Saturday, July 2, 2011

Translations From the Teabaggerese

I’ve been trying to follow the current political debates here in the Land Of The Free (tm) for a while now, and I have to say that it gets confusing. There are just so many words being thrown around that don’t mean what they used to mean.

So being the good little scholar, I did a little investigating and discovered this handy glossary for translating between the Teabaggerese and the words used by the rest of us. It goes on for quite a bit, so rather than break the internet by dropping it in here whole I figured I’d just pick out some of the ones that caught my eye.

You’re welcome.

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Small Government: A government that strictly regulates personal morality while believing that business can trusted to do the right thing without government oversight. Considered a good thing by Teabaggers.

Big Government: A government that strictly regulates business practices while believing that individuals can be trusted to do the right thing in their personal morality without government oversight. Considered a bad thing by Teabaggers.

Morality: A code of conduct to be applied to one’s opponents with sanctimonious rigor and to one’s supporters and self with all tentative care and nuance. The actual sources of this code are somewhat murky and can thus be twisted into whatever shape may best produce the desired political outcome.

Normal: Familiar.

Marriage: A divine institution reserved for heterosexual males, their wives and mistresses.

Atlas Shrugged: 1) A novel in which the wealthy and powerful defeat Socialism by running off into the hills and forming a commune. 2) An apparently serious attempt to make pure unadulterated atomized greed the foundation for a successful community spirit. 3) A work of fantasy considered unrealistic even by people who believe in orcs. 4) The book Teabaggers worship second only to the Bible, apparently without having read either well enough to understand the fundamental incompatibility of the two. 5) A convenient tool for keeping screen doors open during windy days.

Freedom of Thought: The mental practice of bringing one’s ideas exactly into line with party positions in all matters. A prerequisite for Teabagger membership.

Real American: a natural-born white heterosexual US citizen, preferably living in a rural area or small town, who wears only approved clothing, thinks only approved thoughts, takes only approved actions, listens only to approved music, reads only approved literature when he or she reads at all, votes for approved Teabagger candidates for all offices in all elections, and is distinguished from a Soviet-era peasant by the addition of blue and white to their color scheme and the possession of a truck.

Education: 1) A dangerous practice to be outlawed on the grounds that it encourages questioning and an inability to accept vacuous dogma at face value. 2) A sure sign of a liberal elitist.

Indoctrination: The function of schools once education has been well and safely outlawed.

Jesus Christ: machine-gun-toting combination of action hero, extremist right-wing politician and personal manservant who inhabits the fantasy lives of laissez-faire theorists and moral authoritarians and justifies their policies with a wave of his magic flaming sword. This awesome figure loves all of the white, heterosexual, right-wing, affluent people of the earth, particularly the men, but is not too sure about the rest of the population who can thus safely be treated by the righteous as they see fit. Not to be confused with the Savior of the same name.

Christian: Pharisee.

Bible: a sort of Mad-Lib containing the skeletons of sentences into which any desired verbs or nouns may be inserted depending on political need, thus sparing the speaker the onerous task of actually reading or understanding the original document. NOTE: This definition may also be used for “United States Constitution,” which many Teabaggers do not understand is a separate document anyway.

John Calvin: A 16th-century theologian known for his dismal views of humanity. He had his opponent Michael Servetus burned at the stake for questioning his absolute wisdom and is thus considered by Teabaggers to be a political role model and a far more important figure for American history textbooks than Thomas Jefferson, who tended to see such actions as barbaric.

Founding Fathers: A group of 18th-century Enlightenment gentlemen who miraculously believed exactly the same things as 21st-century evangelical ministers.

American history: a fertile field of rhetorical devices used to beat opponents into submission. This should not to be confused with what actually happened in the American past, as the events and ideas experienced by living, breathing Americans over the course of time tend not to support the Teabagger point of view and as such are – by definition – outside the scope of Teabagger reality.

Reality: Whatever Teabaggers say it is this time.

Tax cut: 1) A gift to the wealthy. 2) The hammer which makes every political problem look more or less like a nail.

Service cut: 1) A gift to the poor. 2) A Darwinian solution to overpopulation popular among those who insist they don’t believe in Darwin.

Fiscal Responsibility: 1) A process involving adding vast amounts to the national debt while insisting on cutting government revenue and, when necessary for political purposes, destroying the nation’s credit rating by causing it to default on the debts previously run up, thus passing hardship down to other people’s children. 2) A useful rhetorical ploy when other people are in power.

