Photo: Dan Bidstrup
I went to a tea party today. It was a new thing for me, not being a crowd kind of person in any way. Having heard the news story that some folks who are riled up at tea party people might "infiltrate" and make a scene, I felt like I conjured up an extra bit of courage to go ahead and participate in my first protest of anything. Drats - I had no choice. My convictions about the wrong-headedness of our political class made it impossible not to go.
The sun was warm and the air cool and crisp - invigorating! The sidewalks to the Colorado State Capitol were dotted by couples, families pushing strollers, pairs of ladies walking dogs, groups of friends - folks in western wear, business wear, casual wear - it was America, and yes, Americans of all colors as well.
Watching the people parade from the edge of the shadow of a large pine tree where it was comfortable to sit as well as stand, I listened to the speakers and quietly sang along with the choir on America, the Beautiful.
Nearly everyone brought a sign of some kind. Did I mention they were nearly all homemade signs? There were only a few of those slick print jobs that show up on the media info-casts of political rallies. One sign said "the American people are coming". I thought about a term I'd learned in a history class way back when - "pretender to the throne". Yup, we've had lots of pretenders - politicians with an agenda who tend to preface their pronouncements "the American people... this and that".
But the American people really are coming. An April 2010 Battleground States poll finds a 25%approval rating for Congress but a 68% disapproval rating. Ninety percent express concern about the federal government's currant level of spending and debt. Asked whether they considered themselves to be conservative or liberal regarding politics and government, 59% consider themselves conservatives.
Well the protesters that I'd worried about were across the street. There were about 25 of them at the beginning of the tea party. They had a bull horn aimed at the crowd of about 2000 on the Capitol grounds and a long butterscotch-colored banner that said something about stealing land at the point of a gun. I noticed several police cars and police behind the small group of people protesting against the tea partiers. Interestingly, I only spotted one state patrol officer among the tea partiers.
From time to time, I'd glance over. I saw a lone figure holding a "Don't Tread on Me" flag, standing about 50 feet away from the protesters but on their side of the street. Over time, several tea partiers simply went on the other side of the street and stood quietly adjacent to the protesters. Within an hour, the banner and bullhorn and protesters had morphed into the tea party annex, 50 or so tea partiers with flags high and carrying their homemade signs.
I thought what a great object lesson! Simply stand your ground peacefully, honorably and the paper tiger goes away.