- (Note: Part one of this piece is here)
Here’s what I didn’t see at the Chattanooga Tax Day Tea Party. I didn’t see a single person questioning the president’s birth certificate. Although I went deliberately looking for it, I saw absolutely nothing that indicated or implied violence. I not only saw no racism, I saw no references to the president’s race whatsoever. There were no depictions of the president as The Joker (although I’m still unclear about why that’s offensive), a monkey, Hitler, or a witch doctor. I neither saw nor heard any hint of vulgarity, save for one speaker who mentioned that the group has been called “teabaggers.” I didn’t even see a confederate flag, and, in this area, it’s hard to drive down the interstate without seeing one of those.
No one made threats (besides those of retribution at the voting booth), no one threw eggs, no one was arrested. Beyond any doubt, no one crashed this Tea Party. The most hateful sign I saw was one carried by a 12-13 year old boy, a quickly made creation of poster board and a black marker, which stated “Keith O. is the worst person in the world.” (Just in case you’re not one of the approximately 6 people who watch Keith Olbermann’s show, he does a regular segment naming someone he disagrees with as “the worst person in the world.” That is, he does this when he’s not giggling like a schoolgirl that people he disagrees with are transgendered or deserve to be called misogynistic names.) On the whole, it was like any other springtime event in the park. The crowd was mostly elderly folks or families with young children; they sat in camping chairs or on blankets, some with umbrellas to hide from the hot sun. Children and adults played Frisbee or tossed footballs, kids cooled off in the nearby fountain. The perimeter was dotted with booths: vendors sold buttons and tee-shirts, local restaurants supplied food and drinks, candidates for office sold themselves.
A few folks were on the kooky side, no doubt. One man wandered around in a Captain America Halloween costume, complete with lumpy muscles, holding a sign which stated “Cut Spending Immensely Demons of Congress.” Another, dressed as Jesus, if Jesus had been known to wear a dirty bathrobe with a leather belt and Birkenstocks, held a sign that read “Jesus: Libertarian.” A man dressed in motorcycle leather, representing the Constitutional Defenders, preached some rather dubious tales of alleged liberty violations to all who would listen. A group of several elderly mall-walkers held a sign proclaiming “Don’t Tax Me, Bro!”
Although we had no crashers, we did have a tenacious group of counter-protesters. Well, “group” might be too strong a word; a college-aged hipster and a middle aged woman waved signs that said “Tax the Rich” and “Troops Home Now,” while another young man or two meandered about nearby, apparently too shy (and by shy, I mean embarrassed) to join in. These folks were periodically confronted by elderly men, clearly veterans, who asked them if they had served, pointed out that they have worked for what they have, and otherwise told them what’s what. The oldsters supported their right to speak, though, and no hard feelings seemed to follow.
The event was unbelievably well-run. Numerous volunteers, many in tee-shirts that read “Tyranny Response Team,” wandered the crowd. They forbid politicians from politicking away from their booths, handed out booklets containing the Declaration of Independence and Constitution like they were Gideon New Testaments, and warned against yelling when the conversation between the counter-protesters and vets got louder to avoid being drowned out by the din.
The speakers were mostly ho-hum local media folks. The winner of an essay contest read his piece, someone spoke on the Second Amendment, another on the Fair Tax, another on liberty. A ladies choir sang. The crowd was so polite that I often felt bad about walking around to take pictures or updating my Twitter feed during the speeches. The announcer warned us to respect the children and families by keeping our signs and comments polite and not to engage any crashers, but, in this crowd, there was clearly no need for concern. One the whole, the event was incredibly nice. It was not a bit like the protests of my beloved sixties depictions, and it was nothing at all like the hate filled images that anti-tea partiers would like for you to believe. It was, I dare to say, even a little bit boring. More like a fair than a rally, more like a local park event than a protest. I’d take kids to it in a heartbeat. Heck, I wouldn’t take my grandparents, because they would come off too rowdy and vulgar. (To be fair, they are Italian). I went looking for bad behavior; I found absolutely none at all. UPDATE: This piece is published in NewsBlaze here. If you’re wondering where the right place is to look for hate, look no further than the French Quarter following a fundraiser for LA republican Governor Bobby Jindal, where a young volunteer and her boyfriend were savagely beaten in an attack that was apparently politically motivated. I’m sure ABC, NBC, CNN, and Bill Clinton will be right on it. I’m sure that all of the Dems in Congress are going to condemn it, just as soon as they get around to it . . .