Townhalls, Tea Parties, and Tolerance

The tea parties and town hall meetings are a sign of a soft revolution in this country. crossroad  We are not a coup d’etat population or a banana republic that organizes guerilla warfare squads for insurrection. Truly, we are better than that, more civilized than that. What we are is educated and civilized enough to engage the political class in all three branches of government that have become increasingly more arrogant and condescending toward the non-political class.

It’s fascinating to watch the planned implosion of a derelict building by demolition professionals. It’s not so fascinating to witness the same thing when it involves something of lasting worth in which you have a vested interest. Some would say we are seeing this unfold before our eyes as we watch the civic fervor surrounding the message of change coming out of Washington. It’s really not about taxes, health care, debt, or deficits. While they all weigh into the equation, the picture is bigger than that. At the center of the picture are rival perspectives of what made this country great and what some feel the need to apologize for, American individualism versus village collectivism, class and identity warfare, and bickering political factions that seem more willing to pander, obfuscate and redefine than they are willing to listen and represent the ones they work for.  The epicenter of this earthquake may be in D.C. but the national fallout is happening in the heartland.

This didn’t happen overnight and Barack Obama is not solely to blame. One person or political party can’t be blamed for this but rather a bipartisan political class that has systematically snubbed their constituents and the constitutional rule book for the last 50 years. It has crept up on us for decades, but the speed has increased dramatically over recent months. It has now reached such speed and proportion that we have trouble remembering what life was like “before”. The future, as it is now being designed by the smartest guys in the room appears intolerable by daily growing masses that were once content or apathetic enough to remain silent. They are awake now and as they connect the dots of what hope and change will really look like, they have some pretty pointed questions and opinions that those with the answers don’t necessarily like to hear. This wasn’t supposed to happen and the political class find themselves in deep water as they discount the passion of those making noise.

They aren’t of a specific social, religious, political, or economic class. They aren’t activists on 15 minute alert for the next phone call to join somebody’s cause. They are organized only by their shared perspective, emotion, and threshold for tolerance. In the past they have been asked to be compassionate, generous, understanding, respectful, law abiding, color blind, and class un-conscious. In return they have been robbed, taken for granted, marginalized, forgotten, viewed with arrogance, contempt, intolerance, and disrespect.

We’re at a crossroad.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free”.                                (Ronald Reagan, 30 March 1961)

In 2009, our republic as it was debated and designed by the Founders, is in a fight for its soul. We’ve been here before. Counting Woodrow Wilson and FDR, one can make a good argument that we have waged similar fights twice in just the 20th century. The great social, religious, political, and economic experiment that was crafted 233 years ago in Philadelphia has been compromised at every turn by enlightened ones who think that what their forefathers sprinted from in Europe would now suit us much better now. Meanwhile, global superpower wannabes with evil intent relish our demise.

The tea parties and townhall meetings are a sign of a soft revolution in this country. We are not a coup d’etat population or a banana republic that organizes guerilla warfare squads for insurrection. Truly, we are better than that, more civilized than that. What we are is educated and civilized enough to engage the political class in all three branches of government that have become increasingly more arrogant and condescending toward the non-political class. Forget party affiliation; these are demonstrations about representation, direction, expectations, accountability, credibility, integrity, and a specific sense of purpose on the part of our elected leaders in whom we have become increasingly distrustful. 

It is all the more disturbing, if not dangerous to hear those same political leaders from two of our three branches of government call these activities disingenuous, irrational, astroturf, and rabble rousing while describing fellow Americans as Nazi’s, fascists, corporate pawns, and shills. Ironically, when organized labor groups, Code Pink, ACORN, MoveOn, et al conduct such activities their behavior is framed in terms of patriotism, passion, and healthy democracy.

The current administration has made a critical error in interpreting their personal popularity, eloquence, and organizational skills as a line of credit to slice and dice the infrastructure of America as we know it. The White House and Congress now have to deal with fundamental democratic resistance to their ideology that will only become louder, more aggressive, and proportionally more unmanageable if they are allowed unfettered access to enact their progressive agenda. This will become increasingly more difficult as onerous details emerge and their respective poll numbers continue to sink. 

How much tolerance do Americans have for change of this size? The tea parties and town hall meetings may be a very dramatic indicator that their threshold has been met.

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