Looking at the tea partiers (or, as I like to call them, “teabaggers”) one cannot help but think that they’re having a pretty good time.
Yes, their signs show all the marks of (irrational) outrage, but one of the reasons I think it is so hard to kill their mythology (for instance, about how Obama is a socialist/Marxist/Nazi Kenyan) is that they seem to enjoy it. I really think they do. I really think that the people out there, waving their signs, listening to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, are having a lot of fun.
Be honest with yourself for a moment- It’s kind of neat to feel aggrieved. It’s fun to feel like you’re in a wronged minority, like you’re part of some grand struggle and speaking truth to power. It’s ennobling and invigorating and gives you something meaningful (seemingly) to be a part of. The teabaggers are not the only ones who behave like this, who take pleasure in supposed feelings of persecution. Liberals do it as well. Spend any time with radical leftists and get them talking about an implacable and oppressive government/business/military/industrial complex and you’ll see that they, too, take a certain pleasure in imagining themselves as David against Goliath.
This is truly frightening.
Obviously, feeling aggrieved is fun because it gives you something to do, gives you something to rage against and yell about. The “aggrieved” are provided with straw man to whom they can assign all their woes, justly or not. For instance, I believe that one of the reasons that the U.S. has a bad reputation with the Muslim world is that Muslim elites use America as a scapegoat for domestic woes. This is not only expedient for, say, the Saudi royal family, but also fun and easy for parties involved. (I truly believe that if the Islamic world have a better, more diverse economy, we’d have less scapegoating, less terrorism, and, probably, less Islam.)
This feeling of perceived oppression, whether it be present in teabaggers, Islamic terrorists, or Portlanders who call themselves “anarchist” (while only vaguely knowing what that means) also removes responsibility from the believer. It is much easier, for example, to complain about public works than it is to build them.
If all you want is to destroy, if all you are doing is condemning and shouting, as the teabaggers are, then you are relieved of the responsibility of articulating a coherent social vision. True, idealists such as those I’ve mentioned above might have a utopian or long-range ideal, but they don’t, for example, really have anything about what we should be doing about financial reform right now. They have divested themselves of the responsibility to be creative and constructive, especially in the immediate future.
Teabaggers, shouting and carrying their signs, not only get to experience a rush of seductive emotional energies, but also, I think, a sense of relief. They relieve themselves of obligations, of pressures to provide solvency. They relieve themselves of having to have a plan, of having to articulate a coherent solution that (might) work. They play, instead, in an emotionally rewarding mythology.
Shaking your fist saves you from having to write a plan. Seeing the teabaggers (or any radicals) on television, waving signs, reveling in anger, I cannot help but think that it is not just about politics, but also release. There is an escape from responsibility, a pleasurable cessation of obligation, and in the shouting and I truly believe that the main draw is the enjoyment of a passing, false ease.
This is all much more fun, and easier, than being a reasonable participant in an educated democratic society, and that, I think, is kind of creepy.