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My Trip to Washington, D.C.

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Tea Party Protesters at the Capitol Building

I have been as frustrated with our elected leaders over this bloated health care bill as anyone.   I have tried to contact Zack Space, my Congressman, for weeks to express my misgivings, to no avail.   My letters go unanswered and my phone calls go to a voicemail box.  So, when I heard there was a protest planned in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 20th, I quickly checked my schedule and made a decision to go.  I made a motel reservation, packed a bag, and took off to Washington.  I also packed my GPS system, as driving unaided in the nation’s capital is an event better not experienced.

Arriving at 3 AM, I managed to get a few hours of sleep.  After a quick breakfast, I grabbed my camera and walked to the Capitol Building.  Not having been to Washington since I was in grade school, I was struck by the immense size of the Capitol Building.  It seems overly large to house offices for only 535 Congressmen and Senators, but considering the amount of money they spend, I suppose it is a rather modest structure.

I was a little late, so I only heard conservative actor Jon Voight and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has led much of the protest against the health care bill.  The crowd was as diverse and colorful as I could imagine.  Nearly half carried either a flag or sign.  There was the American flag and the Gadsden flag (the coiled rattlesnake with “Don’t Tread On Me”) with many varieties and combinations.  The signs were nearly all homemade.  Some were as simple as “Enough!” or

“Kill the Bill” while others used witty sayings and homemade art, some of it quite good.  Others had creative T-shirts, hats or costumes.  Nearly everyone had something to mark himself or herself as a Tea Party protester.

Since the Diversity Police on the left love to claim that Tea Party folk are all white and therefore racist, I am happy to note that I stood beside two African-Americans, and saw a number of Asians, Hispanics, as well as a few originally from India that I spoke to.  In other words, there were plenty of ordinary Americans.

The crowd responded well to the speakers and there was much cheering and chanting.  I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the protesters.  There was electricity in the air; it was like being at the Ohio State/Michigan game, but with a level of serious determination.  There was anger without the hint of violence.  They were in Washington for a purpose: to make their voices heard.  And unless Congress was in a soundproofed bunker, they heard.  They just didn’t care.

I made a point of talking to a lot of the protesters.  They were from all over the country.  Most were from outside Washington rather than being local residents.  Texas had a strong presence.  They all seemed to be intelligent and well informed on health care issues.  Business owners and the self-employed were common, as were retirees.  Most showed good humor to each other, while there was much frustration at not being listened to by their Congressman.  Many admitted that the bill probably would pass, but they were determined to make their voices heard.

I wasn’t the only one talking to a lot of the protesters.  I met Mary Katherine Ham, a political writer that often appears on Bill O’Reilly’s show “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News.  She seemed to be trying to keep a low profile, but people kept recognizing her and asked to have their picture taken with her.

 

I met some Harrison County friends and we cheered the speakers together.  About 2 PM, there was an announcement that there would be a break, but everyone was urged to return at 5 PM.  We had lunch and returned around 4 PM.  There were even more protesters present, and we heard some chanting coming from the south side of the Capitol.  We went over to investigate, and found a large group of several thousand people chanting “Shame on you! Shame on you!” and pointing toward the building.  There was an intensity to the protesters that evidently made the Capitol Police nervous, as within a few minutes at least a dozen officers showed up to support the ones at the scene.  They ordered the protesters back, away from the building.  Then someone using a bullhorn said that the permit we had didn’t allow us to stay in one place.  Obedient to the police but not to be deterred, the protesters, using some shouted directions, spread out into a thinner line that moved to completely surround the Capitol Building, moving slowly to be in compliance with the police order.  There was still a large crowd, several thousand strong, which continued giving it loudly to the south side of the building, and persisted for at least an hour more.

 

I heard later on the news that what set the protesters off on the south side of the Capitol was the entrance of some of the Democratic House leadership.  Supposedly, according to some of the Congressmen, someone shouted racial epithets and spit on them.  If it happened, it is deplorable and the individual who did it should be condemned for their actions.  Not surprising to me, several videos of the encounter failed to show anyone spitting or making racial remarks.

From the first Tea Parties from April 15th of last year, Democrats have been calling them racist, often comparing them to white supremacist groups.  They can’t seem to see the protesters as they are – ordinary Americans who are fed up with Big Government, out of control spending and a general intrusion into their daily lives.  I’m not saying the Congressmen lied; it’s just that in spite of all the video and audio recordings of the event, there is absolutely no evidence that it happened. Draw your own conclusions.

