The R****** brothers, with whom I spar about politics on facebook, have stepped over the line and engaged in death threats. During a conversation about his belief in the upcoming total collapse of the economy, M***, threatened that he would "shoot [me] to kill, and hang [my] body from the porch." (That's a paraphrase; I went looking for the comment a moment ago and find that either it is mysteriously missing - or that facebook sucks. Either is possible).
Vanessa, a mutual friend who is both reasonable and generous, but agrees with the R****** brothers on every point of our debates, attempted to restore harmony, and apologized for any disrespect she showed me as an unapologetic progressive. Here is my response:
I'm not one-sided, and that's where I think you've lumped me in with the "problem crowd of Liberals."
But the immediate issue is the contempt and pathological rage the R***** brothers are expressing toward me. If you think their behavior has been as reasonable, courteous, civil and appropriate as mine, fine, we'll agree to disagree and go our separate ways. But there is no evidence to support that conclusion except naked bias - IT IS NOT OK TO THREATEN MURDER. The "us" versus "them" trend runs deep in them. It is not the noblest aspect of human character. It is, in fact, dangerous.
As I continued to explain my point of view, it began to gradually emerge as a general statement of my beliefs about government. Here is the conclusion of my post to Vanessa, which I will consider an Open Letter to all who identify with the political platform of the so-called "Tea Party":
Dear Tea Party Member:
I work very hard and loathe the idea of useless, sponging people abusing the social safety net probably more than you do. Every time a person collects disability when he should and could be working, the needs of the truly deserving disabled person are corrupted by association, and that pisses me off to the nth degree.
I also despise useless, sponging people abusing and corrupting the markets as well. In fact, I like personal responsibility for the healthy and firm, and collective responsibility for the helpless and sick. I like to see work rewarded, and workers motivated by potential rewards.
Private property, including vast wealth, is among others an American right worth fighting for. I am no Communist. I dig money and nice things, too. But we can't keep our hard-earned or inherited wealth unless we also use a portion of it to provide everyone with a real avenue for advancement. This protects not only the poor from poverty, and the middle class from bearing the burden of the poor, but the rich from the guillotine and the garotte.
Justice, equality, and the equal opportunity to strive and succeed have never happened on their own in any society, and must be protected by the collective will of the people. In America we call that collective will the federal government. The rights and privileges of citizenship here are not granted by God or the wealthy, but by the people themselves. The founding fathers were the elites of their day and they wrote this miraculous document that essentially dis-invested them from absolute power and shared it with the hoi-polloi. That had never happened anywhere - and we're at risk of losing it today.
According to the political beliefs of the Tea Party, our entitlement programs are pernicious examples of Socialism ruining the freedom of our nation. I understand that you believe this, too. Fine. One can compromise with those beliefs and achieve something worthwhile. (I personally believe entitlements are not only NOT pernicious, but are in fact the rich's best friend, for the reasons above.)
However, you do realize that your own definition of Socialism defines every wealthy nation on Earth today as a socialist nightmare.
I love America, I love the Constitution, and when all segments of the economy act in more or less good faith, we have the healthy middle class the founders so clearly intended. I love our government. It is - when everyone respects it and compromises for the greater good - the least odious and most trustworthy government on Earth. In America, you don't have to pay a bribe to get a business license or a driver's license or to have your case heard in Court. In America, if I can prove my Mayor or State Assemblyman, my Senator or Congressman is on the take, I can challenge him in Court and he'll have to give up his power.
That is a flat-out miracle which is contrary to "pure" capitalism and "free markets." After all, government is required to punish the bribe-taker. It is miraculous. Essential. American.
The Tea Party groups prize freedom above all else, principally the freedom from grand federal social entitlement experiments, which in their opinion are unconstitutional. They want to return to the intentions of the founding fathers. But I don't believe the founding fathers would endorse the statement that "if the freedoms we are putting in place eventually result in the rich and powerful owning everything, including access to power and the electoral process - as in England - then we'll just have to endure that as an inevitable result of freedom."