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Friday, November 05, 2010

Langston Hughes, George Orwell, And The Tea Party

For those of you who brought your Langston Hughes collections, turn to the poem Harlem:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Hughes may have had a particular tragedy in mind, but despair is universal, and he eloquently captures its essence. Deferred dreams are met in different ways. Some people give up. Some get angry at the dream, or at themselves for having it. Some manage to savor the dream, whether they have any real hope in achieving it or not. Some sink into chronic despair. And some "explode" - that is, they drive themselves to some desperate act.

How does a dream explode?


In Animal Farm, Benjamin the donkey was fully aware of the machinations of the pigs that had ousted the owner of Manor Farm, and he hated every minute of it. But for whatever reasons he did not fight the swinish insurrectionists. Year after year he faced every new policy as an inevitable fate.

But that changed one day. His best friend, Boxer the work horse, had been injured in a battle with a neighboring farm. Over time his injuries sapped his strength, and one day he collapsed. The pigs sent for what they said was an ambulance; in reality it was a van for the horse slaughter and glue boiler.

Napoleon the "fierce-looking" Berkshire boar and his gang heaped misery upon miser, and Benjamin did nothing. But suddenly they upped the ante too far. Boxer was being sent to be killed. Benjamin madly chased the van with every last ounce - but in vain.

But after that one act of desperate act of defiance, he gave up and lived out his life in bitterness.


One of the basic needs of humanity is an economic system that is fruitful, reliable, and predictable. For a long time the Pirates of the Potomac have steadily eroded that pillar of civilization at a steady pace with hefty and complex tax policy and reckless spending. State governments have done likewise, some more than others. Those Americans - fiscal conservatives and libertarians - who recognized the tyranny for what it is groaned under it, and like Benjamin most didn't try to do anything about it.

But then the Glue Factory Moment arrived, in two stages. The first was TARP. In The Tea Started Brewing Under Bush, Timothy Dalrymple writes:

Many of the leaders in the Tea Party movement presently did protest the big-spending habits of the Bush administration. As I have noted elsewhere, the very same FreedomWorks that undergirds the Tea Party movement pushed hard to "Stop the Wall Street Bailout" in late 2008, at the same time as Dick Armey was declaring that “compassionate conservatism was a mistake” and Republicans should return to the effective compassion of small government solutions. And when the Heritage Foundation objected that TARP exceeded the enumerated authorities given the federal government in the Constitution, they gave the same reasons they give now for their support of Tea Party objectives.

The second phase, of course, was Obamanomics, a raft of policies culminating in the known world's first-ever trillion-dollar annual deficit. The Tea Party intensified as deficits this large would become repeat performances.

If the glue factory van was a faint blip during the TARP debate, it was coming around the corner now. No way could the American economy survive this kind of fiscal insanity for long. Obama, Reid and Pelosi upped the ante too fact. Americans could see Armageddon from their house.

These Americans did not follow Benjamin's example. They did not protest for one moment and then fade into the background. They took an option that is missing from Hughes' poem: they worked proactively to win back the dream.

America is not quite Animal Farm. We have a two-party system - one party dominated by pigs, the other with enough pigs and non-piggish cowards to maintain a porcine status quo in Washington.

Last Tuesday a lot of pigs (and cowards) were taken out, and the Tea Partiers now has a sizable voice in the latter party. They're after the glue factory van. They're trying to save theirs and their children's futures. Any leaders of that latter party who try to block their path to that van does so at his or her own political risk. The Tea Party has unseated top-ranking Republicans before, and it can do it again.


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