On September 12, 2009, I took part in the largest anti-big-government demonstration in the history of mankind. To borrow an expression from Joe Biden, the Taxpayers' March on Washington was clean and articulate. It was clean because over a million earners of American wealth didn't litter or destroy things and generally behaved as responsible property owners - as opposed to leftist protesters who often act as unwelcome gatecrashers. Once again the political class was reminded who really owns the place, only this time the owners were adamant about it, articulating over and over in a million voices directed at the Capitol, "We own the dome!"
For three days Washington was filled with friendly, cheerful working people, easily identifiable by their American flags and their shirts, pins, and signs with clever, heartfelt messages on them. If one were to judge this nation by the people walking the streets of its capital that weekend, one might surmise that America was inhabited by highly rational, creative, positive, responsible, and engaging individuals. Unfortunately, on most other days Washington exemplifies the opposite, misrepresenting this nation in every sense of the word.
My friends and I arrived from New York by car on Thursday the 10th, just in time to catch a sight at which to marvel: hundreds of doctors and nurses waving hand-made posters and chanting slogans in opposition to the government takeover of health care. Protesting in a park facing the Capitol building, medical professionals offered a resounding second opinion about the health of national medical care, with speaker after speaker exposing Obama's proposal as malpractice.
Doctors had a better prescription: tax reform, tort reform, and allowing patients to purchase health insurance across state lines - a combination of measures that would save $120 billion every year without government rationing. Their rally received no coverage whatsoever in the "mainstream" media.
In the not-so-distant past, whenever George W. Bush introduced a new policy or visited a foreign country, the media disproportionately focused on even the tiniest of accompanying protests. Often journalists barely mentioned the summit's topic or the agreements resulting from it. They apparently believed their job was to inform the world that Bush was screamed at by a heckler in Australia, or that a deranged London grandmother climbed the gate of the Buckingham Palace to protest U.S. policies. Media types rationalized it by claiming that reporters have always preferred to cover protests over what was actually being protested.
Obama's ascendancy changed that. As if re-enacting Orwell's novel 1984, the media might just as well claim that it has always ignored anti-administration protests. As a result, the qualified opinions of hundreds of protesting doctors from across the country are, all of a sudden, less worthy of coverage than a single anti-Bush heckler of the previous eight years.
Fortunately, my friend El Marco was there to cover the doctors' rally for his photo-journalist blog LookingAtTheLeft.com. We spent the evening in our hotel watching him prepare his photo essay, occasionally throwing in a line or two. By next morning, his story with fantastic pictures had been picked up by a number of major political blogs.
On Friday we joined a patriotic rally outside Walter Reed Army Hospital. Several hundred people - generations of veterans and ordinary citizens like us - waved American flags and signs on four crowded street corners at the main hospital entrance. We cheered buses with wounded soldiers returning from complimentary dinners at a local restaurant.
The rally was organized by FreeRepublic.com as a counter-protest to the weekly anti-military, anti-U.S. vigil staged at the hospital entrance by the radical group Code Pink. For years, the leftists have congregated on that spot with their nonsensical signs in an attempt to demoralize the heroic young men and women, and to add insult to injury, try to convince the wounded troops that they volunteered for an evil war and their service was not for a just cause. Our much more numerous pro-troops rally was encouraged by constant honking from passing motorists.
We quartered in a boutique hotel a few blocks north of the Capitol. It's named The Liaison, which must be a politically correct term for the lobbying harlotry that dominates Washington culture with its evasive lingo. This weekend, however, the language spoken in the lobby, the corridors, and the elevators was the straight talk of independent people exchanging rational views and informed opinions. Teaching Washington a lesson in honesty that can only be found among free and self-reliant individuals, they expressed themselves readily, clearly, and effectively - without hushed voices and glances behind the shoulder out of fear that their words might be taken out of context, blown out of proportion, and misconstrued as hate speech.
In an elevator we met a family wearing red "Tea Party Patriots" buttons. The twelve-year-old daughter was holding a couple of surprisingly hefty tomes. Her parents proudly mentioned that on their way to Washington they had finished reading the Federalist Papers together.
One can only imagine that this is what Washington and the rest of the country might look like if the original Jeffersonian trend had not been brutalized by the modern influx of leftist ideologies. In a way, the tea party movement is an effort to revive America's classic libertarian tradition. That ideal appears to be pretty much out of place in today's political culture. Even as I'm writing this, the "mainstream" media is dismissing the starry-eyed tea partiers as close-minded racist bigots. In print, on radio waves, and on TV screens, champions of the "liberal" racket are writing off the tea party protests as a shameful inability of white America to accept a black president - as if the desire of individual liberty has anything to do with skin color and as if there exists a race of people that, in the long run, gains anything from a government tyranny.
