Saturday, April 18, 2009

Column for Dane101: Tea Party Protesters Worrisome

I write a column for a local blog called Dane101, which focuses on issues pertaining to Dane County, Wisconsin. I will be posting my columns periodically on this blog as well, but do check out their site too. It's chock-full of goodies for Dane County residents. Tea Party Protesters Worrisome

This week, I partook in observing the Tea Party protest held at the state capitol building. I went as an undercover spectator; there, but not making my presence known, purposely not making any mention of my opposition to the event. It felt surreal in a way, being a liberal in a sea of conservative voices. I didn’t pay much attention to the speakers at the event; I couldn’t get a good spot. Anyway, I was on a different mission: I wanted to observe the actual participants in the protest, not the speakers but the real-life people who came seeking to make a difference.

For the most part, these protesters conducted themselves in a polite manner; I received smiles from many participants, shared a couple of laughs with others, and other niceties were exchanged between us. I was, however, sickened by a sizable amount of actors who took part in the event. Within the crowd, I saw many poster-board signs that were disturbing. One such sign described President Barack Obama as a terrorist; another called him the antichrist; still another claimed he wasn’t actually an American citizen. These accusations are all false, of course, but a good number of the protesters asked to have their pictures taken with these “patriots,” supporting their message as well as their lunacy.

In any protest, there is likely going to be fringe elements that make the overall cause look bad. I know that, at the protests I had attended while Bush was in office, I felt embarrassment at being associated with the so-called extreme elements of the left. But never did I feel that these fringe elements would do anything violent, would advocate an overthrow of the government the way that the protesters at the Tea Party did.

The Wisconsin State Journal quoted the person holding an “Obama is the Antichrist” sign as saying “[Obama] needs to go. This is his first and last warning.” As I was reading that, I began to think to myself, “What is wrong with these people? Aren’t they offended by this kind of rhetoric?” Many of these same people were offended before when others were critical of George W. Bush, like when the Dixie Chicks said they weren’t proud that he was their president. Now, with the foot in the other shoe, they celebrate the criticism, and oftentimes the more critical or more harsh, the better.

Many of the protesters, when confronted with this hypocrisy, pointed out that they didn’t support Bush’s policies or spending either. I suspect some didn’t, but in all honesty I didn’t believe most of them when they said this. If this were true, wouldn’t they have been more vocal about it in years past? And wouldn’t the left have received less critical marks from these people, who now accuse us of being socialists?

It’s admirable that a protest of this size could be formed; truly it is a sign that democracy is still a force in our country, even if those present were there under false impressions of the Obama administration as characterized by Fox News and the like. It’s also admirable to have dissenting opinions, patriotic even, and I’m not trying to say we should suppress these conservative voices. The fringe elements of the protest, however, were disturbing enough to warrant worry in anyone, liberal or conservative.

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