Undesirable Immigrant: 1) Someone whose family arrived in this country after that of the Teabagger speaking at the moment. 2) A foreign-born person on US soil who wants to be treated as a human being rather than an exploitable resource. 3) Anyone who speaks a language other than the particular sub-variant of English spoken by Teabaggers regardless of how many generations their family has lived in the US.

Viable Candidate: Someone whose extremism is compatible with that of the Teabaggers, who are the only portion of the electorate whose voice should count. Note: this applies only at the level of primary elections, as the sort of broad appeal required for viability in the general election is not considered a virtue by Teabaggers.

President: When a Teabagger-supported figure, a god-like official whose every whim is to be treated as a sacred obligation, not to be contradicted in any way regardless of the intent of the Founding Fathers who set up the office. Otherwise an impediment to power who can be derided as inconsequential and threatened with Second Amendment Solutions.

Second Amendment Solutions: The right of right-wing extremists to declare their superiority to law, Constitutional process and human decency through armed force when confronted by political decisions with which they do not agree. SEE ALSO Treason, Confederacy.

Children: 1) Collateral damage from Second Amendment Solutions. 2) Cannon fodder in the culture wars.

Democracy: A form of government too important to be left up to the people.

Voter fraud: ballots cast by brown-skinned people, college students, the poor, and other people not statistically likely to vote for Teabagger-approved candidates.

Electoral fraud: campaigns in which Teabaggers lose. Note that by definition nothing that happens in a Teabagger victory can be considered electoral fraud.

Free and fair elections: campaigns characterized by explicitly false candidates, in which the actual agenda of the candidates is kept well hidden and the votes are counted on personal computers unconnected with the officially recognized and monitored system by Teabagger officials known for their Freedom of Thought (see above). It is considered a breach of Teabagger etiquette to challenge such elections, and those who do will be accused of wasting taxpayer money.

Open Government: 1) a form of politics characterized by secret meetings, the refusal to allow opposing political figures even to vote on issues, the introduction of complex legislation mere hours before forcing a vote on it, the banning of the public from public buildings and legislative meetings, and the ability to announce with a straight face that this is what the public wants. See for example: Wisconsin, 2011. 2) A liberal plot to expose Teabaggers to public ridicule through the dissemination of accurate information regarding Teabagger antics and agenda.

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The Teabagger dictionary is not exhaustive, however. Try as I might to find them, there were certain terms that do not appear and apparently hold no meaning whatsoever for Teabaggers. Among these terms are:

Responsibility
Rule of Law
Compromise
Public Good
Shame
To Gracefully Accept Defeat

4 comments:

timb111 said...

Here's a question that's vaguely related to this post:

Is it true that "most of the founding fathers were not Christians"? Is there a list of founders somewhere sorted by beliefs, with references to why we think that's what they believed? I can't seem to locate one on the internet.

It's not that I particularly care what the founders of the USA believed, certainly no one ever talks about what the Canadian Founders of Confederation thought or believed. It's just that it seems to be a big deal to some vocal Americans.

I suppose that if there was a list like I'm looking for, some Teabaggers would come up with a revisionist list anyway and the whole issue would be confused.

timb111 said...

You'll notice, by the way, that I just assume you're sitting around hoping that someone will ask you a question vaguely related to your field and will be happy to spend time to research and answer this unimportant question. Feel free to ignore me.

David said...

Actually, as a historian that pretty much IS what we hope for. We're kind of funny that way. :)

Also - something I tell my students - NEVER preface a question. If you tell people your questions are unimportant, they will eventually start to believe you.

The issue is a big deal to a lot of very vocal and not very historically informed Americans because they see it as legitimizing their fantasies. If they can somehow prove that the US was a "Christian nation" then they get to squash all of the pesky little details that get in the way of their absolute power.

Unfortunately it doesn't work that way.

The short answer to your question is that it depends on what you mean by "Christian."

By their own standards, the Founders were Christians. But by modern evangelical standards they were not.

Most of them were "liberal Christians," which was a moderate form of Deism. Many - Jefferson, for example - doubted the divinity of Christ. They tended to see religion as a useful social tool for inculcating morality more than anything else.

The long answer probably deserves a post of its own. Perhaps I'll do that at some point soon!

timb111 said...

Thanks for your answer to my very urgent, important question ;-)

I asked the same question of Bob Carrol at the Skeptic's Dictionary and he updated his article with a link to The U.S. Founding Fathers: Their Religious Beliefs which says almost exactly what you said (but not as succinctly).

"By their own standards, the Founders were Christians. But by modern evangelical standards they were not." I think that is a very important point.