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Friday, May 7, 2010

Barlow: Quakers and Tea Party Ignore "Mercy of the Web"

Reviewing the history of the press and blogs, I come upon Aaron Barlow's most recent blog post. Discussing his experiences with Ayn Rand and Erich Fromm, Barlow finds a certain social myopia shared by Quakers and Teabaggers: a failure to recognize the underpinning of their beliefs and liberties in a broader community.

I write this as two processes unfold, one personal, the other political. First, I am withdrawing all identification with the Society of Friends (Quakers), a group I have been involved with over much of my life. The sanctimony of the do-gooders who refuse to recognize that their ability to ‘be nice’ is grounded in both threat and actuality of violence at the borders of society is too much for me to digest. Second is the growing Tea Party movement, the people who believe they don’t need the web of society at all, who think they make it on their own and would be fine without governments, without others looking out for them. Neither group is willing to recognize that the mercy of the web is the only thing allowing their beliefs.

...Even when I traveled rough, the web was there for me to return to—a luxury not offered to many. I am thankful for that, and am thankful for the violence (personified by the army and the police) that makes it possible—and for the community within (personified by the government) that makes it actual. The Quakers long ago marginalized themselves by refusing to accept what violence does for them. The Tea Partiers are in the process of doing the same, by refusing to accept how strongly community underpins their lives [Aaron Barlow, "Inside the Net," One Flew East, 2010.04.14].

I want very much to believe that I am my own man, the author of my own success. But so much of who I am and what I can do—who you are and what you can do—depends deeply on who we are and what we do.


  1. This is what the Tea-party wants.

    * Fiscal Responsibility
    * Constitutionally Limited Government
    * Free Markets
    * Equal Justice under the law.

  2. And this is what the "tea party" gets: Sarah Palin endorsing status quo corporate power.

  3. I'm a Quaker, and I'm sorry to see that the author Cory quoted hurts so much that he lashed out in this way. It's going to hurt people who love him. I suspect he'll be sorry later he did it.

    Most of the Quakers I know struggle with the question of nonviolence. Some even try to combine military service with their faith.

    They can do that because one of the main characteristics of Quakerism is to have traditions but not rules. Nonviolence is a tradition that comes out of certain characteristic Quaker beliefs, such as the belief that there is that of God in everyone.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the quote is not the definitive word on what being a Quaker is. It's one person's interpretation of his personal experiences. Usually we're told we're marginalized because we don't like to play along with society's power structures, so it's nice to see some variety in the criticism for a change.

  4. Good to hear from the faithful, Kelly! Quakers seem like a thoughtful bunch (inverse relationship between vociferousness and thoughtfulness?). Working from tradition but not rules would seem to require more mental effort to figure out how to reconcile faith with society.

  5. Kelly: The sanctimony of the sort your statement exemplifies is one of the reasons I can no longer be a Quaker (yes, I am the author Cory quotes).

    That out of the way, you talk about "tradition" as distinct from "rules." What is the difference? Quakers have been read out of meeting for failure to adhere to "traditions." Quakers have also been read out of meeting for serving in the military. Trying to posit a distinction without a difference, as you do, is mere sophistry.

    I'm sorry, but I don't think you "get" what I am saying, which is precisely that Quakers are (to use your words) "marginalized because we don't like to play along with society's power structures." Yet you claim that what I am saying is not just that. On the contrary. It is exactly that. My problem is that the power structures that make Quaker beliefs possible are those that Quakers disdain. It is the hypocrisy there that I criticize.

    Aaron: Your list doesn't cover what the teabaggers are, but is simply a sanitized attempt to divert attention from the fact that this movement did not exist until a black man became president, though all of the so-called teabagger "wants" were "needed" just as badly under Bush as now.

  6. Hey Barlow. Watch alot of MSNBC do ya? How many Tea Party Rallies have you been too? My guess is none. Did you attend the Tea Party Express rally in Rapid? And watch a black man tell a story of how he was beating by SEIU thugs for selling Gadsden flags?

    Date: 1933
    1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

    Date 2009
    1 :any person or group that disagrees with the president.

    Well according to the new definition of "racist" I guess there is a lot of new "racists" out there.

    Ok, yeah tea-party movement was needed just as much under Bush. I agree with that. I'm sure you were screaming fascist when they implemented the patriot act. So where is the anti-bush movement now that Obama has removed the sunset on the patriot act?

  7. Aaron: You agree that the problems we have now grew under Bush! Well, the difference today is that the president is black.

    Calling Obama a socialist, trotting out the occasional African-American who agrees with you... these only divert attention from that one, uncontested fact: The tea-party movement would not exist if there were a white president in office. Certainly, it did not exist when there was one.

