This is a fantastic story about the Oregon Tea Partiers, and a statement on the power of good-humored, good-hearted messaging. Oregon teacher Jason Levin was put on administrative leave from his middle-school teaching position this week in connection with his work on the Crash the Tea Party movement, but Oregon Tea Partiers are asking that he keep his job.
Levin was the creator of the now-mostly-defunct Crash the Tea Party website, a publicly available site aimed at recruiting anti-Tea Party activists to infiltrate Tea Party protests on Tax Day with misspelled and racist signs and costumes. His desire was to "demolish" the group of "racists, homophobes, and morons."
Tea Party activists got wind of the infiltration efforts, because they weren't... secret, and countered the unsubtle attempts at sabotage with signs calling the infiltrators out.
Levin has been put on administrative leave from his teaching job to determine whether he used school time and supplies to build the Crash the Tea Party movement and "if his political activity was appropriate behavior for a teacher of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students."
It's pretty standard in many work places that you're not to use company time and materials for extra-curricular activities, and the Oregon school district's policy specifically prohibited political activities. Leave and investigation seems fair for him. He also encouraged "crashers" to collect Social Security numbers from Tea Partiers, and may have encouraged his students to crash. A conservative teacher engaged in this kind of sabotage-style political activity on or off school time wouldn't likely get any mercy from school officials, but Oregon Tea Partiers are hoping for clemency for Levin.
The Tea Partiers are taking the high road. Just because Oregon middle school teacher Jason Levin has publicly denounced them as a bunch of "racists, homophobes and morons," they say that's no reason for him to lose his job.
All Levin really needs, they say, is some sensitivity training and some anger management therapy.
I applaud the attitude of the Tea Party response, which is both kind and clever, and the appropriation of lefty ideas like "teachable moment" and "sensitivity training."
"We don't want to see Jason Levin fired, we want to see him helped," said Oregon Tea Party founder Geoff Ludt. "We want to reach out to him and we want to use his actions to create a teachable moment."
Ludt, who attended the school system in which Levin teaches, sounds like a p.r. gem. He takes this opportunity to apply the Obama message about post-partisanship and understanding to someone who clearly needs it:
"Levin sees us as enemies. We see him as a fellow human being who is obviously very angry and troubled. Political dialogue will never advance if we are unable to treat each other decently as human beings," Ludt said.
"Folks are out there are essentially rooting for the football team -- they're more interested in the games and not really looking at the issues. What we're trying to do is focus on the issues and the best way we can see to do that is to rise above the games.”
Tell me again which side of this dispute is reasonable and which side is a little loopy? The Tea Partiers want an investigation of Levin and an apology.