Word has come that She of the Mother Grizzlies and Folksy Drawl shall be gracing fair Madison tomorrow for a "Tax Day Tea Party" at the Capitol.
That would be Sarah Palin, of course, apparently paid enough by one of the organizing groups (AFP?) to haul her and her Alaskan entourage to balmier climes here in Wisconsin to be the keynote speaker at tomorrow's aforementioned event.
It's no accident that Palin will be appearing here, alongside local conservative Monsters of Talk Vicki McKenna and John T. Harris, and Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund. Madison has been ground zero of the grassroots, pro-labor groundswell that started in February when Gov. Scott Walker introduced his truly awful budget "repair" bill, and has continued ever since.
The Capitol has played host to hundreds of thousands of people from all over the state (and beyond - there's nothing wrong with support from fellow travelers, despite Walker's hypocritical cries to the contrary), who've marched, camped, testified, pizza'd, and sang their way through some deeply trying times.
So of course, come time for the Tea Party's now annual tax day rally, they'd choose to co-opt the location and bring in the "big" guns.
But you know what? I could care less about Palin. Or McKenna and Harris and Fund. They're the rabble-rousers, spitters of convoluted, often meaningless (or downright false) platitudes and generalizations meant to stir the pot for the sake of their own higher ratings and stuffed wallets.
We've got these folks on the left, too: Though I don't harbor the same disgust held for Palin and the like when it comes to them, I wasn't particularly thrilled when Michael Moore or Ed Schultz started popping up at the #wiunion protests, either. Their hearts might be in the right place - I don't know because I don't know any of them personally - but ultimately their high profiles serve as a distraction from the important message and meaning of the demonstrations.
It's about everyday people working to make things better.
It's pretty much the same case for the Tea Party. While there are certainly elements of the movement that are on the extreme fringe (there have certainly been elements of racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic ideas and attitudes on display), I've gotten the impression that a large chunk of the people who show up at Tea Party events are just regular folk struggling with some of the very same problems facing their counterparts at the pro-union rallies.
As I see it, the difference between us is twofold: 1) The information we've been given/sought out/been privy to, and 2) how we've chosen to react to it.
None of that makes any of us inherently better or worse, of course, it just means we're walking alternate paths. And I suggest that, rather than show up at tomorrow's rally ready to fight and yell, or wave insulting/condescending signs, or even focus your curses and derision on the celebrity speakers, it would be far more productive to simply shop the farmer's market and then maybe have a civil conversation with a Tea Party attendee.
Ask them why they've come, what struggles they're having personally. If they're at all inclined to listen, tell them simply about your own troubles and why you've chosen to tackle them in a different manner. Get a little nerdy and cite some factual research to back up your position, but always be willing to hear the other person out. Be willing to admit if you were maybe wrong about your initial perceptions regarding the people that go to Tea Party events. Or challenge them, gently, if maybe you were right.
Don't accuse anyone of being anything - challenge ideas, not individuals. This guy lays out the technique rather succinctly.
Most importantly, don't give Palin or any of the other talking heads any ammunition against you or the movement (believe me, they'll make up plenty on their own), and don't feed their egos by focusing on them at all. Focus on the regular folks who're there, and find the common ground you inevitably have with them. Show them, don't tell them, what democracy looks like.
And then go get some spicy cheese bread from Stella's - it's freakin' delicious.