Monday, April 5, 2010

Say It With Eggs

At the height of the Health Care Reform rhubarb three weeks back, mellowed-out extremist Pat Bucchanan seized center stage on MSNBC and ranted that during Richard Nixon's second inaugural parade, left wing protestors actually threw eggs at the President's motorcade. The President! Can you imagine?

Never mind that this occurred 37 years ago, and never mind that Nixon was the most fiendish person to ever hold the White House. Never mind the secret war in Cambodia, the politically motivated crack down on anti-war protestors, the enemies list, and a paranoiac hatred of the left stretching back to the 1940s. Bucchanan was still outraged.

The wily old propagandist was conflating the appropriateness of the irresponsible right wing's egging members of Congress today over health care legislation with tossing eggs at a president who kept a mile-long enemies list, broke into Democratic Party headquarters in Watergate, and would leave office in the foul wake of corruption a year and a half later.

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My first personal experience with egg throwing as a social statement came in 1961 in my town in the New York suburbs where lived a crotchety man - let's call him Mr. Potter - whose house was guarded round by high thick hedges. His property also adjoined a local empty field where we played baseball.

We hit many baseballs into Potter's yard: never did one come back and never were we allowed to fetch them. This was a major hit to the local children's economy. Balls cost $1 at the time while a weekly allowance might be 10 or 15 cents (if you got one at all). A strategy was devised.

The night before Halloween, 10 of us, the Raw Egg Avengers, were in a dark place literally and figuratively. (The Egg Partiers?)

At exactly 8:30 we struck with coordinated fury then melted into the chill October night. The sound of eggs pelting against the tyrant's house was very satisfying. The next day the local paper had an item in the "Police Blotter." (I kid you not.)

"Vandals!" it said. We were vandals. Well, we knew better as to whom the real vandal was in this case. A thief. A Blue Meanie. A child-hating, anti-baseball zealot.

Long and short of it is that after a few more well-timed eggings, eventually the baseballs came rolling back through Mr. Potter's hedge, competing interests having arrived at an unwritten, mutual settlement.

We had a simple, direct grievance and confronted it with simple, direct action, then stopped. And we were pre-teens not given to deep political contemplation. 

But today's right wing, which is vulgar, uninformed, and basically inchoate in its purpose, is throwing eggs (and racial and anti-Gay epithets) for what seems like no better reason than that they despise government, all government. Their government. One where anyone over 18 may vote. One where anyone may organize, lobby, petition, etc.

Most of the reactionary Tea Partiers have no idea at all what is really in the health reform bill. They just know they don't like it.

Because it comes from government... a duly elected government that happens not to be involved in anti-Constitutional activities and genocide as was the Nixon Administration. (3 to 4 million North and South Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians were killed as a direct result of the war.)

One can believe that health reform is misguided or it grows government too large. But, let's be serious: it doesn't fall into the column of "evil," or "clear and present danger" to the Republic. The extremists are being dishonest with themselves and the nation.

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I confess that on a cold January 20th in 1973, I was among the egg-throwers on Pennsylvania Avenue and centered one up on then-Attorney General Richard Kleindienst's head just above the ear. I perched upon the base of a street light pole as my girlfriend handed me the eggs one at a time. I delighted as my friends - and you know who you are - caused the Secret Service to scramble in order to block the incoming eggs headed for Nixon.

Ten months later, Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, one of the most illustrious of the 20th century's Know-Nothings, resigned because he had been caught taking bribes, laundering money, and evading income taxes. Worth an egg or two? I say at least a dozen ostrich eggs were in order.

By August of '74, Nixon, too, because of Watergate, would resign in shame, the only President in U.S. history to do so.

His right wing sympathizing successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon. Nixon would later say he was hounded out of office by the "eastern political establishment" and leftists in the media.

I like to think we just egged him on to quit.


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