Tea Parties have come a long way from my little girl's nursery with stuffed animals gathered around a low table to sip kool aid from my plastic Barbie tea set. The most recent tea party I attended on Tax Day in Corning, New York traded simple childhood socializing for old republicans decrying socialism while the odor of cigars and pipes wafted over the Chemung River. Thirty years has changed my taste in more ways than trading kool-aid for real tea. Social gatherings have leaned to the disgrutled, and the downright angry. The little girl in me still wishes for the grace and civility of old customs, but the adult concedes that passive agreement won't win the debate. Any more than appeasing Hitler preserved Europe from a second world war.
My young son asked me the other day what made Hitler such a bad person. (He has had a keen grasp of current events since he spoke his first word, "Afghanistan.") I explained that Hitler took power in a destabilized Germany in the wake of military and economic defeats which demoralized its people and made them ripe for any notion of hope, whether sincere or manipulated. In the words of a great singer and lyricist Matthew Ward, "be careful when they say to you, it's all right, its all right. The economic system's coming through, it's all right, its all right." Hitler conviced an entire generation that Germany could recover her great place in history by eliminating the weak, and favoring the strong in a Machiavellian plot of the ends justifiying the means and the epic and catastrophic Darwinian experiment of survival of the fittest, called the Holocaust. He targeted the feeble minded, the physically handicapped, the Jews, the Gypsies, the Catholics, and ultimately anyone who opposed him. My son asked why people did not stop him, and I told him at first, they wanted to beleive in him, because he made them feel good about themselves after a decade of humiliation and poverty. By the time they caught on to his evil tactics, Hitler had large armies and a police state to crush any dissention.
Tea parties certainly have come a long way in my thirty-eight years. The new ones are certainly controversial, and they've gotten more than a few folks mad. But I thank God I still live in a country where political expression, even dissension, is permissible.