I see that I have done it again. I have spent too much time writing too many words and so have created a document that few will likely read. I should cut at least two-thirds of those words out, but to make it short and concise would take even more time than it took to make it long and rambling and I can't take that time. Those who wish only to read my direct followup to yesterday's post could skip everything else and go directly to photos 6 and 8.
I pick up where I left off four posts ago, with the three vehicles of the four-wheeler caravan, their flags flying as their drivers race toward Wasilla's Tea Party rally. After spending the day in Anchorage, I was tired. I thought I might just skip the Tea Party altogether, except to shoot a frame or two of the smiling faces of those who would wave their signs at me as I drove by on my way home and then let it go at that. At heart, I am a peace-loving man who prefers to avoid confrontation.
Yet, when I saw these three charging so gallantly to the rescue, it looked so exciting that I decided that I should stop by - but not right away. First, I needed to go to the Post Office to check my mail. Then I wanted to drive back up to Machaus and check out the new iPad. I wanted to pick one up in my hands, manipulate it, see how it looks and functions.
Maybe one day I will be making iPad books, or customizing an iPad version of this blog.
And that's where I found the Liberty Tax Service mascot, on the corner by the little mini-mall that houses Machaus.
This was a very hard tax day for Margie and I.
Yet, according to news reports that I kept hearing and reading, on the whole, it was the lightest tax day most middle class Americans had experienced in years. This year, I heard it reported on the radio, Tax Freedom day had come after 99 work days, as opposed to the 104 of the recent past. Elsewhere, I saw it reported as 100 days this year, 104 in the past.
After I played with the iPad for a bit, I headed back toward the rally, and passed these people working together to get this Dodge rolling again. Elsewhere, substantial amounts of snow still lingered but here, in this cleared out, windswept area, it was all but gone.
I could have driven straight down the Parks Highway to the Tea Party rally, but instead I took my time and meandered down along the frontage side roads. As I did, I saw this man, pedaling his bicycle upon which he carried a sleeping bag, mattress and a few other possessions.
When I came to this corner, I was driving in the right lane. The sign told me to turn right and, by the laws that govern me, I had to. As I did, people waved signs and shouted, "Honk your horn! Honk your horn!"
I did not honk - but I did wave politely and I did smile.
These are my neighbors, my fellow Wasillans. We can meet in the post office, the grocery store, at a restaurant or an athletic event and be friendly and talk and show each other respect. Indeed, I later saw the father of one of my oldest son's former American Legion baseball teammates. He carried a sign that I disagreed with, but that does not change the fact that in the past he and I have had many good and pleasant visits. In the years since, when we have happened upon each other, we have always engaged in friendly chat. We always ask about the other's children and grandchildren.
On just about every matter that brought, these, my fellow Wasillans, Alaskans, and Americans here, I disagree with them, both as to cause and solution. I see their facts as often erroneous, their blame misplaced. I can't help but wonder where they and their professed anger at government were during the reckless tenure of the Bush years that destroyed our national surplus and drove our nation 13 figures into debt. I wonder why they were silent about the impacts of the deregulation of the financial world that led to such a huge transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes into the pockets of the wealthy - and ultimately to the financial crisis that exploded upon us in 2008 - to no easy, quick, solution.
Yet, I feel it important that I respect my community members, that even when I disagree with them, I do not call them insulting names. I must not throw cheap, gratuitous insults at them. This has become the norm these days on talk radio, cable news and the blogosphere, in the public forum, where so many do it. Debate, drowned out and stifled by insult.
While they alone do not define it, those who gathered at the tea party by the hundreds, certainly totalling more than a thousand strong over the course, make up a significant part of the soul of Wasilla. if I am to meet my goal to find the soul of this community, then sooner or later I must sit down and speak with some among them, ask them why they believe as they do, listen to their stories and pass them along as they relate them to me.
This does not mean that I cannot express my own opinion or ask some uncomfortable questions. One question I would have for any member of the Conservatives Patriot Group, the sponsor of the Wasilla Tea Party rally, is to better explain this quote, prominently displayed on their web page:
"Evil cannot be wished away, it cannot be loved away, it cannot be talked away, it must be destroyed!!!!"
How do you define this evil that must be destroyed? How do you intend to destroy it?
As theirs' is a political organization dedicated to advocating a political point of view, one could reasonably suppose that by "evil," they do not necessarily describe the kind of things that many of us think to be evil, but rather political viewpoints that differ from their own.
Not only can a political viewpoint not be wished, loved, or talked away, it cannot be voted away. Under the US Constitution, political differences are settled at the voting booth - but the outcome never eliminates the differences. They continue, to be reargued and refought at the next election. The more liberal forces may win one election and then the conservatives the next, but sooner or later it will always tip back the other way.
So, if a differing political viewpoint is what you describe as "evil" and you cannot wish it away, you cannot love it away, you cannot talk it away, you cannot vote it away, then how do you seek to destroy it?
Or maybe I have misunderstood and you mean something entirely different than an opposing political viewpoint. I would like to hear an explanation.
Of course, it is always a little bit challenging to remain respectful and civil when right away after you get out of your car and walk into the crowd you come upon the smiling face of a man who is telling you that you have a mental disorder. I know it doesn't really mean anything. It is just rhetoric. Everyone does it. So what the hell. Let him wave his sign.
I wonder, though - why is he wearing Mickey Mouse boots? And why is his friend wearing Bunny Boots? Those boots are designed for 40 below and it was 40 above.
