Right Winging It
Adjusting my camouflage army hat, I shout in defense, “Read my sign, sir:
‘American Jobs For Americans!’ What Part of Illegal Don’t You Understand!?”
In order to understand the opposition, I can’t appear empathetic to the plight of immigrant rights. I’ve infiltrated an anti-immigration protest on International Worker’s Day, May 1. The Bay Area Tea Party Patriots and Golden Gate Minutemen have descended on the steps of City
Hall to vocalize what they feel is polluting our country – and they don’t tolerate outsiders. Regardless, my goal is to get a frontline view as these Don Quixotes scream about the brown invasion and a black president who has jolted the hinges of their world.
Immigration is a complex issue. On one hand it involves the American Dream being open to everyone; on the other, there are realistic fears of jobs being lost in our sliding economy.
But in times of hardship, people tend to misdirect their anger. I want to understand if the Tea Party’s message can have any impact on its opposing political foes.
Tea Party members have been portrayed as elderly racist clowns. These fringe conservatives claim that the liberal-bias media wrongfully paints this iconoclastic portrait. So as a member of the liberal media, I want to get inside the ranks and see if there’s any truth to the reports of racism within the organization – to find out what part of illegal they might not understand.
Last year I signed up for the Bay Area Tea Party Patriots newsletter to receive notifications of all its upcoming actions. Recently, I received a call to action for a May Day protest:
“If you're angry at this government assisted invasion, sanctuary cities, violent crimes, jobs lost, social services drained, schools diluted, and all paid for with your money, then be there to protest against this blatant abuse of our American Dream.”
I RSVP via email: “Do you need volunteers to facilitate and organize things?”
A Patriot named Sandi replies. Help is needed with security, taking attendance, and generally making sure infiltrators aren’t amongst the ranks for the upcoming rally.
“If you are interested in helping with any of these, let me know,” she responds.
My enthusiasm transcends the page. I’d love to have a leadership role amongst the Tea Party Patriots. Time to put this American back to work – infiltrating right wing conservatives.
To blend in with my ultra-right-wing compadres, I’ve adopted an American flag T-shirt, camouflage army hat, aviator shades, and a general disposition that’s resentful of all things different.
I arrive at Civic Center Plaza an hour before the protest. A dozen Tea Party contingents are busy erecting a large banner that reads: “Secure Our Borders!” I’m very paranoid: I don’t look like the others. I’m not elderly or wearing a red Tea Party T-shirt that says, “Let’s Party Like It’s 1773.”
Heading past a line of SFPD, I closely follow a group of gray-hairs holding signs that spout such wisdom as “Secure Our Borders, Language, and Culture” – making it appear as if we carpooled together.
“Why all the police today?” I ask an officer as I traverse around the metal barricade.
“It’s for your protection,” he solemnly states.
Questioning glares are projected my way from white, large bellied, no-nonsense Tea Party men holding American flags. They videoed the new arrivals on their cell phones. Clumsily, I twirl my “Wake Up America” sign. My palms are sweaty.
A petite woman with a clipboard immediately descends. Is this a code red maneuver?
I defuse her. “Are you Sandi?” I immediately ask, hoping inside privy information alleviates suspicion.
“Yes, I am,” she says with a surprised smile.
“I emailed you about helping out with the rally,” I confidently say.
Bonding begins. We laugh. We share. We make jokes about the warm weather and a need for water. Tea Party members witness the laughing and sharing with Sandi – our Sandi. Video cameras move in another direction.
“What do you want me to do? I’m here for ya!” I confirm.
“We got a lot of new people so it’s hard to keep track of everyone,” Sandi says. “Watch for people giving interviews and make sure they aren’t saying something we wouldn’t agree with.”
“Consider it done,” I pledge. Pulling out my cell phone I commence videoing anyone who looks suspicious. Sandi’s approval has warmed the others.
“Have you donated to the Border Sheriffs yet?” asks an older man wearing a Sarah Palin button. The Bayview resident then directs our conversation toward Mexicans who abuse our system by crossing the border to have babies.
“It’s so sad what happened to this country. Obama! Don’t get me started about that guy,” he says. He then leans close to add, “I’d hate to say it, but Obama is turning me into a racist. I can’t stand the sight of him.”
Dilemma: Would Sandi agree with what he’s saying? Do I conduct an intervention?
A soccer mom comes over next, beaming with pride: “I’m putting the final touches on my sign.”
“That looks great!” I confirm, eyeing her banner that implicates all liberals and the current political system as communist-based.
