Why are you here?
The answer may seem obvious: to protest. But protest what? After all, a lot of people in the country just don't seem to "get" the Tea Parties. Well, the Partygoers are more than happy to enlighten the country.
The Hampton Roads Patriots, who I mentioned in the last post, were there to protest excessive government taxes and spending, under both administrations. They protest the government's tendency to ignore the will of the people, and its sometimes-tyrannical tactics in pushing agendas. We all know that politicians are looking out for themselves and will do what they feel they must to keep getting elected; but who says we have to put up with that? The HRP wants Washington to pay more attention to the people than they do to their own "interests".
WeAreChangeVirginia.org, who helped organize the event, believes that Tea Parties bring together freedom-oriented people, whatever party or organization they belong to. It's a chance for us to see that we all really want the same things: freedom, responsibility, and a government that works for the people. The things that unite us are, after all, greater than the things that divide us.
A few others were there to send a message to D.C. Some want to show Washington that they're not happy with how things are going there. They want more voices out there working for our good and our liberty. They were at the Tea Party to uphold and support the principles of our Founding Fathers, the principles that make our country great: small government, a free market system, and an emphasis on individual freedom over governmental interference.
What troubles you most about the government and America today?
People at the event were definitely troubled by the government; and by the sound of things, these troubled feelings had been growing for a lot longer than eight years. There were those who felt the Constitution had been violated by interference in States' rights, intrusions on people's privacies, and a creeping socialism agenda. Specifically, people are troubled by the government's recent actions concerning Bank of America, General Motors, and other handlings of the economic crisis. One Partygoer went so far as to say that civil liberties were being trounced, instances of which have been taking place for decades without ever being properly addressed by either major party.
What troubles them about America is that we all seem to be letting it happen. The government is only supposed to operate with the consent of the governed. If this is true, then why are we letting it happen? And if it isn't true, then what's standing in the way of our changing it? Apathy, was one Partygoer's response. People need to "do their own research, and be proactive" he said. One woman was troubled by the lack of knowledge and understanding among the youth and young adults in America. Personally, I feel they're both right.
I asked Partygoers what they would say if they had one message for the country, one for the president, one for Congress, and one message for Virginia.
For the country, the message was pretty clear: "Stand up for yourselves." As one person reminded me, any group is only as free as the people in that group. Some feel that we need to return to God, others to our Founding Fathers. We all need to wake up and pay attention to what's happening. This country was founded on certain principles, and we need to reeducate ourselves as to what those principles are and just how far we've removed ourselves from them.
People had plenty of messages for President Obama and Congress. They want a limited government, a renewed commitment to uphold the Constitution, and the needs of the people to be placed above all else. One woman wants the president to remember that the United States is the best country, not one of the best. A particularly insightful young man wants the president to know that he can't expect to fix the economy by loading it with even more debt, no matter how grand or "important" his initiatives are. Another Partygoer simply wants the president and Congress to step aside and let Ron Paul run everything. For everyone in attendance, it was obvious that the two-party system hasn't been working too well for us recently, and they want everyone to abandon the old "party lines" and work together.
As for Virginia itself, which will hold statewide elections this fall including for the governorship, the Partygoers do not want us to be fooled by campaign promises. We were one of the original colonies, and have always had a place at the head of the table. We want to stay that way, too. The Partygoers want Virginians to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, including California. We need to elect leaders who will lead us to prosperity and strength, whose ideas are based on what will help the commonwealth. We need to preserve Virginia, not only as a national leader, but also as a sovereign state. Several Partygoers spoke in favor of a 10th Amendment bill in Virginia's General Assembly to remind the federal government just who has the power to do what.
I went to the Tea Party because I wanted to hear what people had to say about the direction the country is taking, and to let other people know why these protests are held. No one can deny that the country faces great challenges right now, as it always has, and everyone needs to be aware of them and involved. What troubles me most about the government is the steps it has taken to face these challenges. Whether those in power have good motives or bad ones, I believe their actions will make things worse. What troubles me about America is that we are letting them do it.
My message for the country is to remember our responsibilities. A scene in a movie, The American President, opened my eyes to this particular issue. One of the president's advisors questions the president's actions in the middle of the Oval Office. The Chief of Staff angrily declares that the president doesn't answer to him, to which the advisor replies, "Oh, yes he does ... I'm a citizen; this is my president. And in this country, it is not only permissible to question our leaders; it's our responsibility." The second half of that statement was what affected me. To have permission to question our leaders is one thing, but to be responsible for doing so is quite another. If we don't question our leaders, then we're just as responsible for their actions as they are.
As I've said many times before, when you forget about your country, your country forgets about you. The answer is to start caring what's happening, and educating yourself on what you can do to make a difference. My message for Congress and the president is the same message that I would have every American send: that we are still in charge. Of course, that message has very little meaning if we won't do what's necessary to remain in charge.
My message to Virginians is to remember the elections this fall. Forget about the rest of the country and its problems (for now). We have a great commonwealth right here that deserves our attention first. Saying that the elections are too far away to worry about now, that your vote won't matter, or that you just can't afford to get involved is exactly how the United States got into such a terrible mess in the first place. It starts with the voters, the everyday people who actually decide the elections. Get involved early; get involved now; and just maybe, by the time you get to use your vote, it will actually matter what you do. We have a chance to lead; a chance to make a difference; and a chance to fix this country. It starts right here and now with you.
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