The extent to which tea parties are being rejected by the media and cultural establishments can be used as a yardstick to measure the damage done by the leftist penetration of America's institutions.
Even the refreshing presence of tea partiers failed to sanitize the sleaze of our hotel's perfectly shiny lounge with its pretentious, larger-than-life portrait of Barack Obama slotted between the portraits of Gandhi, Nehru, and a handful of other world leaders. The only U.S. president deemed worthy to adorn The Liaison, Obama smiled enigmatically from the dark canvas, as his piercing eye surveyed the rebellious taxpayers gathering at the Hyatt Regency across the street.
The much larger and friendlier Hyatt was bustling with activities. It seemed to be a tea party headquarters, with a welcoming "Tea Party Express" sign at the entrance, crowds in patriotic T-shirts, and buses depositing one group of protesters after another. That evening the Hyatt was hosting a busy sign-making event in a spacious conference room downstairs, which eventually transformed into a boisterous celebration inside the hotel's airport-sized lobby.
All TV screens at the bar and the seating area were tuned to Fox News, as hundreds of upbeat marchers mingled excitedly with a drink in one hand and a poster board in the other, conversing in a jovial manner with complete strangers as if they were old friends, and proudly exhibiting their freshly made signs.
The space at the adjacent liquor bar was so jammed with people that the patrons had to hold their signs high above their heads so they wouldn't be crushed. As a result the bar crowd looked like an agitated political rally, only it wasn't going anywhere in particular. Their undisputed leader was the bartender, who provided the logistics for their progress towards the common goal of getting smashed, which seemed to be the only clearly defined agenda. The participants proactively worked on the advancement of that objective, while at the same time raising everyone else's awareness of the issues.
The dreamlike effect could be best summed up with the sign "Government off our backs now," which kept popping up against the rows of colorful liquor bottles. It was the most surreal drinking party I have ever seen. It was also the friendliest and most relaxed.
On Saturday morning September 12, protesters started gathering at Freedom Plaza two blocks away from the White House, eventually filling the whole of Pennsylvania Avenue all the way to the Capitol.
At about the same time President Obama fled Washington to seek reassurance and support from union organizers in Pittsburgh. The president's helicopter reportedly flew over the gigantic crowd, offering him an eyeful of America's reaction to his statist agenda - something to mull over on the way to the AFL-CIO Convention.
I was walking all day, taking pictures with my big Sony camera and trying to get to every corner of the gigantic rally.
The People's Cube signs and shirts were visible in the crowd and I faithfully documented that.
The level of wit, creativity, and theatrics was overwhelming. If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider my tea party gallery an epic novel.
As I stopped to chat with the protesters, people shared with me their joy over the spirit of love, connectedness, and camaraderie that seemed to be sweeping the rally. Maybe not in these exact words, but their tone and lit-up faces suggested that much. No doubt the event was unprecedented.
"It's like Woodstock, only without the smell," one man quipped, referring to the massive euphoria that allegedly overcame the three hundred thousand stoned attendees of the 1969 rock festival. That, of course, is more of a myth fabricated by counter-culture marketing entrepreneurs. It can't be real because nothing real is gained by escaping reality, especially with the help of drugs and outlandish psychobabble. Real love and connectedness can't be achieved through theft, destruction of private property, and indiscriminate sex with strangers in the mud - all of which was typical of Woodstock.
At this tea party, however, the legendary euphoric spirit was real. Apparently, to experience it in a sober, secular setting is an opportunity open only to those who live by their minds and adhere to true human values.
When I first visited America nineteen years ago, I spent a few months moving around the Bay Area near San Francisco, caught up in the company of the aging Woodstock types - mostly because I didn't know better. The locals on whom I had counted to help me understand this country, appeared to have been suffering, as I now understand it, from various stages of "progressivism." Instead of revealing America's positive essence that is central to its culture, they obscured it by emphasizing the negative, the non-essential, and the peripheral.
I couldn't understand why these people, while themselves reaping the benefits of American freedom and prosperity, were trying to dampen my instinctive enthusiasm for it. But this was how they really felt: despite having focused their lives on satisfying every fleeting physical and psychological whim, they remained thoroughly unhappy people.
I left California just as confused as I had been when I arrived. Before going back to the USSR, I took a Greyhound bus to Fort Worth, Texas, where I had a pen pal of several years. As my stars would have it, my arrival coincided with the Fourth of July celebration. I don't quite remember how I got into the middle of a Texas patriotic parade, but I ended up sitting in the passenger seat of a big classic convertible slowly moving along the parade route, lined on both sides by happy, festive people who unabashedly celebrated their independence, freedom, prosperity, and a positive attitude towards life. That was when pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place and I was finally able to see the essence of this country that makes it so unique. Not only were these people free; they knew the cost of their freedom, appreciated its benefits, were willing to defend it, and rightfully made it into the most important celebration of the year. The Bay Area crowd turned out to be merely an anomaly.
The only parades I had previously attended were the semi-mandatory Soviet demonstrations. Forget convertibles. Even if they had existed and were privately owned, driving one in a parade would have required a special authorization by a panel of party, state, and union officials. In Soviet parades, faceless masses obediently and unthinkingly shuffled along with bland party-approved posters handed to them by official organizers, robotically repeating chants on cue from the official loudspeaker, in a half-hearted celebration of collectivism and its ultimate manifestation: the absolute power of the state over the individual.
Such parades were meant to demonstrate our supposedly boundless loyalty and gratitude to the government and the party for taking care of all our basic needs in exchange for our freedom to take care of ourselves. Of course, the supposedly "free" government services turned out to be rationed and meager, but we were told that in America, most people didn't have even that. Such assurances did little to cure the pandemic of depression and alcoholism.
On that Fourth of July in Texas, the sight of genuinely free people willingly and cheerfully celebrating their freedom restored my faith in humanity and its future. It did more good to my confused soul than any psychotherapy could ever accomplish. This was roughly what I told the local reporter who interviewed me after the parade. I'm not sure he understood my accented English at the time, but he did catch the reference to therapy. The next day the local paper reported that the neighborhood parade was attended by a Soviet visitor who called the experience "therapeutic."
Four years later I immigrated to the United States. Since then I have gone through a few more transformative experiences, including witnessing the attacks on the World Trade Center from only a block away. And there I was at the tea party in Washington, myself protesting the infringements on American freedoms and reliving my earlier "therapeutic experience," only this time on a much higher level.
Many of the tea partiers had reportedly taken up protesting for the first time. Never before had they felt the need to raise their voices in the face of political adversity. Times do change, don't they? My guess is that their experiences of standing shoulder to shoulder with over a million like-minded Americans in defense of liberty were in some ways similar to what I had felt at my first Fourth of July celebration - and that it was just as "therapeutic."
Throughout the rally I couldn't help but draw comparisons with the leftist demonstrations I had witnessed in San Francisco, New York, Washington, and Denver. While the formal methods were similar, they were two completely different species. The differences in slogans, attitudes, behaviors, and appearances were obvious. But these were all superficial symptoms stemming from a major philosophical divide, which I was trying to formulate.
While the leftists like to emphasize "diversity," they invariably end up with conformity. Underneath the publicized melodrama of skin colors and accents, there always lies an ideological sameness of phony speech codes and received opinions that change with the "party line." The leftist demagogues have learned to exploit the superficial theatrics to expand their power in the name of "minorities." But in the words of Ayn Rand, the smallest minority is the individual; one cannot claim to be a defender of minorities if one restricts the individual rights that are essential to genuine diversity.
From what I have seen, this tea party consisted of people of many races, accents, and origins, who varied in their religious beliefs, immigration status, and political affiliations. I spoke with people who were Puerto Ricans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Native Americans, and African Americans. I spoke with those who were atheists and those who were gay. I met a group of Spanish-speaking Cuban women, who carried a large anti-Obama poster. It was a poster that I had designed based on El Marco's idea during last year's election. The women didn't know who I was or that it came from the People's Cube website; they just happened to like the poster.
I later shared my water bottle with a Serbian woman dressed in colonial costume with an American flag over her skirt. She carried several Ron Paul signs, including one that said, "Gun control means using both hands." She spoke English with a strong accent but knew enough Russian to have a meaningful conversation. I didn't care much for Ron Paul but I sure was glad she was with us.
What brought all these different folks together was their love of freedom. They recognized the danger posed by encroaching big government tyranny and acknowledged a need for action. But that's where the similarities ended. These people weren't used to speaking in unison. There were no predictable pious clichés or standardized hypocritical speech codes typical of leftist protests. Underneath all the masquerade, the accents, and other superficial attributes, the essential qualities of the million-plus tea partiers were what the term "diversity" used to mean originally, before the collectivist left pulled a racist bait-and-switch scheme and repackaged the term to denote a purely biological and tribal belonging with no regard to our individual minds, liberties, and ambitions.
