“The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I Am Not A Virginian, But An American!” — Patrick Henry in 1774 after the Boston Tea Party.
“That these are our grievances which we have thus laid before his majesty, with that freedom of language and sentiment which becomes a free people claiming their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1774
On Thursday, April 15, 2010, I attended a Tea Party. But it was not a typical small tea party, with ladies in hats, fine china, quiet music, or even tea. This one was large, attended by 1,100 outspoken people (according to the sheriff I asked), holding signs, the red white & blue, and the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, demanding accountability from their government. Folks here were respectful, but determined to have their voices heard. I saw people from all walks of life: old people, young people, children, business people, labor workers, even some bikers. Although the majority of those in attendance were white (not surprising, as 94.7% of Iowa is white), I did see a few folks from minority ethnic groups. And contrary to how the mainstream media portrays these events, not all were Republicans. I spoke to Libertarians, Democrats, and Independents. All comments had a common theme: Enough. Enough with the bailouts, the pork spending, the cronyism, the elitism, the power grabs, the increased taxes (over $600 billion in the last year alone), the healthcare bill almost 60% of America did not want, and the overall arrogance and control of both Washington and our state government.
As Patrick Henry said above, all here considered themselves Americans first, before any other affiliation. Before race, religion, or political party. Everyone wanted a return to the original intent of the Constitution: less government, less taxes, less spending, less regulation, and more freedom. They were not violent and they certainly were not terrorists – it felt more like a meeting of the local PTA or rotary club than a protest. These were our neighbors, friends, co-workers. The fact that some in the mainstream media (and others that fail to fact-check) are actually trying to lump all these peaceful people in with every crazy nut-job out there are not only being intellectually lazy and civically irresponsible, but also downright dishonest. I will not judge my fellow Americans without proof of guilt – you should not either.
I saw only two offensive signs at the Tea Party that day, and both folks were quickly confronted and politely asked to leave by the Tea Party participants. I would like to tell you what their signs said, but the words and pictures were quite offensive for print. Suffice it to say the first person was not fond of homosexuals (which had nothing to do with the Tea Party platform) and the second person just did not like the Tea Party platform itself. In fact, the latter did not even have the courage to show her face – she wore dark sunglasses and a bandana mask while she held her vulgar sign. Both were captured on video by fellow Tea Partiers – I guess they wanted to make sure that they had a counterpoint to any edited video or biased reporting the news media might show. Pretty sad commentary on the state of the media today, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
My favorite part of the protest was when some kids came out and did a parody called “Is Congress smarter than a fifth grader?” It was hilarious. These fifth graders obviously knew more about the Constitution than our own Congress, as they quite easily pointed out how many current laws have strayed from that cherished document. Frankly, it would have been far more funny if it were not so true.
America was founded out of protest, and it will endure because of protest. It is in our blood. It is who we are. Those that have tried to marginalize, persecute, suppress or enslave any of us in the past have all failed in the end. We are a vocal, opinionated, freedom-loving bunch, and America is the better for it.
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!” — Samuel Adams, 1776