When my group organized its first Tea Party in April 2009, everyone knew there was the potential for some knucklehead to show up with a racist sign that would taint our entire movement. Heated arguments arose over what to do about the problem.
Some members wanted all signs banned. Others wanted a committee to review the signs, others to print the signs for the participants. But that wandered into the territory of censorship. Not only did they want to prevent racist signs from popping up (naturally enough) but they wanted control of ordinary protest signs.
No signs criticizing Obama. No signs mentioning any names. No signs that didn’t pertain to taxation. No signs that went “off-message.” No signs about “social issues.” They were demanding that a centralized theme, namely taxes, be strictly adhered to.
Taxes were certainly on everyone’s mind that day, so there was no problem regarding the theme. But I argued against telling American citizens that they couldn’t criticize their president or elected representative by name. If once we invited the public, we had no business dictating to them what they could write on their signs (though we could insist that they be clean).
Occasionally, we would get a ringer who could have been from either extreme – the Black Panthers, or The Alliance, or One Voice (a local leftist organization). Our Intervention Squad made pretty short work of him (he was carrying a rather racist anti-Obama sign).
The trick is not to let the Leftist alarmists alarm people too much about the Tea Party. Or help them do it by going too far over the edge.
I got a call from Mom today.
“Communications Department, ‘Belle’ speaking.”
“This is your mother speaking. Did you see the billboard sign out in Iowa?”
“Are you Tea Party people out of your minds?”
“I didn’t put it up, Mom. It’s out in Iowa somewhere.”
“Yes, but did you see the picture? It shows Hitler on one side and some other guy-“
“That’s right, Lenin, on the other side, with Obama in the middle. That’s crazy, comparing him with Hitler. That’s really, what do they call it? Over the edge?”
“Over the top, Mom.”
“That, too! He’s pretty bad, but he’s not Hitler. He hasn’t killed anyone.”
“I agree, Mom. It was over the top. But I didn’t put it up there. If they were going to put Obama up there, then they might as well have put FDR, LBJ and Clinton up there right alongside him. Still, while he’s not sticking anyone in ovens, his policies are an awful lot like Hitler’s socialism. It’s right there in that book you and Dad told me to read years ago, ‘Road to Serfdom’.”
“I didn’t read it. Your father did.”
“Well, he told me to read it and I did and apparently this Hayek – and Dad – were right.”
Silence. Mom never could stand to admit my father was right about anything.
“Yes, well never mind about that. All this Hitler business – it’s going to get these other people all worked up.”
“Yeah, I know. They’re already pretty worked up.”
“And then they’re going to come after you! You’re in the Tea Party! You even gave a speech.”
“That hardly anyone heard. I don’t think anyone’s going to come after me, Mom. I don’t go around carrying racist signs. In fact, I don’t carry any signs at all (although I probably should) because I’m too busy looking at everyone else’s.”
“But you don’t know who’s watching you at these Tea Party rallies. They could be standing behind some tree, taking down your name and what you’re saying. Taking your picture.”
“No one’s going to take my picture, Mom. But I’ve already caught them taking down what I’ve said. Besides, I’m already on the government’s Naughty List. What more can they do to me?”
“They could get you fired!”
“Well what if they do? I’ve already been there and done that. Don’t you remember my newspaper route when I was 13? All because I took Arty’s little friend down to the private clubhouse on the lake and he happened to be black, my lake customers got in a lather and threatened to cancel the paper if I wasn’t fired?”
“That’s what I’m talking about!! And you did lose your route! And they made threatening calls to us in the middle of the night.”
“But they were the white racists, Mom. And I didn’t lose the route because of Dwayne. I lost the route because I was a girl. I lost the route because of the sexists, not the racists. These are the black racists.”
“And you’re a Tea Party member which means they think you’re crazy – and the enemy! You’ve got to be careful! You’d better not tell anyone at work that you’re involved in the Tea Party!”
“I think it’s too late for that, Mom. They already know it. But they just seem to be brushing it off because they think I’m crazy. Besides, I don’t really talk about it beyond mentioning that I’m a member. We’re not allowed to talk about politics at work, especially not in my department.”
“Well, I’m just telling you, you’d better be careful! And come over for dinner tonight. We’re going to have pizza. Just make sure you come early because both your brothers and John [my six foot four nephew] will be there. If you come late, there won’t be anything left! The other night, they ate the entire pot of mashed potatoes and the whole steak by themselves. I only got one spoonful of potatoes and a sliver of meat.”
“That’s what you get for marrying a big German-Irishman, Mom – big sons, and big grandsons with big appetites.”
“Oh when they’re all sitting around the table, I feel like a dwarf among hulking giants, all towering above me. It’s almost scary. And they’re eating me out of house and home. They devour everything in sight.”
“Kind of like Big Government, Mom.”
“And I’m supporting these goons! I’m getting tired of taking care of them. But if I don’t feed them, they’ll get mad.”
“Well there was a time when you lifted Arty up to the ceiling when he got fresh with you and you tackled Billy when he wouldn’t cut his hair.”
“That was years ago, though. They’ve grown and I’ve shrunk. Meanwhile, you’re not getting enough to eat.”
“I can cook my own meals, Mom. And I’ll probably be cooking big pots of potatoes in the future for them, later on, probably.”
“I’ll make sure they don’t eat all the pizza up on you before you arrive.”
She did, too, but she practically had to throw herself across the pizza box to stop them from eating the last two slices. That’s what we’re doing in the Tea Party. There isn’t much pizza left, and we’ve got to throw ourselves across the boxes before the government devours what’s left of our economy – and our freedom.