GEOFF CUTLER: Just Right-Wing Zealotry, or a Reawakening Nation?
Re-enacted tea party demonstrations sprang up here and in all 50 states on Wednesday because many Americans are concerned by exploding government spending within the new administration.
Susan Roesgen, a CNN reporter, covered one of these events in Illinois. She interviewed a man holding his 2-year-old child and asked him why he had come. He began his answer with a reference to Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln's idea of liberty for the American people.
Roesgen interrupted him mid-sentence by asking, "Sir, what does this have to do with taxes?"
What does liberty have to do with taxes? It's an interesting question, one that is usually answered in middle school history class as discussion turns to the American Revolution. Perhaps Ms. Roesgen was absent that day. Or maybe her personal political leanings clouded her view to the point that belligerent questioning, without allowing for an answer, could help her prove to her audience that the event was just a bunch of right-wing kooks, working the ground for Fox News.
It wasn't surprising then, when Ms. Roesgen closed the segment by saying to the CNN anchor, "I think you get the general tenor of this thing. It's anti-government, anti-CNN, since this is highly promoted by the right-wing, conservative network, Fox."
For the purposes of this column, we can scrap the partisan nature of Ms. Roesgen's encounter with the tea-partier. There is more than enough right-left, liberal-conservative, Democrat-Republican bickering going on. Instead, let us home in on the connection between liberty and taxation.
If we have not learned, or have forgotten the founding principles that forged this great nation, if we have become so spoiled that we take for granted the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the blood that was spilled for these ideals, then we have arrived at a very dangerous crossroads. If apathy reaches a point in democratic nations that its citizens do not understand, revere and defend that nation's founding principles, then that nation is ripe for a fall. History has revealed this time and again.
There is nothing healthier than the back-and-forth of leadership in America. Republicans win, then Democrats win, and sometimes a party will take all three legislative branches, and that's OK. But something has changed this time, and Americans can sense it. Something isn't right.
So, not a hundred days into this new administration, thousands of us have already gathered and called for a return to the founding ideals: smaller federal government, limited taxation, protection of our borders, and freedom to pursue happiness by individual labor, faith and discipline. These are the fundamental tenets that separate us from other countries. Because of them, we fairly claim greatness.
Some would ignore these demonstrations as right-wing loonies who want Obama to fail. But the people who gathered on April 15 represented all political affiliations and ethnicities. They re-affirmed the same things our forefathers said before them.
Right-wing loonies did not push back at the British in Lexington and Concord. Conservatives didn't toss tea into Boston Harbor, and it wasn't the "far right" who dropped their hoes, their sewing needles, or their hammers to join George Washington at Cambridge.
These were simple Americans, fired up over punitive taxation and tyranny, and they were willing to fight for the impossible dream of freedom, and unlikely victory in their new land.
If we're unsure what these demonstrations are all about, if we don't understand the connection between liberty and taxation, it's probably past time to put down the cell phones, shut off "American Idol," get off Facebook, and revisit our founding documents.
It wouldn't hurt to try some contemporary books on the American Revolution. "Washington's Crossing" by David Hackett Fischer, "1776" by David McCullough or "Almost A Miracle" by John Ferling eloquently remind us that the distinguishable freedoms we enjoy as Americans did not come easily, nor are they to be taken lightly.
It's time to put aside our party affiliations, our biases, and our anger for a moment and rediscover what we have to lose by increased government control, runaway spending, high taxes and bureaucratic rules and regulations that would choke us. It is time we insist that our teachers shelve their opinions and teach our kids American history based on the facts, so that we don't have confusion about why liberty and taxation go hand in hand.
If some of us have seen fit to demonstrate for the same principles that ultimately separated us from England, it is beyond time to wonder why.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines. He writes for Pinestraw Magazine under the heading "Thoughts From the Manshed."
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