hard core, indoctrinating my neighbors into what may well become a civil war. Indoctrinated into believing lies, calling for Obama’s impeachment. Row upon row of pre-printed signs, not hand scrawl, with Obama as the Joker, Obama as a Muslim, Kill the Bill, so many I cannot even name them all.
I couldn’t help but think it only a matter of being poor losers. This is what happens to a generation of spoiled children, who have gotten a trophy for every event, made every team, and had 8 years of getting their way.
This was more than Racism. This was a National Tantrum of the Neo-cons. They could not stand that they LOST. This was a tantrum embodied and exhorted by the Becks and Limbaughs, whose names they listed as “Next President” or “Real Americans.”
This was finely crafted machine, employed and created by the Right Think Tanks to try and unify their base, the only way they knew how: Fear and Loathing. They despise losing, and will do anything to win. Beckclone country. Employees of the think tanks.
We were now 3/4 the way around, having cut around the back, and climbed back up toward Main Street. “Where are the Liberal’s Mom?” Jake asked. “I have no idea” I replied, truly wondering if they had given up, so outnumbered by a sea of frothing bile. I stopped to see a man with two huge double signs in his hands posing for an adoring cameraman. He was 40-ish, short cropped of hair, just barely the business acceptable look outside of actual skinhead-ism. His tatt’s said he was more overt about it in his youth. No yuppie collar here, a tight tee-shirt adorned with a flag.
I raised my camera, as he ranted about the Government making Medical decisions for us, and how unfair that would be to his wife and circle of friends.
“May I ask you a question as a reporter of this event?” He puffed up and said, “Sure, baby!” I watched his face turn through the LED screen, turn from flirting to rage, when I spoke. “Aren’t there people making our medical decisions now, only making them so the shareholders make profit by denying our claims?”
“I don’t want the government in my business!” he yelled at me.
“But its ok that bean-counters do? Medicare works. The health care industry is making record profits by denying care, who do you trust more, the government who wants to raise the common good and make all citizens healthy, or Wall Street, who profits when they deny us care?”
“We make our own decisions now. No government is gonna get in our business,” he reiterated like a pull-string doll with only one recording.
I asked, again, “Why do you think their profits go up 10% every quarter for the last 8 years? They deny claims, and raise your premium to make profits. The government one will be non-profit, like Medicare.”
His face screwed up dangerously, and he looked around quickly to see who was watching, looked again at my smile and my camera. Looked at my son. “Lady, you don’t know what the FUCK you are talking about, everyone get jobs and buy your own fucking health care. Americans don’t need no fucking handouts,” he hissed.
I laughed, looked at his friends, and even they looked a little shocked at his reaction. “Ok, thanks for the interview. And sweety, I would suggest you get your parents and grandparents off Medicare, send back their Social Security, move them in with you, and you pay their bills, k? Real Americans take care of their own, as you say.”
I spun on my heel, arrogantly tossing my hair, as he yelled at my back, “Maybe they do! How do you know they don’t?” I glanced back and chirped, “Somehow, I just can’t picture you lovingly wiping their asses for them.” Even his wife laughed at that, until he made an aggressive step toward her. She looked down submissively. This guy was a piece of work. Time to move on, when they even go after their own, its ugly. I hoped my son didn’t hear the hissed, “Nigger-lover,” thrown at us as we walked away.
A couple onlookers made sure they bumped into us on the way out. I was sure to say saccharine sweetly, “Excuse me please,” politely as I shouldered them back as hard as I could. I raised the camera again and his little press of demons parted, so we could enter the Main Street walkway.
The sidewalk was blessed clear between protesters, and I tried to get some film of the bowl below, get a close up of the wild frenzy on the stage between the swell of anti-Obama signs. We circled as far to the right as we could go on that side, and found none of the Democratic counter-protesters.
The signs, the signs, from “Elderly Genocide” to “My Taxes aren’t meant for Your Medicine”, the majority was more worried about money than pills. One man walked around with one that said, “Sell your boat, buy your own damn healthcare” scrawled across it. It would be laughable had not people lauded him, as they burned in a bonfire of the hate and fear. It was palpable, how many of these people had never protested before, and were caught up in the vicious lies being spewed from the stage. My stomach roiled when I saw another “Glenn Beck for President!” sign held by an apple-faced 30-something adorned with a lovely cross of gold at her neck. “God, lady, you are clueless,” I muttered as I realized there was nothing the two of us could do in the face of so many, so much blind ignorance. “Glenn is the only truth teller,” she screamed at my retreating figure.