“I’m not against immigrants – just do it legally,” she clarifies. “Can I share something with you?"
She lowers her voice: “Ten years ago I got divorced. I was a single mom. I had to move to Concord and go on food stamps.” She explains how illegal immigrants have it better than she does. Anger resonates in her voice. She talks about being put under house arrest when accused of making false claims on her unemployment benefits. “I got on the phone with this colored gal who told me I filled out the wrong form.” She keeps using the words “colored gal,” putting on a cartoon-y voice to re-create said person. Do I report this to Sandi?
Nodding and listening, I wish she would stop using the phrase “colored gal.”
In this time of economic downturn, these are pissed-off people. They’re taking a microcosm life situation and maximizing it into anger at The System, liberals, and anyone who is different.
“What’s he trying to say? Is he against being American? It’s easy for him to dismiss this rather than coming over and discussing the issues,” says the hardened Minuteman. porters of worker and immigrant rights are up against our Tea Party group, now grown to a few dozen.
“Is that all there is?” scoffs one of the hardened leaders of the Minutemen, waving a “May is for Mother’s Day Not Mexical Or Moscow!” sign. “There’s almost more of us than them,” he laughs. “They always have a band or some music to make it seem like they’re bigger than they are.”
Frantically waving my moronic sign, I interject: “I thought there would be more head-to-head conflict.”
“There will be!”
It slowly starts: A guy on a bike rides by and gives us the thumbs down motion.
The May Day marchers look at our contingent, at first with minor circus curiosity. Then all hell breaks loose. Liberals with extreme hate in their eyes scream, “Right wing fascist go away!”
Anarchists in masks and angry Burners come as close as they can to giving us the finger. A 10-foot no-man’s-land separates those supporting immigrants’ rights and my Tea Party peers. Deep in the heart of enemy territory, I hope some anarchist doesn’t throw a warm bag of piss at us.
An older Latino man leans over the barricade to repeatedly yell, “Racists!” Veins pulsate from his neck.
“What are they talking about? I’m not a racist – I’m from Manhattan,” quips an older woman wearing a red beret. “All I did was vote against Obama and everyone told me I’m a racist.”
The angry Latino man gives her the finger. “There’s the Mexican salute!”she says.
“It looks like they’re trying to sneak over the borders,” snorts a woman wearing a hoodie. Through a bullhorn, her nasal voice bellows: “Where are all the immigrants? They’re working at your jobs!”
“Fucking racists!” an anti-Tea Party protester fires back.
She pulls her bullhorn to the side. “They have nothing to use but four-letter words and we’re using reason!” she exclaims.
Nodding my head, I purposely hold my sign upside down with a disapproving scowl as numerous news cameras flash.
Both sides digress into screaming caricatures, filming the opposition with condescending expressions on their faces. Stoic Tea Party elders hold no-frills signs like “Stop the Invasion!” and “Uphold the Law!” They scare me the most; mindfully plotting as they silently take in the scene.
As antagonistic tempers build, racism slowly creeps: “Speak English lady. Speak-y the English-o. Habla English-o?” the nasally Tea Party woman’s voice resonates through her bullhorn.
Her boyfriend’s turn: “Hey! Why don’t you go and make me a burrito!” he yells at the Hispanic activists. He broadly smiles, looking at me for approval. (Surely Sandi needs to know about this!)
“This is fun – it gets out a lot of stress,” his girlfriend adds between bullhorn blasts.
Around now is the time I’d expect to be hit by that bag of piss. Then, suddenly, all the screaming stops on both sides. It’s pretty fucking weird. Everyone has run out of things to yell and is left speechless.
“Hey, that’s it everybody, the bus is going back,” a long-bearded Tea Party organizer suddenly trumpets. “Thanks for your participation.”
Signs are quickly packed up to taunts of “Na Na Na Hey Hey Good-bye.” The group collectively disperses toward the parking garage, back to their safe suburban confines.
Departing, I look up at the American flag residing over today’s spectacle. Today everyone got to voice their opinions on the American Dream, through bullhorns and knee-jerk bumper sticker slogans pasted on signs. Though there are numerous layers to the immigration cake, this rally reinforced the notion that antagonism is a social discourse served in one-star restaurants.
When I make my final security report to Sandi, I’ll mention the amount of work that needs to be done for this slaphappy mob to move past their racist branded stereotype. Do you hear me Tea Party? Do you Speak-y the English-o?
Want to infiltrate the Tea Party and get a firsthand glimpse into the beliefs of these conservative activists?
Take on No-Bama and attend their next rally by going to: bayareapatriots.com .