Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tea Party needs some soothing herbal tea

I am not saying this is the only thing that the Tea Party is about, but I was hearing some of them interviewed recently and they clearly have a historical continuity with the followers of David Duke (The Association for the Advancement of White People) that I did fieldwork with in Baton Rouge in the mid/late nineties.

Listening to them, I have no doubt that some are traumatised by the fact that they have a black president called Barack Hussein Obama. Like they really think the unthinkable is happening and are *seriously* traumatised in a way so foreign to our largely liberal imagination that our imagination cannot even begin to understand how traumatizing this is for them. I really think that most of the attempts to understand them with the usage of normal categories of sociological thought are bound to fail because it does not take into account the nature of their difference(similar to Islamic fundamentalists in this regard). They constitute a radical alterity. They are what Husserl calls an 'accessible inaccessibility'. They are accessible enough for us to know they are there but not enough to know what they are on about. You really need a serious prolonged fieldwork experience with them, one that takes you completely out of your comfort zone and make you reconsider your basic categories of understanding the political landscape if you are to begin to understand them. I hope/I am sure some researchers are already doing this.

My guess is part of their trauma is animated by the following paradox:

Trauma is not just about something you think is disastrous happening to you. It is about something disastrous happening such that your imagination is unable to internalise it and then find the language to express it. For the tea party people the trauma is that what they consider as one of the most sublime and sacred positions on earth: the presidency of the united states is occupied by what they consider as one of the most abject positions on earth: a guy that combines blackness (his look), liberalism (his politics) and Islam (his name). This creates a short-circuiting of the common racist imaginary as how can you say the things your really want to say about a liberal black guy with the name of Hussein while knowing that you are saying them about the president of the united states of America. All the other economic/globalisation etc...that animate this mob are emotionally articulated to that black/hussein-ish presidency.

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