  8. Like, I said how many Tea party protests have you been to?

    None. Keep watching your MSNBC and they will keep showing the one crazy nut job at the Tea Party that is a racist OR the left's attempt to infiltrate the Tea Party to make it look racist. (heard of crazy La-rouche folks? they are the ones with the Hitler mustache on Obama's pic)

    You base all your information off of what you perceive started the movement. What do you say to the fact that Ron Paul has broken campaign donations records during the campaign running as a Libertarian? You can continue to call us racist all you want. If the Tea Party is SO racist why do they distrust Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid just as much or not more then Obama? You obviously have no other tactic to discredit the movement other then to say "ooh look it started in 2009 your a racist" Seriously? That's your big argument?

    Obama is a corporatist, hmmm.... no bid government contract to Haliburton What?! oh the humanity! that evil Bush was in Bed with Haliburton too. Oh my where are all those anti-bush people now? Oh yeah it's their fascist in charge now. Doesn't matter who is president just trading one big government guy for another.


    Oh Take a look at these crazy racists that were sing "America the Beutiful" Oh my I can just feel the hate comming off of these.


    Oh and don't worry if a white rhino gets into the presidency, or if the republicans take control of the house and Senate, or even if by some miracle Ron Paul gets elected as president, don't you worry the Tea Party folks will still be there.

  9. Aaron, I wasn't trying to give offense, but I even more believe you're lashing out now that you've looked me up on the Internet and sent me a hurtful email.

    Different Quaker meetings do things differently, clearly, and I stand by my description of what I've experienced. Good luck to you as you go down a different path.

  10. Aaron H: the hypocrisy of other groups (and yes, some libs have fallen too quite on criticisms of the Patriot Act) do not excuse the hypocrisy of your group. And nothing you have said refutes Mr. Barlow's argument that the anti-social, anti-government rhetoric of vocal conservatives like yourself ignores the fact that our freedom depends on a strong and active government in which we all participate and from which we all benefit.

  11. Kelly: What I said to you privately wasn't hurtful... certainly not as hurtful as what you did, publicly. I defy you to find one "hurtful" thing in it. I simply was trying to explain (out of the limelight, so to speak) why I find what you said here insulting to me.

    As someone once said, you can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own facts. Fact is, there is no "lashing out" in what I have written about Quakers, not anywhere. You can't change that by having an opinion otherwise.

    Aaron: Why would I go to a protest that stands against everything I believe it? That stands against the real and expansive vision of America that I have supported all my life and that my ancestors have believed, having fought for it in the Revolution.

    By the way, I don't have cable, so don't watch MSNBC.

  12. Kelly Fuller5/09/2010 1:10 PM


    As I write this, you've now sent me two emails. Please stop sending them. I don't want to receive them.

  13. Kelly, please respond to my emails rather than here.

  14. Aaron,

    I asked you to stop sending me email, and after you read my request, you sent another.

    I again ask you to stop sending me email. They are unsolicited and unwanted.

  15. Kelly: If you are willing, I will post them all here. If not, please respond to my emails.

  16. [Tweet! Time out! I don't want to speak for Kelly, but I think it's clear she doesn't want to continue this conversation via either channel.]

  17. Cory, you are correct. I've said what I had to say and don't wish to say more.

  18. "our freedom depends on a strong active government" Pa-lease.

    Strong government in what way? Like China? Or strong Government like WWII Germany?

  19. ...at least as strong as the federal government that our Founding Fathers chose over the Articles of Confederation (a failed system for which some conservatives seem nostalgic). At least strong enough to protect the Constitutional rights of all citizens from the predations of Dixie slaveholders and poll-taxers... or South Dakota abortion banners. At least strong enough to engage and empower all citizens and avoid the anarcho-capitalism or oligarchy of post-Soviet Russia. And we only get that strength when we view the government as us, not an evil outsider that only does harm to individuals.

    This isn't China. It isn't Nazi Germany. Not even close. This is America, a society where we all depend on each other for survival.

  20. "This isn't China. It isn't Nazi Germany. Not even close. This is America, a society where we all depend on each other for survival."---Your right lets Keep it that way.

    How much of our 2nd amendment rights have lost since 1930's?

    How much of our property rights have we lost?

    How much have our privacy rights been lost?

    Freedom of speech? Etc.

    Slowly but surely our rights are being systematically destroyed bit by bit by bit. Eventually we will wake up one day and find ourselves in Communist or Fascist country. You saw parts of it with Bush, I see a lot with Obama. My eyes are now open, and whoever the next HMFIC is I will be watching along side the people in my group, you can count on that.

