Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party View from a Liberal 'Christian' Journalist

The Washington Post sent their out-of-touch columnist to the Chicago Tax Day Tea Party rally to provide a skewed opinion of those Americans who are foreign to her.

-- From "'Frightened' tea party comes to Chicago" by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, The Washington Post's On Faith 4/15/10

The tea party movement held a rally in Daley Plaza today at noon. A core group of about 300-400 mostly middle and retirement aged white people listened to speeches and carried signs. "Axis of Evil--Obama, Pelosi and Reid," "Abolish the Federal Reserve," "My Favorite Marxist" [with a picture of President Obama as an alien], "Please dispose of socialism carefully," and "Reload and Repeal" as examples. Around them another circle, about half as large, more racially and ethnically diverse, with Chicago police walking between, was made up of the anti-tea party folks. They carried signs like "Teabagging = bigotry," "CHI-town is Obama country," "Support health care," and "Equal rights for Gay Americans." Anti-war signs abounded. At first glance, the whole plaza looked exactly like democracy in action.

I walked around, asking people if they'd talk to me. When I identified myself as a blogger for The Washington Post's On Faith site, quite a few of those with tea party signs or T-shirts refused to speak to me, and two men pointedly turned their backs. A couple of folks were willing to talk, however, and I spent nearly half an hour sitting on benches in the shade with an older couple from Wheaton, Ill.

. . . This couple was of retirement age. I asked them if they were on Medicaid. They both nodded. They also are on Social Security. "Aren't those big government programs?" I asked. "Well, we wish we didn't have to take this money, but we need it," the wife replied.

I asked them if they were Christians and active in their church. They assured me they were. The husband had a copy of the Constitution in his hand, so I asked him about what he thought about the Establishment clause of the first Amendment and political activity like this. "People have been brainwashed about separation of church and state," the husband assured me. "The government's plan is to get rid of religion."

. . . About an hour into the rally, there was a scuffle. I couldn't see, but the crowd became more charged. Chicago Police moved in. "What was that about?" I asked several people closer to the stage. "A guy went crazy and started shouting." "He was just a plant to make us all look crazy." This was debated among the crowd for a short while, and then things calmed down and the drone of the speeches continued.

. . . I also happened upon Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, the long-time anti-war tax resister, peace activist and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She and other anti-war folks were also protesting taxes, only because tax dollars are used to support war. . . .

I wish I could be more like Kathy Kelly, calmly witnessing for peace as the tea party unfolds around her. But I'm frightened too. I'm frightened of the undercurrent of fear that was right below the surface of Daley Plaza in Chicago today.

To read the entire column, CLICK HERE.