Eric Burlison, a state legislator from Springfield, Mo., spoke at Saturday’s Joplin Tea Party rally. During his speech he mentioned that he couldn’t wait to see the new movie, Atlas Shrugged, which was released last Friday.
As most of you know, Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, the pro-choice atheist philosopher whose childishly tidy philosophy argues that selfishness is a virtue and altruism is a weakness, a deadly weakness.
I can’t be the only one who finds irony in the fact that a man like Eric Burlison—a “pro-life” Christian who advertises that he gives back to the community by “serving” and “volunteering“—is behind a podium at a Tea Party event extolling the philosophy of a godless “baby-killer,” who would openly ridicule and scorn Mr. Burlison’s work on behalf of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Ronald McDonald House.
Except that when you think about it, what is the Tea Party movement about, if not essentially about selfishness? At the Joplin Tea Party event, the crowd was mostly made up of older folks, many of them, no doubt, on Social Security and Medicare, who nevertheless enthusiastically applauded speaker after speaker who spoke about a too-large government, a government that takes too much and redistributes it to those who don’t deserve it. These folks essentially epitomize a version of Randian selfishness philosophy: They’ve got theirs and to hell with everyone else.
Isn’t that what is happening in Tea Party America?
Just look at the Tea Party’s favorite candidate these days. Donald Trump, the Ugly American, is riding high on a wave of paranoia, perverse pride, and petty grievances. His appearance this past weekend at a Florida Tea Party event was both clownish and vicious, both absurd and revealing.
What Trump’s well-received appearance in Florida—as well as his other public statements that have impressed teapartiers—reveals is a disturbing development in American politics. That there are people who take this egotistical, uninformed fool seriously says more about America than I care to acknowledge. The fact that he is cheered as he denigrates America and brags about his intelligence and his business acumen—despite much contrary evidence—is symptomatic of how far a significant slice of the American electorate has fallen into a sort of Randian trance, where all but the self-described “producers” are leeches who deserve an ill fate.
And here in Joplin I watched a conservative Republican from Springfield, a man who boasts of his volunteer spirit and his “pro-life” credentials, a man who claims he shows “humility and humbleness in an open setting,” salivate over the release of a movie based on the philosophy of a woman who would mock him and his Christian beliefs.
As I said, absurd and revealing.