It's Sunday evening, March 21st, and the Senate's version of the health care bill has now been passed by the House of Representatives. Additional debate will take place in the House over the next few days concerning a number of revisions to the bill, and the Senate is poised (according to Majority Leader Harry Reid) to accept those proposals.
Citizens who oppose the expansion of coverage to the roughly thirty-two million Americans who currently struggle without that protection are free to vent thier frustration in voting booths this November. In fact, that participation is to be expected and welcomed in our democracy.
Unfortunately, many of the so-called "Tea Party" protestors exhibited anything but democratic tendencies this past weekend as the House debate reached its climax. Their "true colors" (to borrow from the Cyndi Lauper tune) included a disturbing mix of racism, homophobia, threats of violence, and spit. Grassroots "patriotism"? I don't think so.
Congressman John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement who has represented Georgia's 5th congressional district since 1987, was repeatedly subjected to the n-word. Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver, representing Missouri's 5th congressional district, in addition to being a United Methodist pastor, endured the same treatment, but was also spat upon.
Congressman Barney Frank, who has represented the 4th congressional district in Massachusetts since 1981, and who is a noted gay rights activist, was subjected to the f-word several times over the weekend.
Not merely content with personal abuse, however, the tea partiers touted several particularly menacing signs during their protests. Perhaps the most disturbing example, and one that had been duplicated several times over--so it wasn't a case that "merely"involved a single mis-guided individual--featured the image of a handgun with the legend: "if Brown can't stop it, a Browning can". The threat of violence is clear. It's 2010, and yet, it seemed all that was missing was the white sheets.