Not long after my kids and I found our usual parking space near the Union Station did I realize there was something a bit different going on. Sure, protests are a regular occurrence on the Mall, but there were more people carrying signs than usual. I took a glance at one which read "Liberty Over Tyranny. Take your Damn hands off my healthcare!"
And then it hit me: I had accidentally ended up at a Tea Party!
The weather was nice yesterday, and one of my favorite places to take in the sun on such a day is the National Mall. There's plenty of wide open spaces for my two sons to run until they get tired and conk out for a nap. The splendor of all the monuments, and museums, and people, and assorted stuff just makes this a great place to burn a few hours. So, I packed the kids in the SUV, and headed downtown, giving my wife an empty house for the afternoon.
Not long after we found our usual parking space near the Union Station did I realize there was something a bit different going on. Sure, protests are a regular occurrence on the Mall, but there were more people carrying signs than usual. I took a glance at one which read "Liberty Over Tyranny. Take your damn hands off my healthcare!"
And then it hit me: I had accidentally ended up at a Tea Party!
Sure, I'm acutely aware that with HC Reform nearing a vote this weekend, folks would be gearing up for a last ditch effort. But I hadn't banked on these opponents of the bill taking over the Capitol and ruining what would otherwise be a great day out with my kids. Since I was out there on Daddy Time, and not as a blogger, it would have been quite easy to just pack up and leave, or head in the other direction toward the museums. But of course, morbid curiosity and general amusement about TeaBaggers overrode common sense. I pointed that double stroller toward the Capitol.
We were joining the Tea Party!
Here's some totally random, mostly unrelated observations from the 30 of so minutes I could tolerate before taking my impressionable children elsewhere:
"Go Back To Africa!" - As we were crossing Constitution headed toward the Capitol where the "rally" was taking place, the Obama motorcade just so happened to be headed up to the Hill for what I found out later was a well publicized meeting with Congressional Democrats. So, as the 20 deep delegation of black Tahoes sped by, TeaBaggers quickly ran to the curb (seriously, imagine a few hundred people running and wielding signs.) to serenade the most hated Negro this side of Barry Bonds. And like magic the "Go Back To Africa!" chants just materialized out of thin air. It was totally predictable, but still a little freakish.
Crowd Control - The crowd, as you might guess, was overwhelmingly white, and by appearances, not very well to do financially. Lots of mullets. Lots of misspelled signs. Lots of American Flag dress shirts. Lots of West Virginia license plates. I'm not saying this looked like a casting call for Deliverance 2: Revenge Of The MouthBreathers, but it was pretty damn close. It also wasn't all that big, when you consider the stakes. Perhaps the TeaBaggers have just resigned themselves to the fact that they're going to have to accept not getting denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, and not having their healthcare premiums continue to skyrocket. Either that, or it was simply too pretty a day to be worried about ObamaCare. Despite what Fox News might say to the contrary, there were no more than a couple thousand people there at best.
Not Many Black Folks - I know what you're thinking: how many other black folks did you see amongst the TeaBaggers? Honestly, I only saw one person whom I would consider a protester, because she had a sign. There were lots other black folks just milling about, taking the whole thing in just like I was, but it was pretty easy to tell they were also locals who stumbled upon this spectacle and wanted to observe out of morbid curiosity. I fact, I'd say at least 1/4 of the folks on the Hill were either clueless tourists, locals, or gawkers.
"We're Not Here For This, Lady." - Just because I was there with my kids out of curiosity didn't mean the TeaBaggers could tell. A black man pushing two kids in a double stroller on the Capitol lawn probably does look like a protester to a casual outsider, and as such, I was frequently given thumbs up, smiled at, and otherwise looked at as a welcome token. For a brief moment, I wondered if this was what it felt like to be Ward Connerly. Once I unpacked the kids, and we sat down for our picnic on the Capitol grounds, a real-life Peggy Hill looking woman who was sitting under a tree behind us waved her hands to get my attention. She motioned to my toddlers, and asked me "Do they know what they're here for?" I was a little puzzled at first, then I realized she was asking me if I'd explained to my kids that I was also against the tyranny of ObamaCare. I said, "We're not for this, lady. We live here. I'm not for this protest. I think these protesters are misinformed and voting against their own self-interests." She looked at me like I'd just entered her puppy in a dogfight. She didn't speak to me anymore. Her loss.
"Kill The Bill!!!" - When we finished eating and were ready to go, I decided to roll up closer to the steps of the Capitol, where the actual protest was taking place. No sooner than we approached the crowd, they in unison started chanting "Kill The Bill!" and the protesters started marching toward the other side of the Capitol, presumably near where Obama was meeting with Congress. I'm no punk, but when a couple thousand angry folks are marching towards you yelling "KILL! KILL! KILL!", it's probably time to leave. So we did.
Despite reports that members of Congress were spat on, and called n*ggers and f*ggots, I didn't witness any of this firsthand. For the most part, the Tea Party protesters I encountered were mostly courteous, and gladly moved out the way as I maneuvered my stroller through the crowd. And while I completely disagree with these folks, and find them comically misinformed, reality is, what they're doing is as American as apple pie.
Lets face it: isn't it great that we live in a country where folks can be manipulated by millionaire talk hosts to vote against their own economic self-interests? But that's the way the founding fathers and the slaves who cooked their pancakes would have wanted it. One man's Tea Party is another man's anti-war protest, is another man's pro-immigration rally. It's all Democracy, whether or not you agree with the intent.
Instead of making fun of these folks, we should be grateful we live in a country where they're allowed an opposing opinion, no matter how idiotic it might sound.
God Bless America.
Question: Assuming HealthCare reform passes, will we have heard the last of the TeaBaggers, or is this just the start of a full-blown American revolution?!?