There are some things we agree on
April 21, 2010
(Insert Twilight Zone soundtrack loop...)
So it is without too much surprise that I find myself at the second annual 'grass roots' TEA Party Tax Day Rally on the steps of the Historic Courthouse in downtown Lapeer.
For weeks I debate whether or not to cover it. We don't, after all, cover the Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner, the Democratic Party's meetings, etc. Why would we? That's not news. It's agenda making. So why would we cover another TEA Party anything?
But in all fairness, the movement itself has created issues that might be newsworthy. There's fear of "leftist infiltration," by "Crash the Party" groups. The fear of government apparently runs to a fear of anyone with opposing views. If there was to be an issue or confrontation, it would, indeed, be news.
The movement has also made somewhat of a name for itself with the easily accessible, huge abundance of not very nice (read racist) signs displayed at TEA Party events across the country; the shout downs at health care forums, bricks through windows. I'm not saying the Lapeer group does any of these things, but the potential for a news story of some sort is there and I know I must go.
Last year I got in hot water with the local TEA Party group for my opinion that their billing as a "grass roots effort" is misleading to say the least. The effort didn't start on any lawn around here. The TEA Party's grass roots run all the way to fat cats like Dick Armey (look up FreedomWorks and 'astroturfing'), Rush Limbaugh, Progress for America (please, please look it up), Michelle Malkin, FOX Network, etc. and I felt a little deceived by claims to the contrary. I say so in a column. The local TEA Party group takes offense to my position; calls me mean and hypocritical, biased, liberal, etc. Ultimately we're both just exercising the freedoms ordained upon us by citizenship in what I believe all would agree is "this great nation of ours."
I continue to cover their local events. They host a health care forum and I put it in the paper, both before and after—with photos. So as Tax Day 2010 rolls around, I know I'll go to the rally to cover the story. It is what I do. It is my job. But like the tea partiers, I have ideas about political movements and practices, too. They differ immensely, but I'm not afraid of it. I'm not afraid of them, either. Or the government, of which I consider myself an important part.
On Thursday, I do see something different from last year. There are less people. More little kids with signs. Few in business suits. Except for the anti-choice group, the crowd looks to be mostly middle-aged and older, a few more men than women. Most dressed in red, white and blue shirts and caps. I see very few Generation X-ers and even fewer Generation Ys. Just kids with signs.
Aside from the more easily discernable demographic, I see a difference from last year's protest signs. I see no signs depicting our president as Adolph Hitler. I see no hammer and sickle signs; no Kenyan flags worked into the messages. No racist overtures, no vulgar analogies. Nothing that could be construed as disrespectful or rude. Only one sign that I see refers to anything 'socialist' (I later learn that's because it's a so-called sign of an 'infiltrator.') Several signs oppose "Obamacare."
Another difference: the atmosphere is less carnival-like. There is no one that I saw handing tea bags to visitors. I don't see tea bags hanging off people's heads and hats. I do see lots of 'Don't tread on me' flags; American flags; signs opposing the IRS; signs proclaiming 'Taxed Enough Already.' During the opening speech, the applause is not as vigorous (maybe because of a smaller crowd) and sometimes it feels like there should be clapping but none comes.
Like last year, however, I see people who believe in what they're doing, beginning with Dannette Starr Lowery. She has taken her passion for the TEA Party cause all the way to Washington, DC. Starr Lowery has found a purpose she believes in and is committed to. Just like those of us who are committed to fixing the broken system; to overcoming the partisan rhetoric. Let freedom ring!
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Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.