I wish I could be as passionate about anything as today's conservatives are about government spending.
I say this as a football fan whose team just won the Super Bowl for the first time.
I say this as someone whose mother just endured major surgery and was informed that her insurance company is refusing to pay for the final two days of her hospitalization.
I say this as someone not known for keeping his feelings to himself in any given situation, no matter how unprofessional or juvenile it might make him seem to present company.
If I could change something about myself, it would be my ability to channel my energy and emotion to fit a situation rather than treat everything with equal gravity. It's a battle I've struggled with since before I was old enough to play "Duck Duck Goose."
But man oh man, am I a regular stoic next to these teabaggers!
Day after day, I read seemingly endless reams of commentary about how government spending is out of hand. Conservative Facebook friends of mine post articles suggesting such with the sort of outrage once reserved for unjust wars. Bloggers I know write thousand-word screeds on the impending death of our country from congressional bloat. Their cries are echoed by the collective thousands who have attended Tea Party events in the past year.
And yes, it's only been a year, because for some reason, said outrage took until 2009 to really take flight. Almost as if the election of a certain president had something to do with it. But that's old ground that I've tackled enough here to erode several layers of topsoil.
What interests me today is the way that spending has become the catalyst for so much of the anger now driving conservatives. It's remarkable, really, given that the past few Republican presidents have expanded government and government spending like they were on a trans-fat bender, and none of these people were taking to the streets then. But now, not only is spending the Big Issue, it's the Biggest Issue of Them All. In their minds, nothing is wrong with America, and any attempt to spend on new (Obama) issues is a dagger in freedom's heart.
Even as many of these people grapple with their own woes — health care and substantial employment, to name just two — somehow it is the deficit that really gets their blood boiling. How does this happen? As ambivalent as I am about the banking situation and the bailouts, I admit that it isn't even in my Top 10 when it comes to outrage-igniters.
And I think I know why. Because I think in terms of people. I support health care reform because, as expensive as it might be (and even that's debatable), it would have a profound effect on millions of Americans. I am in favor of taxes that support infrastructure, because well-maintained roads and public facilities benefit us all and might even save lives. I also have no problem with the government creating public-works jobs, as it did during the Great Depression, because an employed population is the key to stability, especially if it helps public infrastructure. (And no, I don't buy the argument that no government job is ever permanent. What job is or ever has been?)
None of that matters to today's teabaggers, who seem incapable of seeing any value in congressional spending, or of seeing anything beyond dollar signs. They may or may not care about their fellow man, but damned if they'll pay for it. While I sympathize with the need to save money, a lot of this is simply greed. And very telling about their priorities. For them, the country isn't worth saving if it costs anything. Best health care system, bootstraps and all that.
I understand the root of the outrage. But what I'll never understand is the fervor. How can a group investing so much passion in their pocketbooks be so blind to the human costs surrounding them every day?
You couldn't pay me enough to think that way.