America Awakes: Reflections on 9/12
On September 12, 2009, I took part in the largest anti-big-government demonstration in the history of mankind. To borrow an expression from Joe Biden, the Taxpayers' March on Washington was clean and articulate. It was clean because over a million earners of American wealth didn't litter or destroy things and generally behaved as responsible property owners -- as opposed to leftist protesters who often act as unwelcome gatecrashers. Once again the political class was reminded who really owns the place, only this time the owners were adamant about it, articulating over and over in a million voices directed at the Capitol, "We own the dome!"
For three days Washington was filled with friendly, cheerful working people, easily identifiable by their American flags and their shirts, pins, and signs with clever, heartfelt messages on them. If one were to judge this nation by the people walking the streets of its capital that weekend, one might surmise that America was inhabited by highly rational, creative, positive, responsible, and engaging individuals. Unfortunately, on most other days Washington exemplifies the opposite, misrepresenting this nation in every sense of the word.
My friends and I arrived from New York by car on Thursday the 10th, just in time to catch a sight at which to marvel: hundreds of doctors and nurses waving hand-made posters and chanting slogans in opposition to the government takeover of health care. Protesting in a park facing the Capitol building, medical professionals offered a resounding second opinion about the health of national medical care, with speaker after speaker exposing Obama's proposal as malpractice.
Doctors had a better prescription: tax reform, tort reform, and allowing patients to purchase health insurance across state lines -- a combination of measures that would save $120 billion every year without government rationing. Their rally received no coverage whatsoever in the "mainstream" media.
In the not-so-distant past, whenever George W. Bush introduced a new policy or visited a foreign country, the media disproportionately focused on even the tiniest of accompanying protests. Often journalists barely mentioned the summit's topic or the agreements resulting from it. They apparently believed their job was to inform the world that Bush was screamed at by a heckler in Australia, or that a deranged London grandmother climbed the gate of the Buckingham Palace to protest U.S. policies. Media types rationalized it by claiming that reporters have always preferred to cover protests over what was actually being protested.
Obama's ascendancy changed that. As if re-enacting Orwell's novel 1984, the media might just as well claim that it has always ignored anti-administration protests. As a result, the qualified opinions of hundreds of protesting doctors from across the country are, all of a sudden, less worthy of coverage than a single anti-Bush heckler of the previous eight years.
Fortunately, my friend El Marco was there to cover the doctors' rally for his photo-journalist blog LookingAtTheLeft.com. We spent the evening in our hotel watching him prepare his photo essay, occasionally throwing in a line or two. By next morning, his story with fantastic pictures had been picked up by a number of major political blogs.
On Friday we joined a patriotic rally outside Walter Reed Army Hospital. Several hundred people -- generations of veterans and ordinary citizens like us -- waved American flags and signs on four crowded street corners at the main hospital entrance. We cheered buses with wounded soldiers returning from complimentary dinners at a local restaurant.
The rally was organized by FreeRepublic.com as a counter-protest to the weekly anti-military, anti-U.S. vigil staged at the hospital entrance by the radical group Code Pink. For years, the leftists have congregated on that spot with their nonsensical signs in an attempt to demoralize the heroic young men and women, and to add insult to injury, try to convince the wounded troops that they volunteered for an evil war and their service was not for a just cause. Our much more numerous pro-troops rally was encouraged by constant honking from passing motorists.
We quartered in a boutique hotel a few blocks north of the Capitol. It's named The Liaison, which must be a politically correct term for the lobbying harlotry that dominates Washington culture with its evasive lingo. This weekend, however, the language spoken in the lobby, the corridors, and the elevators was the straight talk of independent people exchanging rational views and informed opinions. Teaching Washington a lesson in honesty that can only be found among free and self-reliant individuals, they expressed themselves readily, clearly, and effectively -- without hushed voices and glances behind the shoulder out of fear that their words might be taken out of context, blown out of proportion, and misconstrued as hate speech.
In an elevator we met a family wearing red "Tea Party Patriots" buttons. The twelve-year-old daughter was holding a couple of surprisingly hefty tomes. Her parents proudly mentioned that on their way to Washington they had finished reading the Federalist Papers together.
