Tea partiers, progressives, conservatives, liberals, right-wingers, left-wingers — all terms that have no legitimate meaning.

Recent letters to the editor use them, either to describe themselves or to belittle others. And everyone’s crying foul.

Everyone should be crying foul.

I’d imagine most of the writers are middle- and working-class people who care about their friends, families and communities.

However, when they pen or process their letters, they (we) become snarky or feral jerks. Don’t get me wrong: The anger on all sides is real and often is justified.

People on the political left (who include me) know that immoral and expensive war-mongering and socialism for the wealthy are destroying everything the Declaration of Independence, Statue of Liberty and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” stand for.

People on the political right (who include friends and family of mine) know that corrupt politicians and stupid bureaucracies are destroying everything the Constitution, Liberty Bell and Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” stand for.

At the core of things, we on both sides of the manufactured ideological divide know the same things. Yet we’re willing to wage a not-so-cold civil war on each other instead of on the culprits.

With very few exceptions, our “representatives” in D.C. and in our state house have sold us all down the river. But how and why?

In an oligarchy, the political elites and the economic elites collude. Democrats and Republicans (including most of those claiming to be tea partiers and progressives) take money from the same business interests and lobbying groups, using it to benefit themselves and their donors — not us.

Even knowing this, we still allow ourselves to be seduced by the siren songs of party politics, division, suspicion and, in some cases, hatred.

Who wins? Not you and I, that’s for sure.

Who loses? You and I, that’s for sure.

It’s not enough to say “a pox on both houses.” We created both houses.

We can allow Republicans and Democrats, including their tea party and progressive subsidiaries, to herd us around, flattering us with their hopeful and/or hateful propaganda.

Consequently, any truly democratic, creative energy we wield will be neutralized and redirected. We’ll be managed — again.

When November 2012 comes around, most of the progressives angry with Obama’s conservatism and concessions will vote for him anyway, and most tea partiers aching for a “Don’t Tread on Me” paradise will rally around the candidate with the most corporate donors and political clout.

After the quadrennial voting-booth charade, those of us fortunate enough to have jobs will go back to being wage slaves with declining paychecks and disappearing benefits, ticked off and ready to throttle each other — again.

Ben Lanier-Nabors