The Wasatch Behind: Reading the tea leaves
Last Wednesday Jeannie and I drove to Salt Lake to participate in a tea party. It was our first time to be demonstrators. We missed the protest marches of the 1960s. I was busy fighting in Vietnam and Jeannie was working at the Green River missile base. We didn't have time to be radicals back then.
Having been there, I can tell you the news media didn't do a very good job of covering the tea parties. Rod Decker was the only TV personality I saw, and he was there before the party started. He didn't stay to report on the actual event. He was snarky and impatient as he walked through the crowd, and he simply got a few obligatory camera shots, a quick question and answer or two, and then he retreated back to the shelter of the bat cave. I didn't see his story on TV. Maybe his film got wet.
In spite of a cold rain that turned into sleet and snow, the Salt Lake Tribune estimated there were 2000 people at the rally. Hundreds more honked their support and waved as they drove past. It was cold and everyone was wet, but people were smiling, cheering and chanting. It was like a big class reunion. We were all friends and everyone was polite and respectful.
The speakers were inspiring and so were the signs. Signs said things like: "Give me liberty not debt." "I'll keep my freedom, bible and guns; you keep the change." And "Trillion dollar bailouts are fiscal child abuse." But the sign I liked best said, "Real Americans don't bend over for Arab Kings."
I wanted to put up a sign that said, "Read my finger, no new taxes" but Jeannie wouldn't let me. As far as we knew we were representing all of Carbon County and we had to be on our best behavior (wink).
Everyone needs to know the tea party wasn't a Republican rally against Obama and Democrats, as some news outlets have suggested. Obama got his share of criticism, but Republican Senators Hatch and Bennett were figuratively burned in effigy with a long and strong chorus from the crowd. "Send them home, send them home," the people chanted. And Republican Governor John Huntsman was booed with enthusiasm every time his name was mentioned. The tea party was completely non-partisan. The consensus was, "Let's kick all of the rascals out and start over again."
And it wasn't a rally for white guys, either. There were Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and even a few Native American Americans in attendance. There were naturalized American citizens from former soviet bloc countries who spoke and warned of the dangers of creeping socialism and government intervention in private lives.
Of the politicians who spoke, only Rep. Jason Chaffetz seemed to have the full support of the crowd. Rep. Rob Bishop had the courage to attend and to speak, but to me, he seemed to be tolerated more than admired. Bennett and Hatch were missing in action. Good thing, they might have been tarred and feathered. The best speech of the whole event was given by an 11 year old boy who read an essay about freedom he had written himself.
And then, the next day Nancy Pelosi was on TV saying the thousands of tea parties across the nation were not grass roots, citizen efforts. She called them "Astroturf" events, suggesting they were phony and sponsored by evil Republicans. Her remarks made me sad. We the People are trying so hard to get the attention of our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike, and still they choose to ignore us.
Listen up, Nancy. We are demanding that our voices be heard. We want nothing less than government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Stop the partisanship, all of you. Be Americans first. Don't bankrupt our country. Don't saddle our grandchildren with unbearable debt. Don't lock up our god-given oil and coal reserves behind barriers of manufactured wilderness. Dump the phony pretext of global warming. Stop the flood of illegal aliens. Don't take us down the road to socialism. And don't you dare trade American sovereignty for United Nation mandates.
It would be good if politicians like Pelosi would reconsider their responses and attitudes about our tea parties. I stood in the crowd and listened to the voices. I looked into the eyes of my fellow citizens, men and women, young and old, as they trembled, wet and cold, yet proudly stood with hands over hearts and sang the national anthem. Unlike Rod Decker and Nancy Pelosi, I have felt the pulse of the nation.
Are you listening, elected officials? Can you hear me now?