The second Atlanta Tax-Day Tea Party is approaching, and I’m once again planning on going. Last year I wrote a summary of my experience on facebook. I’m re-posting it here so it can be quickly contrasted with the write up I will do this year after the event. A long discussion occurred afterward, but that would be too difficult to re-post… if you’re curious, you can view the whole discussion on facebook.
From Thurday, April 16th, 2009 @ 4:41pm
I had wanted to go to the previous tea-party in Atlanta, but circumstances did not allow. If you don’t know what a tea party is, then you probably get your news from CNN who chose to mostly ignore it and marginalize it. I am not one for hyperbole, but let me assure you that this was a major event, it is not some fleeting thing, and those of us who attended are by no means radical extremists.
What is a tea party and why did we go?
The tea party phenomenon caught on because there are three groups of people who have been alienated. The conservatives, like myself have been sick of the ever expanding government attempting to solve problems with our money (and our childrens money with debt). We feel these problems have only gotten worse with these “solutions”. We are of the crowd that believes George Bush let us down fiscally and politically while we praise him for keeping America safe. The second group are the many moderates, who may have voted for Obama have joined us in our fears that government officials are not acting in our best interest as they have been surprised by the actions this congress and administration have taken. The third, albeit smaller, crowd are the democrats who have had a wake up call. They, like the moderates, have been surprised just how quickly this administration and congress has latched on to the economic crisis in the biggest power grab we have seen in our lives. They know that this trumps or at least equates with the power grab of the right after the 9/11 attacks.
The wake up call has come in a short period of time (less than a decade), during which we have seen our supposed representatives use serious problems and the fear they create to expand government and their control over it.
Us tea party goers have turned to the constitution and the founding principles which state that government needs to be controlled rather than the government controlling us. To us Liberty (which is _the_ theme) is only limited by government, but also requires government to preserve. Therefore we both respect government, but are wary of it.
The list of specific grievances is large, but here are just a few:
We’re sick of companies and people who make mad decisions receiving our money involuntarily. We are a compassionate country yet we believe we know how to distribute and spend our money better than government. Especially at a time when we are all hurting, why should my tax money go to someone who should have known better than to get into an adjustable mortgage. I looked into them too, and common sense told me it was a bad idea.
We’re tired of words not having original meaning any more. Many of us are frustrated with the loss of language. Specifically we are told that we are not engaging terrorists anymore. Instead they are insurgents, freedom fighters, engaging in man-made disasters. Yet, the day of the tea party Americans are warned of right wing extremists becoming “domestic terrorists”. Amazing how only Americans can be terrorists now. This only proves that our current administration is not the “change” we expected, just same of the same old marginalizing of the opposing viewpoint, and intellectual dishonesty that plagues almost all of our career politicians.
We are tired of politicians seeking more and more power and control over all aspects of our lives all the while taking our money. As one speaker said “When our children come home with report cards and A letter grades, we don’t turn to them and say ‘that’s great, now give me 5 dollars’… instead we reward our children. The government punishes you for being successful by taking more of your money. People should be rewarded for doing well and contributing to society”.
We understand that the original constitution allowed for taxes, but not an income tax. It took an amendment to add that bad boy in. We also understand that this was to be temporary, yet know that when it comes to government control, nothing is ever temporary. We understand the math behind taxes, and know that first our income is taxed, then the usage on the rest of the money is taxed (gas taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, social security taxes, medicare taxes, phone taxes, internet taxes, alcohol taxes, car taxes), and when all added together the math means that roughly 50% of our money ends up going to a government agency at some point, even if we get *some* of that money back after it sat with the government over the course of a year.
We’re sick of government telling us we’re extremists, we’re sick of politicians spitting in our face when they say that “Americans don’t care” (Chuck Schumer). We’re sick of people like Paul Begala saying we’re “Whiners” who should support Obama, pay our taxes and shut up (Yes, he really did… on Imus’ show). We’re sick of people like Barney Frank who refuse to take any responsibility for mishandling entities like Fannie Mae, and calling us Right-Wing haters when we merely ask him about it (what would he say if we applied labels to him when referring to him in the general sense. If you know who Barney Frank is, then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about). We’re tired of being told “We won, you lost, shut up”. None of this is the America we know and love.
Despite all that, it’s hard to fully explain the culture behind the tea-parties. I suppose if you don’t feel how we do, or even didn’t attend, you just can’t get it….
The Event itself:
I planned to meet a small group of people at a Marta station (local Atlanta public transportation). Once we boarded the train immediately it was obvious that this was going to be a big event. The train was loaded with people who had signs in their hands, American flags on their clothes, and a smile on their face. The amount of red was unbelievable. Getting off the train was a site to behold… literally hundreds of people streaming into the capital.
