Monday, May 10, 2010

Tea Party: the New Black Panthers

As it happens I have been reading "White Dog," Romain Gary's memoir of 1968, when King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, the Black Panthers were riding high, and students in Paris and elsewhere were revolting. Then, yesterday, I also read Mark Lilla's diatribe in the NY Review of Books, April 29 edition, against the Tea Party. There is a striking resemblance between the anarchic tendencies of the 1968 Left, and the 2010 Teaparty Right. Both think that nihilism is a productive response to the undeniable troubles they see around them. Both are ignorantly idealistic. The Black Panthers and the students of 1968 carried on for ideals of equality, justice, and an end to oppression; the Teaparty Right does so for individual autonomy, at least in Lilla's credible view. While both have been eye-catching and irresistably newsworthy, neither has ever enunciated a plausible program to achieve what they scream for. Each has seemed dangerous, but ultimately works as part of the ongoing parade of entertaining spectacles.

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