While I have been to several local, smaller tea party events, I have never been to a large protest.  What struck me was that every encounter I had showed the participants to be honest, law-abiding citizens, people you would be glad to have as neighbors, police officers, firemen, city councilmen or coworkers.  I had the feeling that if I lost my wallet there, it would be returned with the cash still inside.  I saw a garbage can overflowing with trash, with additional trash stacked neatly beside it.  There were few garbage cans around the area; evidently they aren’t esthetically pleasing.  There was absolutely no litter one the grounds that I saw, and I was looking for it.  They came to Washington to let the government know that they strongly disagreed with the proposed law, and the Democrats showed them a cold shoulder.

As the afternoon wore on, buses rolled up and began to fill with the protestors bound for wherever they came from.  As the crowds dissipated, I also felt tired and began walking to my motel, two miles away.  After a few hundred yards, I heard some cheering and turned around to see about a thousand people surrounding someone speaking with a bullhorn.  I weighed my weary feet against my curiosity about who the speaker was and what he was saying.  After a few moments, I decided that I had driven six hours to get here and given up a weekend, so I might as well go back and listen.

It turned out that the speaker was Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa and one of the leaders against the health care bill.  He gave an uplifting and inspiring speech, probably the best of the day.  I forgot my sore feet and cheered with everyone else.  After he finished, the throng broke up and everyone began moving away.  Rep. King and several of his aides were walking in the same direction as I was, so I slowed and waited for them to catch up.  I struck up a brief conversation with him.  I found him to be open and easy to talk to, even though he didn’t know me from Adam. As we parted ways, I reached out to shake his hand and thanked him for taking the lead in opposing this terrible bill.  He stopped, clasped my hand with both of his, locked eyes with me and said with intensity, “No, thank you. I’m just doing my job.  All of you are helping to save the country.”  A moment later, his aides swept him away, leaving me standing with my thoughts.  The events of the day gave me much to ponder as I walked back to my hotel.

It seems to me that as American citizens, we have had a pretty good country without much work on our part.  We spend most of our energy on our personal lives, without worrying too much about our government.  We go with our lives, confident that our leaders knew more than we do about the economy, recessions and other problems, and could handle them.

But now, we see government out of control.  A government that is spending our country into a level of debt that is difficult to imagine.  We write letters and call our representative and senators, but are ignored or dismissed.  Even though polls tell us that a clear majority of Americans do not want this health care plan, they continue to work on the plan.  Our political leaders are saying that we can spend our way out of the recession.  We realize that not only do they not know more than we do; they know less.  Most of our leaders are driving the bus off a cliff, fighting each other over who can stomp on the gas pedal the hardest.

The central idea that most of the Tea Party people I have spoken to have is that our government has lost its Constitutional way, and the American people have to take an active part in turning our government around so our government operates in its proper role, as defined by the Constitution.  As citizens, we have the responsibility to be informed about our Constitution as well as current issues and work to teach others.  We must work to elect leaders who view the Constitution as the foundation of government and vote out of office politicians who do not.  This movement has grown tremendously over the last year, and I believe it will continue to grow as more and more people become aware of what our government is doing to both our laws and our tax burden.

This movement is being maligned by those who approve of what the government is currently doing by calling them extremist, racist, a fringe movement or downright dangerous, as the recent alleged threats to congressmen have shown.  I think tensions are clearly rising, and I believe that the Democrats in Congress and the President would like nothing more than to provoke some kind of incident so they can label the Tea Party protesters as violent and so dismiss their views as radical.

I was impressed by the way the Tea Party protesters in Washington conducted themselves.  They were noisy but peaceful.  This is the way it must be.  Violence is not the answer to the current state of affairs. This is the United States of America, not some banana republic.  The problem is political, and must be corrected politically at the ballot box.  The majority of citizens, 63% by the last poll I have seen, want Congress to overturn the health care bill.  If these people get out and vote in November, we can begin to turn things around. But do not be misled; violent confrontation will lead our nation to a terrible place.  If anyone feels the need to punch something, decide to punch a ballot in November.  Defeat them with the violence of the vote.

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Larry Bertolino

Larry Bertolino

Owner at myLocalPCpro
Larry Bertolino is a 31 year old, U.S Navy Veteran and currently sitting on the board of Directors for the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce, as well as Harrison County Rural Transit.
Larry Bertolino
Larry Bertolino

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Posted by on March 29, 2010, 1:30 pm. Filed under Featured, John Lovejoy, ThisIsMyCounty. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry