When April 15th rolled around, I really wanted to attend one of those tea parties, but alas, it was a payroll day and 65 people were relying on me to get their checks on time. A huge gathering was held on the state capitol steps in Lansing, and of course, there are always the rabble-rousing usual suspects in front of the Royal Oak Post Office, as well as in Troy, Plymouth and elsewhere.
Even though I couldn’t make it to any of the gatherings, I was there in spirit. Why? Well, if you must know, there were several reasons.
It’s not because I’m rich and don’t want to pay taxes. The operative word is “rich” which we are definitely not, especially in the contracting economy that is present-day Michigan. Okay, I’ll admit it: I don’t really want to pay taxes. If truth be told, nobody really wants to pay taxes; do you? My employees don’t want to pay taxes, and many of them don’t. I imagine that even the very patriotic Joe Biden doesn’t really want to pay taxes. What do you want to bet he has the most competent CPA around to make sure he takes advantage of any loophole he can find?
Taxes are inevitable. I don’t mind paying taxes if we can see a return on investment. If we pay a heavy gas tax, I do not want to travel on roads that are so pocked with potholes it makes four-wheeling over the Rockies look like a Sunday drive. I don’t want to see our non-elected or elected bureaucrats unreachable by phone every Friday because they have decided to take the weekly afternoon off.
I don’t want to see my tax dollars going toward the corrupt activities of our elected officials, to fund their family members or friends. I certainly do not want my tax dollars to go to pork projects that are in essence make-work for some and rewards for a few. Wastefulness? I’m against it. Fiscal responsibility and common sense? I’m for it.
The original Boston Tea Party was about taxation without representation, and in a way, so were the 2009 tea parties. I feel less than represented by my state senator Debbie Stabenow when I write to her expressing my concerns in reasonable language and her response is always the same boilerplate form letter. “Thanks anyway for your interest, but I’m doing what I want to do.” As much as she wants to think so, she does not represent ME.
Dissent is a good thing. I protested the Vietnam War even as my father was fighting it. When people are concerned about an issue, they absolutely should gather together and protest. It’s the rain that gets the grassroots to grow. Peaceful protest is what this country is all about, starting from the Boston Tea Party and traveling through the causes of the Abolitionists, women’s suffrage and the Civil Rights movement.
Imagine my dismay when I learn from the media that anyone who participated in or supported the 2009 tea parties are just rich, right-wing, white male nut jobs. Add to that laundry list a passel of negative adjectives: anti-government, viewer of Fox News, Republican, militia minded, beer-drinking, racist, Obama-hating yahoos. The protesters were accused of being the zombies of such national figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Such stereotypes were popular among the mainstream media, who did everything humanly possible to diss the events of the day.
Here’s one person who wishes to dispute the charges of any liberals who might think I am in actuality a rich, right-wing, white male nut job hiding behind the guise of a middle-aged woman. Rich? No. Right wing? No. White, male, beer-drinking, redneck? No, no, no and no.
Governor Jennifer Granholm missed the point of the protests entirely when she commented that the majority of the activists who attended Wednesday's gatherings were "being useful idiots of the far right." It turns out she wasn't alone in her opinion.
The "news" reporting was interwoven with plenty of opinion. Not since the announcement of Sarah Palin as VP pick have I seen so many so-called reporters so apoplectic.
Enter the sorry coverage from CNN's Susan Roesgen, who was openly antagonistic to what seemed to me to be reasonable peaceful protesters. Perhaps she wanted to make a name for herself, or maybe she was angry for not getting a Fox News gig. Or maybe she wants a cabinet position?
But her inflammatory exchange was just the tip of the iceberg. NBC 4 in Washington DC posted a fake Tea Party protest which was quickly outed. ABC's Charles Gibson played down the events, devoting an entire two minutes worth saccharine reporting to Tea Party events. In his report, President Obama ignored the masses and brushed off the demonstrations as normal tax day frustrations, promising a simplification of the tax code for next year. CBS was by far the "fairest" in covering but is still proclaiming the events were engineered by Republicans.
This spotty and substandard reporting by the mainstream media when, on the other hand, Fox News devoted its entire April 15 programming to various tax day protests was the reason the "conservative" news network demolished their cable news opponents in the ratings that day.
Several liberal web sites have dismissed the en masse showing of close to a million people as overestimated in numbers, anti-Obama, and denigrated the participants as either stupid and redneck or rich and Republican. The comment sections of such web sites as MSNBC, the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos are troubling to say the least.
It left me to wonder what our colleges are teaching in journalism classes these days. Instead of presenting the events as they occurred, some reporters chose to be the focus of the event. Others sought out the most wacko of the dissenters in order the paint the entire gathering with the same brush. Opinions are fine to have, I have many myself. Just be honest and label them as such.
Here is what I saw: for the most part, these protests were made up of normal men, women and children, the kind of people who might be my neighbors. Their reasons for attending might have differed, some choosing to go to protest the tax situation, or the ridiculous runaway government spending, while others were there to express their dismay at the direction our country is taking. I’m sure that all of them would be equally miffed to find out they are all “rich, right-wing white male nut jobs.” In actuality, it was a mixed bag. Some were Democrats, some were Republicans; some, like me, had alliances to neither party.
America is (or used to be) more than that. Dissent is an intrinsic part of our heritage. Just think where we would be without it. What about the abolitionists? Were they wrong to question the institution of slavery? What of the suffragettes? Were they all just bitchy women loosened from their 'place' as the chattel of man? Or those in the Civil Rights movement? Were they just uppity colored folk? I think not.
In addition, the First Amendment right of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech needs to be protected, no matter what side you are on. So you don't believe it? Don't listen. This is America, where you're entitled to your beliefs. Unlike the situation in other countries, if you are pissed off and feel disenfranchised, this country allows for steam to be let off.
Maybe I'm naive, but I don't get the hysteria over differing points of view. It's only by examining all sides of an issue that we have the knowledge to proceed with dignity and intelligence.
The events of the day deserve fair reportage, whether it is for or against one idea or the other. Even a journalism major dropout like me could see that there were as many differing reasons for the Tea Parties as there were different kinds of people. The media does itself a grave disservice when it lumps everyone who questions the judgment of our government and puts all of us in the same basket.
I’m off to break the bad news to my husband. He doesn't know it, but he’s married to a rich, right-wing, white male nut job.