One can only imagine that this is what Washington and the rest of the country might look like if the original Jeffersonian trend had not been brutalized by the modern influx of leftist ideologies. In a way, the tea party movement is an effort to revive America's classic libertarian tradition. That ideal appears to be pretty much out of place in today's political culture. Even as I'm writing this, the "mainstream" media is dismissing the starry-eyed tea partiers as close-minded racist bigots. In print, on radio waves, and on TV screens, champions of the "liberal" racket are writing off the tea party protests as a shameful inability of white America to accept a black president -- as if the desire of individual liberty has anything to do with skin color and as if there exists a race of people that, in the long run, gains anything from a government tyranny.
The extent to which tea parties are being rejected by the media and cultural establishments can be used a yardstick to measure the damage done by the leftist penetration of America's institutions.
Even the refreshing presence of tea partiers failed to sanitize the sleaze of our hotel's perfectly shiny lounge with its pretentious, larger-than-life portrait of Barack Obama slotted between the portraits of Gandhi, Nehru, and a handful of other world leaders. The only U.S. president deemed worthy to adorn The Liaison, Obama smiled enigmatically from the dark canvas, as his piercing eye surveyed the rebellious taxpayers gathering at the Hyatt Regency across the street.
The much larger and friendlier Hyatt was bustling with activities. It seemed to be a tea party headquarters, with a welcoming "Tea Party Express" sign at the entrance, crowds in patriotic T-shirts, and buses depositing one group of protesters after another. That evening the Hyatt was hosting a busy sign-making event in a spacious conference room downstairs, which eventually transformed into a boisterous celebration inside the hotel's airport-sized lobby. All TV screens at the bar and the seating area were tuned to Fox News, as hundreds of upbeat marchers mingled excitedly with a drink in one hand and a poster board in the other, conversing in a jovial manner with complete strangers as if they were old friends, and proudly exhibiting their freshly made signs.
The space at the adjacent liquor bar was so jammed with people that the patrons had to hold their signs high above their heads so they wouldn't be crushed. As a result the bar crowd looked like an agitated political rally, only it wasn't going anywhere in particular. Their undisputed leader was the bartender, who provided the logistics for their progress towards the common goal of getting smashed, which seemed to be the only clearly defined agenda. The participants proactively worked on the advancement of that objective, while at the same time raising everyone else's awareness of the issues. The dreamlike effect could be best summed up with the sign "Government off our backs now," which kept popping up against the rows of colorful liquor bottles. It was the most surreal drinking party I have ever seen. It was also the friendliest and most relaxed.
On Saturday morning September 12, protesters started gathering at Freedom Plaza two blocks away from the White House, eventually filling the whole of Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to the Capitol. At about the same time President Obama fled Washington to seek reassurance and support from union organizers in Pittsburgh. The president's helicopter reportedly flew over the gigantic crowd, offering him an eyeful of America's reaction to his statist agenda -- something to mull over on the way to the AFL-CIO Convention.
I was walking all day, taking pictures with my big Sony camera and trying to get to every corner of the rally. The People's Cube signs and shirts were visible in the crowd and I faithfully documented that. The level of wit, creativity, and theatrics was overwhelming. If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider my tea party gallery an epic novel.
As I stopped to chat with the protesters, people shared with me their joy over the spirit of love, connectedness, and camaraderie that seemed to be sweeping the rally. Maybe not in these exact words, but their tone and lit-up faces suggested that much. No doubt the event was unprecedented.
"It's like Woodstock, only without the smell," one man quipped, referring to the massive euphoria that allegedly overcame the three hundred thousand stoned attendees of the 1969 rock festival. That, of course, is more of a myth fabricated by counter-culture marketing entrepreneurs. It can't be real because nothing real is gained by escaping reality, especially with the help of drugs and outlandish psychobabble. Real love and connectedness can't be achieved through theft, destruction of private property, and indiscriminate sex with strangers in the mud -- all of which was typical of Woodstock.
At this tea party, however, the legendary euphoric spirit was real. Apparently, to experience it in a sober, secular setting is an opportunity open only to those who live by their minds and adhere to true human values.
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