I'm a newly-minted American - and very proud of that fact. I love this country, it's history and everything it stands for.
Which is why I was absolutely disgusted - disgusted - to watch this video of so-called 'Tea Party' activists gathering outside an Islamic center in Orange County, California.
Enraged by a charity fundraiser being held there, they were reduced to yelling 'go back home' to women and small children as they gathered for a fund-raising event there.
Watch the video and you'll see what an intimidating, unpleasant experience it was for those attending the event - having to walk up to the entrance of the Muslim Center while a flag-waving crowd yelled and roared abuse each step of the way.
The fund-raising was for "women’s shelters, fighting hunger and homelessness in the area" - arguably a very valid cause. But the event had caused offense to the local Tea Party because two of the speakers invited to the event had been 'linked to terrorism.'
This caused speakers like city council member Deborah Pauly to attend the Tea Party protest and boast on camera that she knew "quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help 'those' terrorists," pointing at the people entering the mosque, "to an early meeting in paradise."
But 'linked to terrorism' was actually a bit of misnomer, as the speakers in question, Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali, had been investigated for possible links to terrorism, but never actually indicted. Those two New York clerics were admittedly nasty pieces of work, who've expressed support for Hezbollah and Hamas, but being nasty pieces of work is a long way from actually being actively involved in terrorism (which they're not.) I understand they both declined the invitation to speak, in any case, due to the controversy their attendance would incite.
Nevertheless, the Tea Party protest went ahead. This meant that abuse and slurs were yelled at the women and children attending the event, despite the fact that most of them were born and bred in Orange County California, and were no more linked to terrorism than I was.
Deborah Pauly's blithe comments - calling for 'Muslim Americans to be killed' according to one liberal news source - were even more offensive in that context.
Even ignoring that vile woman's words, the protest meeting - heralded by fluttering American flags and patriotic chants - was horrifying because 'American' and 'Patriotism' are two words that these bigoted racists have no right to lay claim to.
I have a number of friends who identify as members of the 'tea party' - but none of them would be willing to be associated with the kind of fascist scum gathered at this little hate parade in California.
What I found most offensive - as a brand new American citizen myself - were the calls of 'go back home.' How dare anybody tell American citizens to 'go back home.'
If somebody told me to 'go back home' because I expressed an opinion they disagreed with, I'd be tempted to punch them in the face. I earned my American citizenship - and likewise I don't consider any of the bigots waving American flags to be 'more' American than any of the Muslim-American citizens attending that fundraiser.
You don't have to be white, Christian or even originally born in this country to be 'American' - and as those racist demonstrators proved, you can be all three of those things and still barely deserve a claim to the title.
The fact that this revolting event was organized by so-called members of the 'tea party' proves one thing - the movement needs 'straining' of racist bigots, before it loses all political relevance altogether.
Thanks to the conservative friends I have, I still take the Tea Party seriously - but that's a sentiment undermined by what I saw going on in Orange County.
Now I'm absolutely horrified by the connotations of supporting such a movement. I'm reasonably conservative myself - certainly not a fan club of Muslim-driven politics or social culture - but when it comes to the basic values of American society; the freedoms of religion and expression protected by the 1st Amendment; I'd rather side with Muslims than with the maggots and bottom-feeders who attended the hate-filled 'tea party' protest in California.