  21. Aaron Barlow: There wasn't a Tea Party until there was a black president? Correlation is not causation. Your disparagement of the Tea Party, and Quakers for that matter, if true would not validate your premise. The benefits of a social net rise from society, not the government. The perception of all communal effort as the same as government effort is a kind of color-blindness. No matter how obvious it is to those who see it, it can never be explained to those with progressive eyes.
    Our freedoms, as the founders recognized, come from God not the government, which is only there to protect those freedoms. The desire to restrain the government to the role it was chartered with, is not the same as desiring to do away with government. The Tea Party, as diverse as it is, has never shown itself to be anarchist in nature. They are not anti-government.
    I consider myself to align with the tea party movement and I was quite pissed off before Pres Obama was even a candidate. Bush failed me on immigration, education, medicare, social security, and Tarp. Virtually none of the reasons I voted for him were ever realized. If you think nobody was mad before Obama was elected you have a selective memory.
    If you believe that if the president had been a progressive white guy from Chicago the Tea Party would never have organized you are just a fool.

  22. I agree with Roger. The folks that make up the tea party movement did not appear or even manifest themselves as a movement by virtue of the first black president having been elected. The fact that he is a progressive democrat is vastly more important to them. While there is some racism in the movement, there is also some racism all around including in my own family ( as Bob Ellis has so "astutely" pointed out in past arguments). Their lack of minorities makes them an easy target for claims of racism, but there can be a multitude of reasons for that lack. In my opinion the tea party movement does not target by virtue of race, they target by virtue of politics. They are Republicans and Libertarians, Constitutionalists and a few very confused Democrats. Since 2006 their views have been steadily losing power in national politics, they have come together as a movement part astroturf and part grassroots to voice their vision and politics. The folks that make up the movement have been around since the beginning, When given two choices at the polls , last time they voted R and the next time they will vote R, their movement is all about getting the independent voter to vote R the next time as well..

  23. "Correlation is not causation" -- sure. But note that the rampant deficit spending of the Bush Administration did not cause the Tea Party to rise up. Barry offers the most rational assessment I've heard yet: the Tea Party is a reaction to Dems in power. It is a movement to elect more Republicans.

    It also, as Barlow points out originally, is a misguided movement that rejects the principles of social cooperation on which our continued existence depend.

  24. My only disagreement with Barry on his view of the Tea Party is that it is about electing Republicans. It is targeted as much at the Republican party as it is in support of it. Electorally, the goal is not to bring the same republicans back into power but to reshape to the party first, making it something worth voting for. I don't think the RNC likes the Tea Party intention of defeating incumbent republicans in primaries. There has never been movement to become a useless third party. Change can only come through kicking the hell out of your own party. You see some of the equivalent fire and brimstone in the Democrat party with people who believe the single payer health system was tossed overboard, just not at the level of disenfranchisement the Tea Party feels.
    Cory: yes, we were screaming about the deficit spending. We may have excused the war spending (I would not make that same mistake again) and no rational person has ever blamed his deficits on his tax cuts, but even ignoring that the spending was out of control. The first rally was in Feb 2009 in response to the progressive spending of Bush's TARP and Obama's stimulus I.

  25. Roger. It is still about electing Republicans, even if they are more conservative less progressive Republicans, but point taken on the aims to change the party.

  26. ...change the party... yeah, into something so ideologically rigid and detached from the reality of social cooperation through government that a third party will rise up to take the place of the GOP and challenge the Dems for the vast middle.

  27. Cory . I am all for the tea party to take the GOP to the right. The center belongs to the independent.I have stated before that I dont think they will have that big of an impact this election cycle. There is the normal cycle of American politics to swing away from the party in power and I believe the numbers in the new congress will reflect that. A lot depends on how the economy does between now and November and if the job market rebounds, those two things alone will have more impact on November than the tea party. But we will see, maybe saying no to the President's agenda and the desire to take apart the government is what Americans think will be the answer to all our ills.Even in 1994 they had the contract with America, they had a plan. Does Roger think that just saying no is a good plan to set us on course? How is congress going to get a hold on entitlements and the deficit by gridlock and opposition. I sure don't think in the long run that moving the GOP to the right makes much sense for the party, the changing demographics of the country alone are proof enough of that

  28. Right on, Barry. I'm all for the Tea Party pulling the GOP further right... right off the cliff.

  29. We'll just have to wait and see if the cliff we go off plunges us into the abyss or over the horizon. My bet is on the world being round, but Cory can believe whatever he likes.


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