March 20 • 05:55 AM

Grass roots run wide and deep these days

September 09, 2009
A couple of weeks ago I had to write about a 'Town Hall Health Care Forum' that was planned in Imlay City, hosted by the Lapeer County Tea Party Patriots.

This was an unsettling task, as I did not want to get caught up in the...uhm...tangle—I learned earlier this year that those grass roots run deep enough to create a noose.

Anyhow, I had a long list of questions I emailed to the organizer. I'd boned up on the Tea Party groups, thanks to readers Nancy Coscarelli and Ron Cross. My earlier naivete embarrassed me. I actually believed the 'grass roots' thing. I actually had no problem with a group of people protesting high taxes. I had no idea it was a "vast right wing conspiracy." Since I never, ever pay any attention to anything FOX, up until this point in my little life I questioned whether it was possible for a "vast right wing conspiracy" to exist. Imagine that! Actually believing that people think independently and allow others to do the same!

Now I know better, though I find it very, very disheartening. We are a country filled with rage and hugely divided, bent on deepening the fissure, not bridging it. I realize that it's much easier to use fear, create doubt and erect blockades than it is to actually accomplish things. I discover there are whole Web sites devoted to the art of disorder at these 'Town Halls.' I learn that the Tea Party groups are a national network of people who get and share information that has a certain vast-opposite-of-left-wing agenda that could definitely be construed as a "conspiracy."

How do I know? Well, this from NPR, (one of two broadcast news sources I rely upon): An August 4 report headlined 'Lawmakers face hostile groups at Town Halls,' by reporter Andrea Seabrook:

"Many of the events this week appear to have been organized by conservative groups. A new Web site is called Operation Embarrass Your Congressman.' A widely circulated memo tells right-wing protesters how to treat their representative: 'Make him uneasy...stand up and shout out, and sit right back down...rattle him.

"The memo concludes, 'Just imagine what we can achieve if we see to it that every representative in the nation who has supported the socialist agenda has a similar experience!'

"I reached the man who wrote this memo by phone. His name is Bob MacGuffie. He lives in Fairfield Conn. and belongs to the conservative group Tea Party Patriots. He told me he is sick of writing letters to Congress and getting form letters in return, and he just wants to be heard.

"He would not do a recorded interview for the story.

"But the memo makes clear what the protestors are aiming for—press coverage of voter outrage, even as polls continue to show that a majority of Americans support overhauling the health care system..."

Later I listen to NPR reports from Don Gonye, who has traveled with the president for his town halls.

NPR has also sent reporters to town halls sponsored by legislators where people walked around carrying posters of our president made to look like Adolf Hitler; where our president's name is incorporated into the hammer and sickle; where the President of the United States is referred to as "Obamadinejad."

Then I remember I saw a few of the same type of things referring to our president at the TEA Party rally in Lapeer...and that was in April, well before any mention of health care reform was part of the national 'dialogue.'

Since I believe these types of reference do noth-ing but incite anger, per- petuate hate and indeed divide us, the prospect of a Town Hall Health Care Forum in Imlay City hosted by the Lapeer County Tea Party Patriots that I'd have to write about made me very, very uneasy.

I must say Lapeer County's organizer Danette Starr Lowery is very well spoken, extremely polite and seems genuinely sincere in her desire to affect social change in a direction she truly believes in. She answered all of my questions with candor and with ease. While a few of the things she said sounded like similar statements I'd heard from 'grass roots TEA Party' representatives from across the country—i.e. the shouting matches at town halls were being 'overblown by the media,'—Starr Lowery's desire to prove that mes-sages can and should be communicated in a civilized manner was and is impressive.

None of this made it into the story, though. In the end I decided that delving deeper into the Tea Party Patriot group would be like writing in-depth pieces about the Lapeer County Republican Party's agenda or the happenings on the local Democratic Party scene. We just don't do it, unless it's an announcement type thing.

So what's the point of all this? I'm not sure. Just passing on what I've learned over the months. Grass roots run wide and deep.

Email Catherine at

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