Saturday, July 4, 2009

The right way to celebrate independence: in protest

There was a fair-sized crowd at the 4th of July Tea Party event I attended this morning. For those who don't know, Tea Parties are peaceful political protests in the mold of the original Boston Tea Party. Folks from all over the United States gather to share their dissatisfaction and at times their anger at the actions of both major political parties. They have much to be angry about. Hardly anything has gone right over the last eight years, with the exception of the fact that we haven't been attacked on American soil once since 9/11. The size of government has increased, the national debt has gone up, we're still fighting in the Middle East, and rogue nations have only grown bolder. Americans certainly have much to protest.

In fact, many would say, and have said, that today we have more reason to protest than ever, despite all the "hope and change" we've been promised. Some of those "many" gathered today for another round of Tea Parties in over a thousand cities and towns across the country. Yours truly attended his first today, and this series of blogs is dedicated to the people who stood together today to tell our leaders "you still work for us". The next couple of blogs will address what some of the speakers at the event had to say, as well as including a few interviews with attendees. This first blog is about a few of the signs that I read while at the Tea Party and what they mean to me.

The only stimulus I need is liberty.

That was the first sign I read after I arrived. It had several meanings, I felt, and so much significance to it. On the surface, it would seem to just be a protest against the stimulus bill that Congress passed (and the one that some in Washington are talking about passing). It would also seem to be a slap against those who would try to remove, reduce, or replace our liberties. After all, every time a new law is passed, it places a new limit on the people. (Let's all hope our lawmakers keep that firmly in mind.)

But let's look deeper into that statement. Not only has the promise of liberty driven suffrage, the Civil Rights movement, and the Revolutionary War itself, but actual liberty has given us a country where business may grow without the interference of the government. While at the Tea Party, I saw several signs against socialism, but even more against taxes. In the stimulus bill that was passed last spring, a majority of Americans were given a tax cut, but only a temporary one. Now politicians are talking about raising taxes on just about everything that Americans use, from gasoline and electricity to soda pop. Will this pay for the massive new programs the government is proposing? Maybe, maybe not; but it certainly won't stimulate the economy.

To do that, we need less government involvement, not more. We need the government to stop taking over American companies. We need the government to stop dictating how those businesses can and cannot be run. We need to pay attention to states like Texas, who have seen businesses thrive in an income tax-free environment; also to states like California, where the cost of doing business is so high that the whole state is on the verge of total economic collapse. There's definitely a lesson to be learned in the contrast.

I'm in debt and I'm still in middle school.

I saw a small group of teenagers holding this sign early in the protest. It gave me hope that they were already taking an interest, not only in government, but in their futures as well. It also brought to mind the fact that this country is already bankrupt, and it still can't stop spending money by the billions. A few months ago, the president presented a budget proposal to Congress. Independent analysts confirmed that, under the president's plan, the deficit would at the very least double from what it is now. All the debt that we had at the end of President Bush's term, all the leftover debt that we hadn't paid from President Clinton's days, it would all double under President Obama's plan. Since presenting it, of course, there have been some modifications to the plan; and of course, we haven't even addressed the cost of his health care initiatives. What are those costs, you ask, and how has his proposal been modified? I'm not going to tell you. It's time for you to find out on your own.

Which brings me to the next protest sign:

If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

What is the government doing right now? Do you know? When do you first hear about the laws that Congress passes? While they're still being debated in the chambers; when the votes are taken and the president signs them into law; or do you wait until it directly affects you, which every law eventually does? Of course, at that point, it's far too late. All you can do then is start working to change the law. Trust me, it's far easier to work to stop a law than it is to change it once it's been passed.

There is plenty in Washington to be outraged about. When a president says he doesn't want to take over a company, but does anyway, that's a cause for outrage. When Congress says it wants everyone to have health care, but they'll fine any and everyone who chooses not to have it, that's a cause for outrage. When one person's tax dollars go to pay other people's mortgages, government reports are suppressed because they could damage an agenda, laws are written that would dramatically increase the tax burden on Americans and American business without even being read by those voting on them, or politicians use knowledge of the laws they are about to write in order to make obscene profits, the people have cause to be furious with the government.

What do you know about what's happening in Washington? When was the last time you read a bill that was under consideration? When was the last time you asked and got an answer about what those proposed laws would mean to you and your children? How much money is Congress spending? How much money will it bring in, and how will it do that?

People look to the government for solutions; but how many solutions do you really want it to provide? As a missionary for my church, when I was asked why God allows suffering, I would respond: "When you're learning how to walk, you fall a lot. You may even get hurt and cry. But if you never fall, then how will you learn to get back up afterwards?" We cannot let the government solve our problems. As Thomas Jefferson warned us, his words repeated on yet another protester's sign, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have." Strong words; and he would know.

I'm grateful to live in a country where speech is free, so I can stand up and say what troubles me about the government. I'm grateful to have a system in place that provides options for opposing that government without having to start a war. We've already had one war for independence in America, a war that called for countless sacrifices. I feel that we best show our gratitude for those sacrifices by exercising those freedoms so dearly priced and purchased. I exercised mine today.

How will you exercise yours?

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