After 90 years of living and more than 60 in journalism, I have seen my share of politics and politicians. I remember FDR's fireside chats on radio and being at a rally for Wendell Willkie, who ran against him in 1940. Chatting with John F. Kennedy at a Maryland resort where he was relaxing after a day of campaigning in 1960 and looking on at a Ronald Reagan rally in St. Petersburg in 1980.
Nothing new under the political sun? That was pretty much true until the tea parties came along. Most of the tea partiers are likable folks even though their rallies do get a bit loud and wild at times. Many are everyday baby boomers suddenly mad and infuriated by a new world that has evolved around them and that they don't seem to understand.
They tell us in loud shouts and in no uncertain terms that they are against "big government" and "socialized" government health care — although many of them have been around long enough to be enjoying both. Their main problems seem to revolve around misinformation and a touch of xenophobia here and there.
They are a first for me, however, as never before have I seen people campaigning against their own best interests. Since we are the world's No. 1 super power, do they expect our government to be small? We have diplomatic or military interests in just about every nation on Earth. Should we think small?
Maybe they want us to slice into other big government things. Would they care if we took a bit off their Social Security checks? I suspect that would stir up their protests full force. What would they say if we fiddled with their Medicare eligibility or benefits? Wow! Stand back and cover your ears.
We could always cut out or cut down on food inspection by big government, but then they'd have to take their chances with all those nasty germs and toxins.
The U.S. Postal Service may be getting into the spirit of things by its current talk about no more Saturday mail deliveries. But that might not receive their stamp of approval either.
Should we cut back on airline and flight supervision and let the wild blue yonder be even wilder? I suspect our tea partiers might find that idea a bit scary too. They'd soon want to go back to shedding their shoes at security and letting the world see their shaving cream or lipstick.
Armed forces maybe? Not a chance while we're fighting two wars amid rumors of others. How about some national park closings? I can already hear the retired recreational vehicle enthusiasts revving their engines over that.
We could, of course, ease up on regulating those kind-hearted banks and stock exchanges. But no, that doesn't seem like such a good idea because we've already tried a little of that and are still paying the price.
No, I guess the tea partiers will have to take a deep breath of reality and realize we live in a vibrant, fast-moving, multicultural society that is never going back to the decades of the Waltons or Ozzie and Harriet. Yes, our society is moving rapidly and we're not always sure of our destination, but we're all along for the ride — whether we want to be or not.
So, tea party folks, let's try to be a little more civilized and more aware of what's going on in the real world. Then, you won't be pouring all that sour cream into your tea.
Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.