This was getting frustrating. My one voice could do nothing against this, and I could not seem to find anyone sane enough to interview.
I decided to circle around the adjoining building towards the backstage area. Maybe our allies were there.
Not so much. The intermittent downpours had the brown shirts adorned in acres of plastic rain gear, but there was no getting anywhere near that ares. “Teabagger Express Crew and Press Only!” It was taped off with reflective orange tape that dulled in the grey and heavy air. I found it appropriate that this day was as ugly as the people who co-opted it.
We stood on the curb of this side road, at a loss. What to do? Look more? Fight alone? Make another pass, hoping to single out an interview from the herd?
Then I saw her, a Black Woman exiting the rear of a Church around the curve, walking authoritatively toward the Stage area. As she approached, staring openly at her microphone and recorder, I stepped aside, “Heh, good luck, I’m definitely in the minority here,” gesturing toward my shirt:
It gave her pause. She smiled as she read it and said, “Your people are on the other side of the lake.” When I inquired where, she explained I had passed right by them, passed by, behind them. I offered to follow her back over there, when she said she was going to get an interview there. She smiled and said, “No. I think I need to interview you.” My son stepped back of his own instinctual volition, and sat on the wall.
I looked her kindly in the eye, stated my name and locale for the record, and let her question me. She stopped and said, “You’re goooooood at this.” When the tape stopped, she was ready to scribble a little background info for her report. I named The Wild Wild Left as my blog project, and admitted to occasionally dropping pieces into Docudharma and dKos. Now, she wanted to know my “background,” which ended up being a question about my employment, i.e. “creds.” I paused, and said with a gleam in my eye, “Lets just call me a wife and mother. Its enough, and it makes better press.” She was taken aback a little, and said, “Perfect. You’re right, it works perfectly.” I explained I had done many things in my life, but none would resonate against this crowd like that answer, the answer they did not expect, and that no matter what else I said it wouldn’t matter. And I said, “It is the truth after all.” She laughed, and said again, “You DO know how to play this, don’t you?” She said she needed to pull one more from the baggers, then she was done. She wished me luck.
I was calm, articulate, measured. I rocked. She seemed more nervous than I.
I had predicted I would get interviewed, not knowing I was up against 3000 people, and here the planets aligned and it fell into my lap. Seriously cool.
(WWJ/CBS didn’t podcast this, and their policy is to not give out tape. My friend Kathy heard the interview and said I need to apply there… she even said that the reporter is new, and I sounded more polished than she did. Alas my 15 minutes of fame was 3 minutes, that I shall never hear. I don’t really to reiterate the interview here, I’ll speak to that on WWL Radio Friday.)
The actual fun was about to begin.
I approached the Main Street sidewalk again, and was immediately struck by the absolute brilliance of our positioning. The counter-protesters, lead by Livingston Democratic Headquarters Judy Daubenmier were facing the street, not the Tea Baggers. Their line, their signs TOTALLY blocked the view of the valley and protest behind them from passing traffic’s eyes. Any person unaware of the protest would have thought it thousands of people yelling, “Health Care NOW!”
It was flanking a 5 star General could be proud of. We were also right in front of the constantly moving local Police, who were there to stop traffic to allow people to cross the street. Safe and Visible. Again, brilliant.
I started by interviewing a gentleman holding a sign saying, “Who would Jesus Deny Healthcare?” “Judy’s idea?” I asked, “Yeah, how did you know?” I smiled, “I gave it to her on the phone.” We discussed the viability of single-payer vs public option, and I enlightened him to the potential back-lash if Public Option passed. At some point I will created video of my interviews with the counter-demonstrators.
People started to gather around us. These were all Dem’s who worked together, and I was the unknown, an outsider with a camera and opinions.
We were merely 50, stretched out across the curb, against a crowd of thousands below. I could hear the intermittent rally-cry of “Health Care Now!”. I spoke to a couple women holding “Support Obama!” signs, and asked if Jake could stand between them for a minute while I took video of the counter-protesters from the street. They complied in perfect auntie/grandma protectionism. I nabbed a couple more interviews.
It was sweet.
But I was unsatisfied. The signs were there, but the voices disjointed. I lowered my camera and grinned ear to ear. This? This, I could fix. This I could DO. I went down to the most vocal end and roared, “HEALTH CARE NOW! HEALTH CARE NOW!” getting the cheer going. Emboldened by my energy, they joined in with renewed vigor. I started pacing our line, back and forth, like a demented cheerleader, yelling ever louder, until our line was unified, and our voices started drowning out the rabble in the distance below us.
