Michelle Bachman gave a Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. Her speech was aired online at the Tea Party Express website and CNN; surprisingly, not on FOX. You can read her entire speech by clicking here.
Her message, as expected, consists of bashing the President – she declares the need to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting the amount corporations are allowed to pollute, to deregulate the businesses that caused the economic meltdown in the first place, and to roll back the health care bill. Routine Tea Party talk.
But even more disturbing were her comments five days ago.
Speaking to a group in Iowa, where she represents the 6th district in the House, she referenced the founding fathers, as many Tea Partiers are inclined to do. The Tea Party likes to conjure up the image that they are tried and true followers of the Constitution and that the Founders are infallible in their divine establishment of the United States. There is nothing wrong with talking about the Founders, with talking about the Constitution, but if you’re going to do that, you need to stick to history – real history, not some fantasy that is appealing to the masses. Representative Bachman says, speaking of the Europeans who settled the American colonies:
“It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status… Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?” (Michelle Bachman, 21 January 2011)
Taken on its own, this sounds good and it is going to be appealing to supporters of the Tea Party movement. But it is complete bull. There is no American golden age; this country is great because it was founded on the ideas of individual freedom and liberty and protection from an overbearing government, but the actual progress of freedom has been painstakingly slow. The fact that a group of people were able to come together with the vision of a free nation where people didn’t have to worry about being thrown into prison based on the whims of a monarch, a place where they could practice their religion freely and without government interference, a nation ruled by a government for and by the people – these are the incredible ideas that we as a nation have certainly established. We have accomplished a lot that we should be proud of.
My initial response to her audacious statement is: “Tell that to the African slaves who were the legal property of rich white men, tell that to the millions of Native peoples that were butchered and displaced for American expansion and because of their racial and cultural differences that were unacceptable by the first Americans.”
We cannot forget that this country was founded on the backs of slaves. Our entire economy was based on slave labor, which became strongly connected to a long history of explicit racism that continues today. In the Constitution, the holy text of the Tea Party, a Black slave was defined as only 3/5’s of a person and they were the legal property of their owner. They had no rights and were perpetually dehumanized and beaten. Following the Emancipation, they were still legally brutalized in the South with Jim Crow, and explicit racism still exists in every corner of our country today. How can we forget that the Civil Rights movement was only a few decades ago? To suggest that the early Americans were color blind is to desecrate the very history of our country.
It is also important to remember that the United States was also founded on and expanded upon the genocide of millions of Native Americans in every part the country. They were barbarically murdered by the thousands – men, women and children alike – forced out of their homes and eternally divorced from their rich languages and cultures – at the hands of the early American settlers. The same people constantly glorified by Bachman and the Tea Party.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating the good things about our country – but you cannot skip over so much terrible and bloody history that was fully sanctioned by this “Christian nation”. This is nothing more than Tea Party propaganda – using symbols and painting false histories that are inspiring, but completely based in ignorance and falsehoods. We need to look forward to progress, to making our country better and correcting the injustices that still exist. We need to move our country forward, not “take it back.”