Speaking of racism, it would never have occurred to me to count the number of non-whites in attendance. It's what leftists do to score points in a phony game of "open-mindedness" that is popular among white snobs. But next time, I may be forced to do just that, if only to debunk the absurd allegation that the tea party movement is built on white racism. I didn't look for black people in the rally; they were simply standing there with their signs when I was passing by with my camera.
They didn't come there as a token "minority group," nor did they stand apart "representing" their race. Each one of them showed up as an individual, as did all the other responsible owners of this country who rose to protest the erosion of individual liberties regardless of their ethnicity.
The only racist rhetoric I heard that day came from a black Obama supporter. Standing on the curb on the outskirts of the rally, he screamed angrily at the predominantly white audience that the days of the white race were over and that with a black man in the White House, white people should be readying themselves to suffer the fate of an oppressed minority. Whether his anger was provoked by the media's misrepresentation of the tea partiers as racists, or he was deliberately trying to provoke a racially-fueled incident, the orator didn't appear in any way threatened. Nor did he need to be: a few random onlookers tried to argue with him rationally, but most shrugged him off as a nutcase and moved on.
Despite the accusations of being an "angry mob" thrown at them by Democratic politicians, the tea partiers - many of whom wore shirts with the words "this is what an angry mob looks like" - exhibited an exemplary peaceful behavior; not a single arrest was made. Unlike the leftist protesters who by and large claim to be for clean environment but always leave piles of trash after themselves, the protesting taxpayers left immaculately clean lawns and deposited their trash in designated areas. At the end of the rally I witnessed a scene where a splinter group of the departing "angry mob" actually waved at the passing police officers and thanked them for their service. And why not? If they "owned the dome," they also owned the police. It is they whom the officers serve. They pay for that service with their taxes.
This is the exact opposite of the attitude of leftist protesters whom I have seen throwing bottles at the police and calling the officers pigs and Nazis without provocation. This contrasting behavior is perhaps the best illustration of the philosophical differences between the two types of protester.
It is the difference between the responsible property owner and the quarrelsome delinquent tenant. And I don't mean tenants who have become temporarily broke due to unfortunate circumstances. I mean the "permanently offended" bully type, the fully capable but unproductive malcontent who resorts to righteous belligerence to obfuscate his own moral shortcomings that prevent him from paying rent. He litigates and finds a million excuses for his desire to live off someone else's dime.
Political rogues have learned to spot such delinquents and recruit them into subversive pressure groups they deceptively call "community organizations," which they use to infiltrate a building management. As it were, the new managers have recently declared the loud-mouth non-payers the "rightful owners" of the property and are now changing the rules and redistributing the apartments. And when the real owners have finally cried foul, they are dismissed as a hateful mob, with Obama condescendingly explaining their actions as trying "to get 15 minutes of fame" by being rude.
Blaming the government for failing to cater to their urges, leftist protesters demand to expand government powers to a level where the state becomes a charitable organization with the purpose of pursuing people's happiness for them, according to the misconstrued "promise" of the Constitution. This, of course, is an unachievable goal, but the "progress" towards its fulfillment is guaranteed to limit everyone's freedoms and saddle the producers with a crushing tax burden.
Protesters on the right are the actual producers whom the leftists intend to fleece. They refuse to finance doomed utopian schemes and subsidize their own destruction. In spite of the leftist misnomer, they are not "anti-government." They value legitimate government services - the courts, law enforcement, and the military - and are willing to pay for them. But they are skeptical of the government as a charitable organization, well aware that it comes with increased controls and the subjugation of the individual to the state. Jealous of their freedoms, they believe that charity should be a private choice and that happiness is best pursued far away from the government apparatus.
The primal urge behind the leftist protest is the irrational, all-or-nothing tantrum of an ignorant, spoiled brat who demands unearned respect and entitlements no matter the cost. In contrast, the right-wing protest is based on the rational, informed skepticism of a working, paying adult who can take care of himself, is charitable enough to help others, and wise enough to discipline the brat when charity is being abused.
But there is a third factor: the political elites who mistakenly believe they are the actual owners of this country. That is why the idea of redistributing America's wealth comes so easily to them. They view the real owners as an insignificant nuisance. Such an error in judgment may cost them dearly in the next election, despite their ties to the media and the fraudulent "community organizations." Should they prevail, however, their error may become fatal to the country as a whole, as it will ruin the engine that powers America. The choice is painfully clear, now more than ever before.
