In the days following the NAACP resolution to condemn racism in the Tea Party movement, charges and counter charges have been flying back and forth faster than the tennis balls at the recent Wimbledon tennis tournament. The mainstream media, long seeking to demonize this grassroots movement in some way and performing its function as a cheerleader for the left, has likewise been attempting to give some traction to the accusations voiced by the NAACP during its Kansas City convention. While no audio clips from any of these gatherings has yet to be produced as an illustration of such sentiments, there have been a number of photographs used to reinforce the accusations of racial intolerance.
Most if not all of these examples involved signs and posters carried by participants at rallies across the country. Some of these obviously homemade efforts were clever in the way that they attempted to illustrate the maker's frustration with what's going on in this country and some were in questionable taste and may have crossed the line in that same attempt (something particularly easy in our PC society). Some of these efforts might even be interpreted as racist (especially by someone predisposed to do so) in the maker's attempt to show anger against the policies that the federal government has been pursuing, though much of that frustration began long before Barack Obama became president.
I hate to tell you folks, but that's the nature of political discussion in this country. Some will be reasoned debate, some will be argumentative but necessary, and some will simply be regrettable examples of the poor behavior that large gatherings of people are capable of. For myself, I do not think that any of what has been reported could prove that there is racism at the heart of the Tea Party Movement, rather than righteous anger against the policies of the federal government in general and the egregious abuses of this administration in particular. I believe however, that any group that's attempting the level of political change that this one is needs to be especially careful about policing itself. I therefore suggest the following:
Let's face it folks, the posters are not there to educate others at the gathering (they already know why they're there), they are there to illustrate individual grievances. Many more are simply a natural product of the frustration felt and perhaps simply an effort to vent it. Some, like posters at sporting events, concerts, and in television audiences however, are little more than shameless attempts to get a camera to focus on them. This "look at me" attitude does nothing to advance the cause that these groups feel so passionately about, and leaves the door open for poorer examples to potentially embarrass and humiliate such groups. They also allow groups with opposing points of view the opportunity to infiltrate such gatherings and demonize them with fabricated extremist visual offerings.
It was the Five Man Electrical Band back in 1971 that recorded the classic song by Les Emmerson, "Signs", with the singer complaining that signs everywhere were "breaking my mind". I would have to say that the lyrics are probably more relevant today then they were at the time that this song was recorded. We have enough road signs (especially those illustrating payment for projects by Stimulus funding), billboards, and posters in the world; and the elimination of signs at Tea Party rallies would be a welcome reduction.
Besides, it would be a tragedy for such a necessary movement in this country to be derailed by what may be little more than visual attempts at self-aggrandizement. The signs and posters at Tea Parties may not break anything, but they could do damage to perhaps this country's best hope in taking back control of its government. I can only hope that the movement will see "the Signs" out there leave the signs at home.