Yesssssssssssssss. This was gooooooooooood. I’ve always said I am more of a talent amplifier than have actual talent. I make people believe in themselves, give them energy.
I stepped back to Jake, and rested my voice for a second. This lively salt and pepper-haired woman with a megaphone approached me. “I’m Judy Daubenmier, who ARE you?” “Judy,” grasping her hand warmly, “I’m Diane Gee, we spoke on the phone.” She remembered instantly, and inquired again about my blog. I reiterated that I was far, far, left of the Democratic Party, but was happy to lend my support on this issue. She made noises about my becoming more involved with her group, and I said, while I hoped we could work together it was in her best interests for me not to be too closely affiliated with them.
Our voices were one, as the rain began to fall. We were energized, smiling, yelling as loud as we could, while the weaker tea baggers started thinning, crossing the street to their cars. This turned the worm crawling traffic to a standstill, and most of them honked, thumbed up us, or yelled “Health Care Now!” back at us, much to our amazement. I would say 70% of traffic agreed with we on the left, on the curb. So where did they get all the loons below?
Judy came up behind me, and said, “We need to keep this up, we are getting their attention, bothering them.” I looked to see a few moving toward us to harass us.
The first was an ancient old guy, spry but over 80 if a day, yelling “Health Care NO!” over our “Now.” I turned, gave him my best pouty mouth, stuck out my chest and next round yelled “NOW” right back at him, smiling. He winked at me, shrugged and drifted back over the hill. I well understand, that to someone that age, who feels invisible to women, the attention of even a middle aged overweight housewife is a thrill. I defused his anger. I almost felt dirty, but was too amused by the predictability of it to care.
This was not going to work with the next wave. A Hawaiian-shirted behemoth was bearing down, and stood right up against us with a “Kill the Bill” sign. He would have to wait.
On our right flank, a couple scary looking, tattooed, hard bodied skin heads with racists signs were screaming at us. One of these had a viking helmet on, replete with actual horns. Judy moved toward them with her bullhorn, still rallying our cry, and a couple of the men repositioned themselves at that end. The two were getting loud, rude, cursing, crowding that end.
I relinquished Jake to the surrogate relatives in the center, and stepped out into the street again. I have to say, although his facial expression never changed the whole day, the stoic officer in front of us was paying attention. This was a young man I would never test at poker. His eyes flicked to me for having entered traffic, and I just flicked my eyes towards the Viking guys. I didn’t even get my camera on, just raised it in mock recording and stepped over toward them. I didn’t realize the officer was moving with me. They took a step away from our group. They turned, retreated. I said, “Wow,” as I turned back, thinking for a brief instant about the power of the press, when I saw my companion in blue. His eyes flickered a wee humor and went blank again. It had nothing to do with my camera. The dickweeds probably had a sheet longer than a house resolution, and didn’t want to dance with the cop. Nothing to do with me at all. Two down.
Hawaiian shirt guy was more subtle, just holding his sign over us. Between the loud shirt and the doofus white knee socks with sandals, he was nonthreatening. He was a caricature of a clueless tourist in a Jimmy Buffett song.
He did, however kind of grab Judy’s shoulder as she walked by. She instantly went off, “Do NOT put your hands on me. Do not assault me physically in any way, or I’ll have the cops on you so quick you won’t know what hit you.” He quipped, “I was going to ask you not to use that bullhorn in my ear, you are assaulting my ears.” I turned and said, “Oh PLEASE. You never touch a woman. Crap excuse, dude.”
I now had his full attention. He tried to tell me she was over reacting, crazy. I looked at all 6’5″ pf him, and her tiny 4’8″ frame pointedly. Looked up, looked down. I asked him what part of that isn’t intimidating as hell in a crowd like this. He apologized to me. Not Judy, who had continued her rallying pacing.
Then we were in full contact negotiation.
He tried to explain he was against it because we could not afford it, there was nowhere to draw the money from, and the bill was just shit.
We went round and round, he claiming to be from South Lyon, a nearby working community.
I explained how for the last 12 years, and as the primary tool provider for the big 3, I watched job after job go overseas, because we could not compete in a global community that didn’t have the burden of paying for health care. When he claimed that wasn’t the only reason, I explained how GM executives bragged to me they could make 20$ sub-components for 3 cents, because third world people worked for nothing and they didn’t have to worry about OSHA or environmental controls.
