April 17, 2009

The 2009 Tea Parties

Do you know about the Tea Parties? You probably heard about them. I didn't go. There was one in Grand Rapids, and I thought about it... I'm frustrated with my government, and if this is a way to show it, you could probably count me in. But I like to be sure. I don't want to half-heartedly protest anything. In case, you know, some counter-protesting occurs and someone hunts me down, gets me into an argument and finds me ill-prepared to defend my presence and inherent support, and converts me to a communist. And I do not want to become a communist. So I didn't go to the Tea Parties.

Plus, I was working.

So I started to look into them. I followed a little bit of the media coverage, and sure enough: There's some counter-protesting going on. And plenty of mockery. On the surface, the tea parties are a bunch of people who are angry about tax increases, many of whom haven't seen a tax increase, probably won't for a while, and maybe never will. People at the bottom end of the tax bracket pay only a small part of the federal income tax - I've mentioned this before. So I'll admit the protesting seems a little ironic.

But I think there's more to it than tax increases. You see, there's a small chunk of people left who actually want the government to take less money and do less stuff. I count myself among them. We're fiscal conservatives who want to take care of ourselves, and we want the government to do less. But we see the government getting bigger. Yeah, I know, it started under George W. Bush. We're mad at him too.

We're mad about - I shudder at the word - bailouts. Remember when GM got too big to fail? Remember how Bank of America got too big to fail? What happens if our government gets too big to fail? The more the government does, the bigger it gets, the closer it gets to that line. People see their freedoms shrinking, and the government growing, and that's why they're getting upset.

I'm not going to sound the Socialism alarm. Maybe we're there, maybe we're not, maybe it's the worst thing ever, maybe no one's really going to care or notice in fifty years. That evaluation is far beyond me and the B I got in three credit-hours of undergraduate macroeconomics. I can't begin to tell you the basic merits and demerits of socialism, but I'm pretty sure they don't entirely jive with this wacky but unshakable idea I have that the government should do less and take less money.

My financial life is okay in this system. But it's the trajectory that bugs me. If the government is getting a little bigger today, where will it be tomorrow? In a year? In ten years? If I'm a little annoyed and curious about it, imagine how many more people are scared and angry and marginalized enough to get organized and to raise a ruckus and dump tea in the Grand River. And all over the rest of the country.

There's a significant number of people who don't feel well-represented by their government, and they have every right to protest. You can protest whatever you want. You protest when your rights erode, hopefully you start doing it before they're gone. It makes sense for people to protest a tax increase.

Naturally, they got mocked. And of course, the easiest way to make fun of tea-parties is to make a tea-bagging joke. If you don't know what that is, and you really want to know, go ask the Urban Dictionary. Suffice it to say it's an innuendo that would draw snickers from frat boys. And some of the rest of us, but only in our weaker moments. I swear. And apparently, Anderson Cooper, too. Dubbing a tea-involving protest as tea-bagging is an easy joke, a comparison expected from anonymous, edgy political bloggers and humorists like Jon Stewart. Likening a movement to a sex-act is a convenient way to devalue it. It bugs me to see otherwise professional journalists slough off a widespread, reasonable protest.

I'm amazed at the ease with which some people are laughing it off. A bunch of white, rich tea-baggers want to keep their money and they're finally raising a stink about it, right? Is someone out of touch here, though? Is it the people protesting out of concern for a government growing too big to fail? The same legion of people who choose Fox News over CNN, the ones who built the conservative talk radio audience? The wealthy ones who bear the load of the tax burden, who feel underrepresented and have reached a tipping point and are taking their frustration to the streets? Or is it the people making teabagging jokes?

From the movie Network

1 comment:

Cnossen said...

I went to the Hudsonville Tea Party.