The Tea Party last Saturday only lasted two hours, but you can certainly say a lot in that amount of time.
It was a lively crowd, too; folks wearing colonial costumes, tea bags hanging from hats and glasses, and even a fellow with a Guy Fawkes mask. There were plenty of Republicans, as you might imagine, with shirts and stickers for GOP candidates. But the image most prominently displayed, both on clothing and held in people's hands, was the American flag. These people, you see, were not just Republicans, and their protests were not just against Democrats. They were Americans, and they were there to protest against anyone and anything that they felt was harmful to America.
The event was organized by PeninsulaTeaParty.org. A few other organizations in attendance included WeAreChangeVirginia.org, a group dedicated to citizen journalism that advocates, among other things, smaller government and citizen activism; Hampton Roads Patriots, a group that protests excessive taxes and spending, expansion of government powers, and a deviation from the founding principles of the United States; advocates of various candidacies, including Chuck Smith for Congress, McDonnell for Governor, Bolling for Lieutenant Governor, and Cuccinelli for Attorney General; and a small host of others.
Most of the event was open microphone, giving the attendees the opportunity to state some of their own specific grievances against the government, under both the current and past administrations. The event began with a reading of the Declaration of Independence. What some more cynically minded people might consider a cheap stunt, others will recognize as one of the more appropriate ways to celebrate Independence Day. After all, there is not a principle or provision contained in the Declaration that does not still hold meaning for us today. I'd challenge anyone to reread the Declaration and see if they can find no statement that applies to our country's current state.
There was a wide range of issues raised there. People spoke in favor of the Fair Tax, offshore drilling, and even term limits for Congress. They spoke against government-run health care, and Cap and Trade legislation. A sign carried by one of the protesters said No More Taxation With Uninformed Representation, a reference to the recent House vote on climate change legislation before the House had time to even read through the entire bill. There was plenty of support for various pieces of legislation, such as H.R. 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act. Chuck Smith, candidate for Congress in Virginia's Second District, showed up as well. He spoke of the need to grow the economy, and not the government. "We've stood up before," he said, "and we will continue to stand up."
One story told by a speaker, though, touched me as it has every time I've heard it. A man is walking along a beach and sees that countless starfish have been stranded on the sand, washed ashore and unable to reach the ocean again. The man sees another man picking up handfuls of starfish at a time and tossing them back into the water. The first man says, "Why bother? You'll never be able to save all these starfish. What difference does it make?" The second man says, "It makes a difference to the ones I toss back." You see, many people wonder just how much of an impact their actions will have on Washington, and on the future. "What's one vote", they'll ask, or "what kind of a difference can I make". In a country with over 260 million people, it's easy to feel like there's not much that we can do. But the old adage holds true: every little bit helps.
At the close of the Tea Party, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang God Bless America. It felt good reaffirm our purpose in gathering there: to show that our loyalty is to the country, and not to any one party.
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