The scriptures advise us that a gentle answer turneth away wrath. Apparently it has the effect of disarming Tea Baggers as well.
I showed up late to the event, which commemorates the fight for an eight-hour workday and memorializes the martyrs of Chicago's Haymarket affair, who were jailed, railroaded, (and in some cases) executed, and ultimately pardoned after the fact for a pipe bomb that sparked a riot in 1886 leaving scores dead.
The day is connected in many people's minds with May Day parades in communist countries, both former and the few remaining. But the holiday is actually celebrated worldwide, and not just by radicals.
In any case, as I was tardy last Sunday, I missed the "confrontation," such as it was between a handful of Tea Baggers and the crowd of anarchists, Democrats, socialists, unionists, and various other activists who attended.
According to those on hand at the time, including some police officers present to keep the peace, there was no shouting or threats exchanged between the two sides. Instead, the lefties engaged the rightists in dialogue, then invited the grizzled wingnuts into the event to partake of hotdogs and other eats.
Needless to say, the Tea Baggers didn't take them up on their offer. After standing around for a while, they left, realizing they had no one to fight.
"They used those `dirty' words: communists, progressives, socialists," Jacob, one of the attendees, explained. "But they didn't know what to make of it [when we welcomed them], offering them hot dogs. They kind of mingled among themselves and then they ended up leaving."
In the Tea Bag squad was none other than convicted public urinator Buffalo Rick Galeener. No word on whether he had his water bottle with him.
Talk about killing them with kindness. It's one tactic that's not often used in our current political discourse. Believe me, I'm all for engaging ideological enemies. But the olive branch, properly used, can occasionally be a powerful weapon.
The picnic was organized in part by the Phoenix branch of the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World, once led long ago by Big Bill Haywood. But instead of old lefty types, the IWW representatives present were young and enthusiastic.
"We stand for the same things we stood for 100 years ago," IWW organizer Jay Pierce told me. "Essentially all workers across borders organized for the benefit of ourselves and other workers. Solidarity with immigrant workers. Solidarity with all kinds of people of color."
Pierce told me the IWW's ultimate goal is the overthrow of capitalism.
"If workers got together and recognized the power that we have, we could take out capitalism, the bosses, the bureaucrats, the politicians, overnight," he stated.
Good luck with that, I told him, with not a small measure of sarcasm. Capitalism, to my mind, is basically the law of nature, though I appreciate idealists where I can find them. Even if I don't agree with them.
There were numerous groups represented at the event. Members of the Puente Movement, Women in Black, the Progressive Democrats of America, the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition and others were on hand.
Prison Abolitionist Peggy Plews etched slogans in chalk on the sidewalk, and there was facepainting for the kids.
Personally, my favorite part of the picnic came when the many children present took turns at whacking a Sheriff Joe pinata until the confections came tumbling out. They should have had a pinata of Arpaio's ex-Chief Deputy David Hendershott to smack, too, as there would've been a helluva lot more room for candy.
PDA member Virginia Hauflaire explained that the gathering was an effort at forming a coalition to combat unjust laws and attacks on workers' rights.
"You have to build a community to fight against it," she said. "One organization can't do it alone."
Activist Angel Garcia was circulating a petition he started recently, calling on Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to bring charges against Arpaio for
misspending stealing $100 million from two protected funds to pay for his immigration sweeps and his retaliation against his enemies.
Garcia's looking to garner 10,000 signatures, and so far, he's already gotten 200. Great thing about this petition is that you don't have to be a registered voter to sign it, as it has nothing to do with the ballot. He cites the appropriate statutes in his petition, under which Arpaio could be prosecuted.
"He didn't tell the taxpayers what he was doing with that money, and we're the true owners of that money," Garcia insisted.
Granted, it seems unlikely that Montgomery's office would ever go after Arpaio for any reason, considering how beholden Montgomery is to the sheriff. But such a petition would at least have symbolic value, if nothing else.
If you're interested in helping Garcia out or signing his petition, you can contact him through his Facebook page, here.
Finally, I came across the Weissers, Beth and Mike, both middle-school teachers from the Kingman area. They made the drive to Phoenix to decry massive state cuts to education and public benefits. Mike explained that he'd had to get a grant to buy pencils because the school would run out of them and didn't have the funds to purchase more.
Classes are bursting with up to 35 kids per class, which does not lend itself to effective pedagogy. And there's no money to buy the textbooks that are necessary.
"Here's the thing, if you want to create an ignorant population, an unhealthy population, a fearful population, then you have a population that's easier to control," Mike opined of the state Legislature's intent.
Of course, it's also bad for business, because businesses do not want to locate in a state with poor schools. That should be apparent to our idiot legislators, but it's not. Likely because some of them didn't get the schoolin' they needed.
Mike also told me about the, um, cultural climate in Kingman, which as you can imagine, sounds benighted. He shared with me a photo he snapped in March at a Kingman Walmart where some guy was openly wearing a T-shirt with a swastika on the front and "Fuck Obama" on the back.
Another Tea Baggin' "patriot," I wondered? Either that or a Ron Paul supporter. (Venn diagram: Not all Ron Paul supporters are neo-Nazis, of course. But it sure seems like most, if not all, neo-Nazis are Ron Paul supporters.)
In any event, I had a fine time this past Sunday. In fact, I think they should do this May Day stuff on a regular basis, perhaps weekly, with a permanent invitation open to all far right wackadoodles to stop by and eat a wiener. As long as they check their guns (and any swastikas) at the door.