As the tea party was winding up, El Marco hurried back to the hotel, anxious to make an early report. I still lingered, long after my camera batteries petered out and there was no one left except the police and a few residual onlookers who, like me, couldn't get enough. I knew that the magnitude of a historic event is better judged from a distance. But I couldn't shake off the feeling that the importance of what I had just witnessed would not diminish with time.
Once again my friend worked late into the night editing photos and writing commentary, as I lay stretched in the hotel bed with a bottle of Sam Adams, watching Fox News on mute, and once in a while adding my two cents to his work. His blog post ended up being one of the first and the best original reports from the rally. It was almost immediately linked by major conservative websites including Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter, who couldn't resist quoting a line from one of the photos: "Kiss my Astroturf!"
Over the next few days, mailing enthusiasts across the country transformed El Marko's photo essay into a series of chain mails that, as of this writing, still continues to spread through America's inboxes in geometric progression. I received quite a few of them myself. Most such mailings contained no attribution or link but had traces of multiple forwarding, changed titles, and various alterations and additions to the original comments - all signs of an instant classic.
National media's refusal to cover the event seems to have been entirely compensated by my friend, whose work rose to the level of proverbial history-in-the-making journalism. Attaching a face to the world's largest taxpayer protest, his photographs have already been seen by millions of people in the United States and around the world. Blog statistics have picked up a heightened interest from Europe: the Old World can still look to America for inspiration.
The "mainstream" media will never admit it in a smug tone reserved for leftist malcontents, but I know it and you know it.
That day we made history.
Below is the remainder of the pictures with some occasional commentary. They tell the full story better than I ever could.
Let's begin with The People's Cube posters:
The People's Cube "Prescription for America" sign above has been reproduced by hand by a Tea Party protester below.
The doctors' rally:
At the Hyatt Regency the night before the 9-12 rally:
The 9-12 Tea Party near the Capitol:
The guy with the "Tea Bagged" sign on the right may have been a leftist infiltrator having fun at the expense of the Tea Partiers, but his sign could as well be interpreted as a sarcastic I-am-Spartacus-type comment. No cigar.
This is a Tea Partier's response to the left's teabagging jokes.
These were leftist astroturfers - about 40 of them - posing as "People of Faith for Healthcare Reform" behind a barricade separating them from the rally. Notice the pre-printed identical signs on a blue background that came straight from Obama's campaign site. One of the "faithful" is wearing an Obama shirt. I guess their faith has more to do with worshiping the mighty state and its earthly incarnation Barack Obama, the giver of rights and entitlements.
"Billionaires for Bush" - a communist agitprop group of yesteryear - have now resurfaced as "Billionaires for Wealthcare." But just like with their previous lame act, they are scared to go in the middle of a right-wing rally. Observe them posing before their own cameras while standing over some ditch on the farthest outskirts of the rally.
This was not their first appearance. On April 15 they showed up to a small Tea Party in DC, dressed in the same clothes, and were chanting inane slogans like "Lower the minimum wage" in front of an NBC TV crew and wound up on the NBC affiliate website, which described them as Tea Partiers. They may be the reason why Nancy Pelosi made her comment about "Nicely dressed people."
But the Tea Partiers had their own theatrics that were more imaginative and to the point.
There were quite a few signs with Atlas Shrugged and other Ayn Rand themes.
A few pictures stylized as vintage footage from the 60s-70s, to add an extra perspective:
Creative use of athletic wear. "Go Joe Wilson." There were plenty of signs in support of Joe Wilson that day.
This man brought with him an antique Rush Limbaugh sign he had owned for 20 years, since Rush's first years on the radio. This was probably an ad designed to be placed on the roofs of the taxi cabs.
Remember Obama's quote addressed to financial companies, "I am the only thing between you and the pitchforks"? Be careful what you wish for.
I uploaded the full collection to the People's Cube Facebook gallery and linked most of the pictures on this thread directly from there.
Commissarka PinkieProtest, my aunt fanny.
KR2004... There has been zero media coverage (of course), so I don't know what is going on up there! ....
KR2004... There has been zero media coverage (of course), so I don't know what is going on up there! ....
Quote:At about the same time President Obama fled Washington to seek reassurance and support from union organizers in Pittsburgh. The president's helicopter reportedly flew over the gigantic crowd, offering him an eyeful of America's reaction to his statist agenda - something to mull over on the way to the AFL-CIO Convention.
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