It’s not easy being a white, male tea-partier in Idaho. The whole world is stacked against you. One minute you’re listening to a loop of the National Anthem on your cassette player, the next minute you’re searching the Google pages to figure out who this Kanye West character is and what that Beck guy did to make him so mad.

Oppression is the daily struggle of Idaho tea partiers. They are held down at every turn. Yet bravely, they’re mounting a fight against tyranny.

That fight was explained two years ago by Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) during a debate over the state health exchange. In that debate, he referred to a Civil Rights icon who knows, like Crane, about the dark boot of repression.

“One little lady [Rosa Parks] got tired of the federal government telling her what to do. I’ve reached that point, Mr. Speaker, that I’m tired of giving in to the federal government.”

Rep. Brent Crane  (Visual approximation)
Rep. Brent Crane
(Visual approximation)

Of course, Parks wasn’t fighting against the federal government; she was fighting a city code. But who cares about details when you’re repressed?

In the big picture, Crane and Parks have a lot in common, even though Parks’ father wasn’t the State Treasurer who bequeathed her a successful security business. Other than those differences, and several other major differences, Crane and Parks are nearly the same.

But if you think Crane has a corner on the misery market, prepare to sell short. I’m about to introduce you to Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik and a letter to the editor about slavery he penned this week.

“Just as blacks were kept from enjoining in the promises made in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, so, too, today are the Western states deprived of their opportunity to share in the equality of statehood as the other 38 states have enjoyed (because of public lands).”

That’s right. Chmelik believes slavery is the same burden as having a place to pitch a tent.

To say Chmelik has a strained relationship with the truth might be an understatement. I’m just glad he didn’t say anything about “putting the lotion in the basket.”

Sadly, Commissar Chmelik wasn’t done. Just as I was taught in school, no good story about public lands is complete without a quote from Booker T. Washington.

“The Negro must not be deprived by unfair means the franchise. … He must have property, industry, skill, economy, intelligence and character. No race without these elements can permanently succeed.”

Why this quote? I have no idea. I don’t speak Sarah Palin.

Most people dismiss this kind of over-the-top rhetoric as really bad hyperbole – I mean really bad hyperbole, but I think there is more to it.

I believe, by saying these crazy things, these men are convincing themselves they’re not crazy. Think about it. Crane was fighting with all his might to block people from getting health insurance while Chmelik was fighting with all his heart to take away public lands. Only a crazy person would put that much energy into those policy positions.

Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik (Visual approximation)
Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik
(Visual approximation)

But not if the battle was for something really big like Civil Rights or the Civil War. Then their irrational behavior is completely justified. Their hyperbole is matched by the size of the injustice.

In other words, they say those crazy things to convince themselves that their extremism isn’t nutty, it’s proportional.

They’re like the Fischer King.

From the outside, they look crazy. Yet if we could see what’s going on inside their heads, we’d be acting crazy too.


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