Our group stopped briefly before getting in line to get into the fenced off area. As we sat, a 10 year old kid walks by and asks us if we’d like a sign. He handed two of them two us: One a Fairtax.org sign, and the other a witty “Welcome to Sweden” sign (complete with Swedish Flag), both handmade. We gladly took the signs and held them proudly, all the while getting a kick out of how friendly and happy these folks were.
We got in line, where we made jokes with strangers about being “right wing” extremists while dads held their kids on their shoulders and danced along to the music being played on the main stage. My favorite sign was held by a young teenager which read “Don’t Tax me, Bro”. In line we were all handed pocket constitutions, and random fliers. Expectedly, there were a few folks selling things (water, fliers to buy shirts online), but I actually expected a lot more (after all, we are the capitalists and tax-earners of the country). Another of my favorite signs was “I paid for this sign with my stimulus money”. There was a lot of wit in the signs… none that I felt really went too far, though I suppose comparing the Obama Administration to the Mafia comes close, and only one sign that mentioned “Teabagging” (A term I found offensive) in the same sentence as Chuck Schumer.
We got into the main area and we were blown away by the number of people and signs. The party was supposed to start at 7pm, and we arrived at around 6:30 where the crowd was probably already close to 10,000 with hundreds of people still streaming in. The estimates we heard when all was done came in between 15,000 and 20,000 people.
There were a lot of speakers and a few prepared videos that were all very well coordinated. Most of the speakers spoke for less than 5 minutes which we all welcomed. There were very few politicians present (and the ones that were present were pretty small-time local politicians with the only exception being Dick Armey). As was heard said more than once, this day was for the people; the politicians were to shut up and listen to us for a change.
There were repeated themes of Liberty, respect for the constitution, an expectation that our politicians should listen to us, and that we need to vote almost all of them out. Repeatedly we heard “this isn’t about Obama, we were fed up with George Bush too” (yes I know, why didn’t we complain loudly when he screwed up – I’m first to admit that many of us were willing to let it slide a bit too willingly). Lower taxes… especially support for the Fair Tax, was of course a main theme seeing as this was “tax-day”.
Only a few of the speakers had real charisma, so I was a bit disappointed there, but everyone was articulate and respectful. We heard from local radio personalities, local event organizers, local businessmen/women, and just a few national names such as Dick Armey, and that 14 year old super-conservative kid (his was the longest speech, and admittedly a bit predictably boring, but still neat to see). There were two speakers who I felt were outstanding, one was a woman, the head of some action committee, and the other a local Radio guy (One of the “regular guys”) Of course the Atlanta party was headlined by Sean Hannity doing his show there to close things out. Many people left before and during his show (we left during to get a jump start on getting home). This to me proved that this wasn’t just about having a name like Hannity show up. Many of us were so far back that we couldn’t see him anyway, and we weren’t star struck enough to try to rush up and get a glimpse, or get on TV. That’s not why we were there.
Everyone I saw was in a good mood. I saw no “Pick-up truck Republicans” like my wife likes to call them… these were primarily folks with families, businesses, etc. There was an equal mix of age groups, including young children with parents, college age folks, and a smattering of older Americans. A small group of Obama Supporters showed up. The crowd of course made jokes and laughed in their direction, but there was no confrontation, no animosity, and certainly no hurtful comments. In fact many people said “good for them”. I commented that I bet they felt pretty safe, and made a joke that perhaps I wouldn’t feel as safe at one of their rallies. This got a pretty good chuckle. There were no “right-wing” extremists, despite the guy who had a sign which had an arrow pointing down at him proclaiming he was (obviously a joke referencing the recent DHS report). We saw one person (only one) holding a Confederate Flag. It was the consensus that this guy was probably an infiltrator hoping to get some media time to show how the group was ugly, or just a moron. Either way, he was ignored and didn’t seem to garner any attention at all other than our early notice.
I have never been part of a more polite, nice group of people in my life. I had my own worries going into this since I know that a crowd can easily turn ugly, but no such thing happened. The trip back (once again a packed Marta train) was fun too. There was the 60 year old women saying things like “I’ve never been to a protest before” followed by a murmur from the most of the passengers agreeing with her. Many people couldn’t wait until the next tea party. The news reports that marginalized this event as small and fleeting could not have possibly been honest.
It was amazing to be part of a group of people who respectfully demonstrated their views. There was a lot of excitement and happiness in the air. I was proud to be a part of it, and never once did I regret going… I only regret not going to the first one.