Big Mike: The Bad Old Days

April 15th, 2010

Those of you who’ve been visiting these precincts for the year and a half we’ve been in existence know by now that I’ve been scared sphincter-less by all the Tea Baggers and other loons who equate Barack Obama with Hitler/Gacy/Stalin/Satan/the 1906 San Francisco earthquake/the Great Chicago Fire/throat cancer/etc.

More than a few of these self-described patriots have made not-so-veiled references to armed uprisings as the only sensible alternative to the tyrannical horror that is universal health care.

Much of the reason I think these goofs are, well, goofs is that their reaction to what they consider to be Obama’s ultra-leftist policies (but which in truth are about as centrist as they can possibly be) is way, way, way out of proportion to any reality. They believe the election of Obama means the end of America, doom for their children and grandchildren, and that soon we’ll all be compelled by federal law to wear turbans and dashikis.

People who never before gave a holy shit that we started a costly war based on faulty and likely falsified intelligence or that the previous administration ran up the biggest deficit ever or that Wall Street bankers and bloated corporate bwanas had been raping us silly for thirty five years suddenly are now panicky over minute clauses in the latest arms control agreement. You know, because ibn Obama is signing away America’s defenses.

I want to holler, Jeez, guys, you only lost the election. There’ll be another one in 2012! Really, I’ve never seen such a tantrum-y gang of crybabies in my life.

But, as the Obama presidency has entered its second full year, I’ve been wringing my hands and singing a tale of woe over these chuckleheads. They’re gonna shoot the President, they’re gonna shut down the New York Times, they’re gonna outlaw abortions and all manner of birth control, and — most terrifying of all — they’re gonna force us to listen to Toby Keith records.

Toby Keith

No, No, Not That!

Luckily, I’ve been reading a book that puts things into a little perspective. Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, chronicles the ascent of the biggest muttonhead ever to occupy the White House. Richard Nixon opened his arms wide for all those former southern Democrats who couldn’t bear the idea of a world without Jim Crow. His speeches cast the nation’s fat and blissfully ignorant middle class as a repressed, persecuted minority. He and his venal vice president, Spiro Agnew, portrayed war dissenters and civil rights activists as nothing more than spies and saboteurs.

The book reminds me that much — maybe even most– of the country despised the counterculture. Revisionist historians will have you believe everybody in the ’60s had long hair, wore beads, carried flowers and dropped acid. Not so. Post-Summer of Love America was as benighted, ill-informed, and jingoistic as the Tea Baggers are today.

Hippies

Your Parents Weren’t Out Protesting, Kids

Here’s an example. Playboy magazine did one of its famous interviews with John Wayne in 1971. In it, The Duke said this: “I believe in white supremacy until blacks are educated to the point of responsibility.” There’s more: “Our so-called stealing of this country was just a question of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land the Indians were selfishly trying to keep for themselves.”

Yikes.

Guaranteed, John Wayne would be a regular guest on both the Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh shows today. Oddly, I don’t recall much of a firestorm of reaction to the interview at the time. Maybe because it was John Wayne and what the hell else did anybody expect him to say? Or maybe because one hell of a lot of people agreed with him.

The Duke

… They Were Busy Conflating John Wayne Movies With Reality

If a Beck/Limbaugh guest — say Chuck Norris or Craig T. Nelson — said anything near that incendiary in 2010, the Earth would probably fly out of its orbit. The shrieking would be deafening. And I’d be shrieking the loudest.

Even though the Tea Baggers are lovingly and tumescently polishing up their shootin’ irons, they’ve really been nothing more than bark.

On May 8th, 1970, their forebears actually bit. That day, construction workers in New York City staged an organized mass beating of high school and college kids who were holding a memorial for the four Kent State students who’d been gunned down by the Ohio National Guard four days earlier. It would have made Nazi Brown Shirts proud.

Dubbed the Hard Hat Riot, hundreds of construction workers converged on the group of protesters from all four compass points at — ironically enough — the intersection of Wall and Broad streets and proceeded to beat the living hell out of them. They chased anyone with long hair or appeared otherwise to be sympathetic with the protesters and brained them with their fists, hard hats, clubs, and crowbars. They took over City Hall and ran amok in it. They vandalized a nearby university building — naturally — and ripped down flags from the Red Cross building and a local church.

The Hard Hat Riot

National Dialogue, May 8, 1970

Believe it or not, more than a few Wall Street lawyers and traders tried to protect the kids. The Hard Hats beat the hell out of them, too.

The riot was planned and carried out by leaders and members of New York’s building and construction trade workers union. The violence was tacitly approved of by the New York City police. Mayor John Lindsay criticized the city’s cops for allowing the thing to happen. The rioters and their supporters called him a Commie rat, a faggot, and a traitor at a rally two weeks later. Union boss Peter Brennan presented Tricky Dick Nixon with a shiny hardhard at the end of the month. Nixon went on to win reelection in 1972 in one of the greatest landslides in history.

Somehow, we survived. Maybe we’ll survive the Tea Baggers, too.

Nixon, Levitating

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