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Coastal Voices: What is the Tea Party?

The call rang out Feb. 19, 2009, when Rick Santelli, a Chicago stock commentator, voiced his now famous rant over the bail out of delinquent mortgages.  His “call” was for other outraged Americans to push back, against the moral and economic tyranny of big government, with the modern day equivalent of a Boston Tea Party.

Today our government rewards bad behavior at the expense of those who play by the rules, pay their taxes and live responsible lives. For decades a collective “we” allowed this assault to our civil liberties and family values, the growth of all levels of government and faceless regulation, and the theft of our property through monumental debt.

Overnight an electronic firestorm turned frustration into action as websites sprang up, emails swept the nation and self-proclaimed patriots began networking. The common denominator to this grassroots movement is liberty from government’s unconstitutional control over our lives. These patriots esteem the Constitution, demand smaller government, understand the importance of free markets, and expect fiscal responsibility.  These values strike at the core of how they live their lives.

When the April 15, 2009, Tax Day rally became a national event, most protesters were shocked to see the size of the crowds.  The universal realization was the comfort in knowing that there were other like-minded patriots. This became the beginning of everyday Americans taking their government back to its foremost mandate, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.”

Unbelievably, the rally was ignored by our mainstream media and the opposition took a now-familiar stance. What was shocking was hearing our elected leaders, including our President, vilify average Americans, who for the first time in their lives, dared to voice their grievances. The more the opposition mocks, dismisses, marginalizes and brands the Tea Party as  home-grown terrorists, bigots and racists, the more it galvanizes these novice protesters and the more the movement grows.

To understand the Tea Party, one needs to look at their actions and listen to what they are saying.  Contrast these protests to those against the f World Trade Organization; these are not the same people. Every Tea Party rally has been non-violent, no property has been destroyed and every location has been left spotless. While these protesters are frustrated they are respectful and law abiding; furthermore there is no hatred.

The argument could be made that there is irrational hatred towards the Tea Party.  If Americans are to embrace the “anti-war,” “environmental” and “anti-corporate” protests as exercising their free speech and if these protesters can receive the accolades of elected leaders and the media, then why is there so much hatred expressed toward a grass-roots group of everyday Americans?

Could it be that the deeply held prejudices of the opposition are projected on these self-proclaimed patriots?  One could argue that the opposition is guilty of the accusations they’re leveling against people they choose not to understand.  How can this locally organized national movement — standing on the principles of the Constitution — pose a threat?  If so, who is threatening whom?

The Tea Party’s non-violent agenda is about upholding the Constitution. It protests irresponsible big government and the growing debt, over-reaching and over-regulating bureaucracies, political party hacks, and those who sheepishly follow the institutional machine over serving the people. This movement represents the common everyday person who wants to preserve the key to the American experience: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Is a Tea Party member a patriot or a bigot? Find out for yourself by visiting a local chapter’s January meeting:

In Del Norte County, the Tea Party will  meet for a potluck tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Fairgrounds Arts and Crafts Building. Call Dean and Mary Wilson for more information, 464-5616.

Karen Brooks of Arcata was the Republican candidate last year for the state Assembly First District seat, which includes Del Norte County.

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