Sarah and the City
A liberal crashes the Tea Party (and finds some surprises)
Alright, let's dispense with the journalist tropes. I'm a card-carrying liberal, as anyone familiarwithmywork might have guessed.
So walking into Discovery Green for the second annual Tax Day Tea Party on Thursday, I had no clear idea what to expect. Would there be Obama-as-Hitler signs? Would Houston be able to get a major celebrity like Victoria Jackson, Saturday Night Live member from 1986 to 1992?
In a word: no. Instead what I got was your run-of -the-mill political rally, albeit with more 'Don't Tread on Me' flags. Rather than the vitriol that seems to appear on the news, most of the speakers, led by radio DJ Sam Malone, had ideas that were downright sensible. Ideas like people should vote and be engaged and informed about their government. Who's not down with that? Plus someone handed me a free miniature Constitution, which is downright awesome. I plan to keep it in my purse to have yet another thing in common with Dennis Kucinich.
Appropriately, taxes were the issue of the day, though there seemed to be a war among the audience signs debating the relative merits of the fair tax, the flat tax or whether any taxation at all is robbery and/or tyranny.
The crowd, which I would estimate at between 1,000 and 1,500, was a mix of young and old (with most falling decidedly in the middle), and Brooks Brothers jackets and ties were almost as common as jeans and flag-spangled shirts. One man wore a shirt covered in pot leaves, which had a hole in the back right shoulder to show off a tattoo of a pot leaf. This was, apparently, deemed totally cool by the Tea Partiers.
Not cool, apparently, was a twenty-something man in a red t-shirt reading 'socialist,' red goggle glasses and full hippie beard. After being trailed by a man holding up a "Liberal InfilTRAITOR" sign, the self-described socialist got into a heated discussion with another rally attendee, and, without anyone resorting to chanting "FIGHT!" a la middle school, he was quickly engulfed by a thick crowd and a security guard who escorted the man out. The crowd chanted "U-S-A" as the man walked out. Considering the theme of Tea Parties giving people a voice, it seemed something of a sad moment to me that his dissent (however asinine) wasn't tolerated.
The most intriguing sign (aside from the "Government Regulation = Tyranny, Ban Speed Limits" held up by a liberal set up just outside the fence), was "ObamaCare is a Trojan Horse." As a sucker for literary analogies, I had to know more. I learned that the woman holding the sign meant that the government would use healthcare reform to get information about citizens and take over their lives, though I was never quite clear on how or why this would be the case.
I did get the distinct impression that the woman had never read The Iliad. Color me disappointed. I was suddenly forced to wonder if the man with the "Who is John Galt?" sign had really made it through Ayn Rand (given the crowd, I'll go ahead and assume he had). But what about the guy whose sign read "Welcome to 1984"? Has he read Orwell? And if so, is he aware that Orwell was a committed socialist? It would not be the first or last time that ideological inconsistency would begin to mess with my head.
Just when I was beginning to feel like I was at your run-of-the-mill Aggie class reunion, full of individuals too conservative for my taste but of reputable character, a "doctor of chiropractic" — which, I'd like to note, is about as close to being a medical doctor as playing one on television — riled up the crowd with a timeline of America going down the drain slowly, starting with Roosevelt's New Deal, worsening with the introduction of medicare and HIPAA and culminating with the hated Obamacare.
"Health and wellness does not come from having insurance. Health and wellness comes from taking personal responsibility for our health," he said, which I think will be news to those with cancer and people like my brother, who was born with cerebral palsy. This speaker, having already entirely lost my respect, ended with the classic call-out of Obama's foreign and un-American-sounding middle name. You stay classy, fake doc!
So I left, disagreeably, perhaps, but altogether relieved to revel in the normalcy of most Tea Partiers. I may not agree with them, but if they want to throw a rally against taxes in a publicly funded downtown park, I'm not going to object. Don't worry, Tea Partiers — it's still a free country.