Friday, April 17, 2009

Venangoland TEA Party

(News-Herald, April 16) As a fake journalist I occasionally take on a story that can’t be covered from my home. Someone invited to the TEA party, so Tuesday night I hightailed it over to the Rocky Grove Fire Hall for the big tax protest meeting.
The tea party rallies have been a growing phenomenon over the past several years. This year the American Family Association either decided to help or co-opted the business, depending on who’s talking (there’s a small internet tempest among some disgruntled “original” Tea Party organizers). They clearly didn’t hurt; there were thousands of these rallies this week.
Venangoland’s tea party was an AFA affair. I disagree in the extreme with some of AFA’s behavior and beliefs, but I also believe it’s dumb to assume that if someone is wrong about A, I should assume they are wrong about B through Z. Since I don’t think an American tax revolt has a lot to do specifically with God or gay folks, I was happy to listen to some political rhetoric.
A wide variety of folk showed up. I saw Christian bikers and Libertarians, jean jackets and faux leopard furs, a variety of office-holders and office-holder wannabes. There were plenty of flags (traditional American and “Don’t tread on me”) and signs ranging from the direct (“Don’t put our grandchildren in debt”) to the obscure (a man holding up a small grave marker for the Federal Reserve). Inside, tables set up by WAWN/AFA handed out materials and Constitutions. Outside it was spring-in-Venangoland chilly and wettish.
Some of the content of these rallies is pretty predictable. There is the reading of the Declaration of Independence, noting that some of the offenses of the 18th century Brits are being replayed today. This routine was first employed during the Lincoln administration and has been trotted out regularly ever since.
Which is not to say that protestors don’t have a point. The government spends way too much imaginary money on stupid things and sticks its nose in many places where it causes more harm than help. This is just as true as the cold and mud of a Western PA spring; if you are surprised or shocked by either, I can only assume that you have been living in a cave.
Plenty of rallyers were against spreading government involvement and spending and socialization and a congressional process that thwarts the thoughtful involvement of all representatives. The cynical side of me wonders where these people were for the last eight or fifty years.
Of course, wasteful government spending is money the feds give the other guy. Ed Scurry, Venangoland’s eternal Democrat, was there with a sign that read “I love Medicaid, Department of Defense…” and a host of other federal programs.
But I nit pick. If you’re finally at the party, I guess it doesn’t really matter how long it took you to get there. And Jane Richey and her crew provided a well-crafted tea party.
She is a smooth and capable speaker, and she had clearly come prepared to work a mixed crowd. She kept her own presentation largely non-partisan, and though she ended with a prayer, acknowledged that not necessarily everyone would want to take part in that portion. She even handled unscripted interruptions (hint: what can’t you ignore in the RGVFD parking lot at 7 pm?)
Other speakers appeared by tape. Rev. Peter Marshall Jr. offered some history of grass roots revolts (the crowd’s attention wandered during the lesson). Wingnut Alan Keyes observed that the government can now control the will of its citizens. He talked about “these people” and how they are overthrowing the system of constitutional government so that “this is no longer a government in which the people are sovereign.” His line “if it [the government] is really broke, throw it out and start over” was the first big applause line of the night.
Some familiar foes were invoked (the media, and whoever it is we need to Take Back Our Country from—other voters who imagine they’re Americans, too?) and folks were given a chance to sign a Declaration of Dissatisfaction. Jane observed that we don’t have money problems so much as moral problems in this country and that people should actually do something rather than counting on others to guard their interests. Lots of folks stayed to sign the Declaration. Throughout, a videographer circulated to capture footage to be made into a Youtube video (I’m pretty sure nobody did that during the Lincoln administration).


Dittman said...

What I found interesting is the fact that the teabaggers and I have such a different idea about what qualifies as "stupid" when it comes to government funding. To them, taxing cigs and funding stem cells is tantamount to the end of the Republic, to me it makes good sense. To me, it doesn't make any sense to complain about a tax rate that's lower than Reagan's and to them it's an abomination...I'm not sure the twain will ever meet....

Darci said...

As a "growing phenomenon" with "thousands of rallies this week" it was just as easy to find and attend if curious, a TEA event that wasn't put on by such an organization.

Joe said...

Since federal taxes aren't going up to any significant degree any time soon, I guess most of these would-be libertarians are worried about saddling future generations with gobs of debt from money spent on government programs of which they disapprove. It strikes me as pretty self-less for current taxpayers, who will directly or indirectly benefit from the current spending splurge in the form of more jobs, better infrastructure, cleaner air, fewer foreclosures, less systemic risk, etc., to protest on behalf of those who may someday foot (or more likely punt) the bill. And it's a healthy sign that our democracy and the first amendment remain intact that citizens can freely gather to express their displeasure with their government. Indeed, if enough people feel as the TEA partiers do, come next election, they can throw the current rascals out and elect a like-minded set.

As an aside, I'm not sure I see the nexus between religion and taxes (or beween religion and morality for that matter), except that the conventional religions have always had a pretty good thing going with their tax exempt status.

Thanks for reporting.

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