I asked him, in light of that fact, if the price of cars ever came down. I asked him why they were making record profits until the wall Street gamble took them down.
He started actually conceding points. “Ok, you have a point, young lady, but you haven’t changed my mind.”
Then he brought out the big guns, of “How will we pay for this?”
I spoke of the 60 billion dollar Iraq war, the MIC overspending with no oversight, the pork embroiled on both the left and the right, in a government full of politicians who were beholden to their top contributors. I spoke of accountability. The money is more than there, I said, its restructuring how its used. He admitted Medicare was a good system.
I had him on the ropes again. He asked if I was previously a conservative, because much of what I was saying was economic conservatism. He said he was amazed he could have an intelligent discussion with someone like me.
I said I was always liberal, but had no problem discussing or respecting the old time conservative’s viewpoints, back before their party had been co-opted by religious loons, birthers, deathers and frothers. I asked him, when he agreed with that, just what the fuck he was doing there supporting the haters, rather than supporting people who were real Republicans, people that could have these conversations.
“Yeah, you’re right, but it is kinda fun.” He looked shamed and lowered his sign, moved away.
I believed him. I thought perhaps I had made a convert. Then I found this photo online. The depth of field hides his towering height, but lookie who he’s standing with.
I had been played by a PLANT! A Joe the Dumber ally. Astroturf. He probably named South Lyon from a map.
If nothing else his engagement of me kept me off the front line chant for 10 minutes. I had been HAD man. I should have seen it coming when he denied they bused people in, until I told him I was there early enough to see it. I should have known when he said, at least no one was paying them to be there, like the ACORN people.
But no. I lost that round, with my eyes wide shut. Of course, I didn’t know that until yesterday’s post game googling.
It had been two hours, and I was soaked, not owning any rain gear like the stuff keeping my child dry. My feet were beginning to feel the pressure of a 12 hour day of walking with no sitting or rest at all. I gave it another 15 minutes after Hawaii left, thanked Judy and all my new friends, and began to take my leave.
We decided to leave via Grand River, the main trunk line through town, rather than back through the fray. I had dinner to make, and a tired child to get to bed for his new wake up time of 6:30. We had done what we came to do, and it was now done.
Or so I thought.
Two ladies were standing on the base of a light pole yelling aloud what their sign said “The Savior thinks this health care bill is an obama-nation.”
I HAD TO. “Really? Who would Jesus not heal? Who would he deny care to,” I was taking off, enraged, my voice rising, “Do unto others not just the rich! He loved the poor, the sick, he would LOVE this Universal Health Care!”
“Don’t you dare speak of my Lord and Savior, missy! He said its OUR job, not the governments, it up to us to buy our own insurance!”
I got up in her grill, well her waist, she was standing on a block. “Really, he threw the money changers out of the temple, he’d throw them out of your health insurer’s too. Hell, he’d smite all of Wall Street.”
They started shrieking, “Get away, get away blasphemer!” I shit you not. I laughed at them, and as I turned to go, a VERY young mother pushing a baby in a stroller with 2 toddlers in tow, muttered “Evil” at me. I looked her in the eye and said again, “Really? Would your Jesus let the poor die of no care? Would he?”
She literally tried to cover her childrens ears, and yelled, “Don’t speak, don’t you dare speak to my children.” “Uh, I was talking to you, calling ME evil.”
She screamed, “But they can HEAR you!”
My son looked at her and said, “Yeah, so can I, lady, and I want universal health care.” He rolled his eyes and started laughing. He grabbed my hand again.
I love my kid.
Who ARE these people?
Mostly tools that don’t know they are tools, all there at the orchestration of some think tank somewhere, who has well learned the art of manipulating people’s basest instincts and basest fears:
Racists & skinheads, elderly who feel as disposable as they are in our youth-driven society, self-loathing religious nuts, greedy yuppies who know they don’t deserve what they have, and know they are losing it, all panicky people who have lost control of their lives for one reason or another. They have been handed, on a silver platter someone to blame. It makes them feel like they have control.
Who orchestrated it?
Sore losers. Men with the power and the money that fear the unrest, fear the rising tide that may take them down. Men who know how to keep that power.
This was not democracy in action, this was a classic lesson in realpolitic, the fall of empire and the rise of manipulated fascist popularity.
The show has only begun, and I pity as many as I hated.
It was quite a rush.