Friday, December 4, 2009

The “T” Word

Jay Nordlinger of National Review wonders if the right-wing should embrace the word “teabagger.”

The first big day for this movement was Tax Day, April 15. And organizers had a gimmick. They asked people to send a tea bag to the Oval Office. One of the exhortations was “Tea Bag the Fools in D.C.” A protester was spotted with a sign saying, “Tea Bag the Liberal Dems Before They Tea Bag You.” So, conservatives started it: started with this terminology. But others ran with it and ran with it.

It was only after they started broadcasting it that they found out that there’s another meaning of the term, which brought snorts and giggles from those of us who are familiar with — if not practitioners of — teabagging… the fun kind.

Conservatives at first took umbrage that their efforts were being mocked in spite of the fact that they brought it on themselves. But since having a sense of humor and humility is not part of the teabaggers’ package — so to speak — Mr. Nordlinger suggests that instead of letting the progressives get the best of them because of their ignorance, they embrace the term and claim ownership, much in the way some in the gay community use “queer” or African-Americans use the N-word.

When I was growing up, in Ann Arbor, Mich., there was a little debate: Should school officials try to prevent black students from using the N-word? I don’t believe the issue was ever settled. And this brings up the question of whether “teabagger” could be kind of a conservative N-word: to be used in the family, but radioactive outside the family.

That’s a ridiculous idea. In the first place, the N-word is nothing but a racist epithet to the point that most people, regardless of their skin color or race, refuse to use it in public any more than they would use the F-bomb. (As for the use of “queer,” a lot of gay people — myself included — have embraced it, as did the TV series Queer as Folk.) Second, to put “teabagging” on the same level as the N-word is to give it a stature that it does not deserve and cloak the movement with the Culture of Victimhood: oh, look at us; we are so oppressed by the evil progressives who scorn and mock us just because we hung a big “Kick Me” sign on our movement.

Mr. Nordlinger titles his piece The Rise of an Epithet. But that’s assuming that “teabagging” — by any definition — is a bad thing. I think it’s fine that these people want to get out and scream and shout about how oppressive they imagine the government is for plunging us into debt, spending money we don’t have on a war we shouldn’t have started, tapping our phones without warrants, using the Justice Department as an arm of a political party… oh, wait….

Seriously; I encourage them all to do all the teabagging they want. Just remember, though, that doing it in public is probably against the law in most places.