My friend had a life-threatening problem with his workplace. He was processing film much of every work day and had acquired a serious wheeze. The room in which he worked had no ventilation for noxious fumes.
He came to me. I suggested he contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. All it took was one visit from OSHA, and the problem was solved.
It's a good thing he didn't go to the new Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, Rand Paul. Paul would have told my friend to find another job, that the government has no business telling employers anything.
The thing is, my friend had another strike against him. He was deaf. He conveyed his dilemma to me with his fingers. Oh, and strike three: He also was Hispanic.
My friend would be thrice marginalized, almost to invisibility, in the world of Rand Paul. The Tea Party hero thinks the Civil Rights Act went too far in telling private businesses how they could deal with minorities, and also thinks the Americans With Disabilities Act is oppressive.
Fortunately, Paul is the man on the outside today when it comes to policy, and minorities and the disabled are the beneficiaries of policy makers who understood that sometimes the government must intervene.
Welcome to the real world, Tea Party revelers. Politics is a lot more than training a loudspeaker on a crowd of funny hats and poorly spelled placards.
Indeed, with a spokesman like Paul now forced to address real-world issues — that is, beyond the debt that seemed not to alarm said activists until Barack Obama became president — the Tea Party is looking more like a Wonderland derivative than one of Boston Harbor.
What fun it is to parade around as the offended when you've never faced the offenses behind the Civil Rights Act. How jolly, for those whose health care is insured, to rail against government actions to make that possible for more Americans. (The hatters scream that Congress and the president "rammed it down our throats." Actually, the majority in Congress, and the president, ran on vows to do something. They got elected, then did what they campaigned to do. I think that's called democracy in action.)
How symbolic it was recently for red-faced protesters at a Tea Party rally to scream at a prone counter-protester who (1) had no health insurance and (2) was unable to stand because of Parkinson's syndrome.
Listen closely to these protesters. Listen closely to heroes like Paul and Sarah Palin. Ask yourself: Have they a clue? Or are they like the bandolier-bedecked military junta that takes over by force and then is bamboozled by synchronizing traffic lights and making buses run on time?
Palin is one of the most sought-after speakers of our day, for good reason: She isn't about to say anything at all about snooze-and-lose matters like governing or actual public policy. Who'd be caught dead doing that at $1,000 a plate?
Paul? What a stand-up dude. After the press started asking him tough (OK, so-so) questions post-primary victory, he became only the third person ever to duck out of "Meet the Press," the other two being Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar bin Khaled al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Palin said that like she, Paul was being victimized by "biased" interviewers. She's right. As with, say, the brutal Katie Couric, who asked Palin what magazines she read, the morning-after pursuers of Rand Paul wanted to know what was in his head.
The Tea Party has gotten far more attention than it merits. Now when we actually ask for more information, it screams "media conspiracy" and its leaders head for the nearest rabbit hole — a place where, based on the rallies, we presumed all were invited.
John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.