Teabaggers Push Good Ol’ American Hate

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on February 8, 2010

What does one call 600 anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-universal healthcare bigots gathered in one spot? Tea baggers. Their convention, “Tea Party Nation,” was held in Nashville last week to plan a conservative takeover of Congress by raising $10 million and running candidates who uphold their brand of American hate and intolerance. The term “tea bagger” is a reference to the Anglo-Saxon American colonists who dumped tea in Boston Bay to protest taxation by the British.

The gathering started off in true conservative fashion — with a speech on immigration by a former congressman that bordered on racist.

Tom Tancredo, the grandchild of immigrants who used to represent Denver and who dropped out of his intended bid for presidency in 2007, spent most of his verbiage denouncing America’s latest immigrants. In addition to knocking what he described as the “cult of multiculturalism,” and the “Islamification” of our country, Tancredo claimed that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English” helped elect Obama president.

In what was obviously a reference to segregation in the American South, Tancredo also declared that Obama’s win was secured by the fact that “we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

Southern states used to subjects blacks to different tests than whites, making the questions much more difficult so that they wouldn’t pass.

Tancredo said that the country needs a “counter-revolution,” one that would “pass on our culture based on Judeo-Christian principles. Whether people like it or not, that’s who we are.”

A convention organizer was quoted in the London Guardian as saying that he wished Tancredo wouldn’t have made the reference to the segregationists. Too late. Bring together a group such as that and references to the glory days of white supremacy are bound to pop up.

Ironically, Tancredo’s grandparents emigrated to America a century ago from Italy, arriving at Ellis Island, as my grandparents did, without documents. They were hated by the very same Anglo-Saxon culture that he champions now. How soon the grandchildren forget.

The convention was dogged by other controversies as well. There was the price of entry: $549, and hawkers trying to cash in on whatever they could. They sold everything from $89.99 precious stone pendants of tea bags to an array of teeshirts that featured right-wing slogans, such as “I’ll keep my freedom, my guns and my money.”

All the usual suspects were represented in the convention crowd, including those who deny global warming and “Birthers,” people who think that Obama is not a citizen and therefore not qualified to be president.

To top it all off, Sarah Palin, who unsuccessfully ran for vice president in November 2008, gave the closing address, blathering on about how the tea baggers movement is by and for the people.

People who hate queers, Muslims, liberals, immigrants, and anyone else who isn’t like them.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is www.avicollimecca.com.

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