One could develop sweaty feet this way. It still gets pretty cold at night. Maybe they were out all night, setting up.
And you who wave that flag just remember that it is not a conservative flag, it is an American Flag. Yes, wave it with pride, but don't forget that we who see the political situation differently than you do also love that flag - no less than do you.
Never have I felt more proud than I did on that day when I saw that flag draped across my father's casket as he was carried to his grave by six of his fellow warriors. They were much younger than he and I knew that some had fought or soon would fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe one or more would themselves return in a flag-draped coffin.
I looked at those soldiers who carried my father and I felt love - pure love; strong, heart-piercing love. Tears streamed down my face and they were not all tears of grief. There was pride in those tears. Afterward, I thanked them, but I owed them so greatly that I knew my thank you to be vastly inadequate.
Remember after 9/11, how flags few from just about every home, be it occupied by conservative, liberal, middle of the road, unsure?
And then there was that very chilly January 20 of last year, when I stood with my youngest daughter and wife in the midst of two million others on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Two million people, two million flags, all waving, people smiling, people cheering, tears of pride streaming down cheeks - white cheeks, black cheeks, brown cheeks, yellow cheeks, red cheeks; all the cheeks of a diverse America; an America that had become a place of greater equality and thus greater potential than had been the America that I grew up in.
And then, as we waited in the chill for the hour when the man who, under the provisions laid out by the US Constitution had been duly elected as President would be sworn in as Commander-in-Chief, images of Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger appeared on the many gigantic screens spread throughout the the mall. Chilled though they were, two million joined in the song, "this land is your land, this land is my land..." two million flags waved... Powerful! How proud we all were to be Americans. How proud I am to be an American. And how proud I am of the vote that I cast to make what happened that day on our National Mall possible.
Nothing that anyone could say or do or write upon a sign can ever take that pride away.
So wave your flag, but remember: it is not your flag alone - it is OUR flag.
And when you shout, "Patriot," remember that a liberal can be every bit as much a Patriot as any conservative and a conservative can betray his country as quickly as can a liberal. Liberals also wear the uniform. Liberals also shed their blood for America. They die right alongside conservatives, as Americans.
"I was willing to fight, kill or die for this country and for the ideals that it represents and that has not changed. I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, it had no expiration on it. I remember taking that oath as a young soldier and it said that I would swear to defend the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic and I didn’t understand that domestic thing. Never in a million years did I realize that the domestic enemies would be our greatest threat and they would come from the highest levels of government in this country, from the highest positions. Today, for me, I have no eligible President in office, I have no qualified Commander-in Chief; that’s my personal opinion."
In my post yesterday, I paraphrased the above quote and expressed some thoughts about it, as I had found it not only deeply troubling, but intimidating. A conservative participant at the rally, whose opinion I respect and who I am certain speaks honestly, responded to tell me that she had been there, that she had applauded the speaker and had interpreted his meaning very differently than did I.
"Not once did I hear anyone preach violence as the answer to the problems we face today with the current government," she wrote. "In fact, the voices of many said don't turn to that, use your voices, your votes, stand up for what you believe in."
This struck me with a fear that perhaps I had misinterpreted his words - particularly as I had paraphrased his words from memory, rather than by quoting from a written or recorded verbatim account. Fortunately, I have found a 47 second clip from his speech that is comprised entirely of that part of his statement that I found so troubling. It is on the website of the Conservative Patriots Group, the sponsors of this year's Tea Party Rally, and I quote it above. You can find the clip here, identified as "Rick." It is the seventh of ten very short video clips to be found on that page. The internet is a fluid thing, so this could change.
I think it noteworthy that Rick spoke for probably five to seven minutes and it is these 47 seconds of his speech that, not only me, but his own organization chose to break out and highlight on their own website. As I stated yesterday, 95 percent of his words were ones that, in a different context, most Americans, be they Republican, Democrat or Independent, could go along with, although many would draw different conclusions from the good words that Rick spoke than he did.
Yet, it is the above statement that his own group chose to emphasize. This is what they chose to promote on their website. I will now break the statement down piece by piece and explain why I found it so offensive and still do. I am open to anyone countering here with a different interpretation.
"I was willing to fight, kill or die for this country and for the ideals that it represents and that has not changed..."
So far, very good. I honor Rick for his service to our nation...
"I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, it had no expiration on it. I remember taking that oath as a young soldier and it said that I would swear to defend the Constitution from all enemies, both foreign and domestic..."
Again, very good. Praiseworthy attitude...
"...and I didn’t understand that domestic thing. Never in a million years did I realize that the domestic enemies would be our greatest threat and they would come from the highest levels of government in this country, from the highest positions..."
Frightening words. I begin to grow a little concerned...
"Today, for me, I have no eligible President in office, I have no qualified Commander-in Chief; that’s my personal opinion."
Now I am deeply troubled by Rick's words. I think of my youngest daughter and how serious she took the Constitution and her right to vote. I think how hard she campaigned for Obama and how, when he won the vote fair and square, nothing could stop her from going to Washington, DC, to be there for the swearing in. Were it not for her, Margie and I would not have been there.
Yet, Rick has expressly stated his readiness to "fight, kill, or die" to protect his country from a domestic enemy and he has defined that enemy as the President of the United States. He has stated his belief that the President is not eligible to be President and not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief.
If this does not insinuate a threat to future violence against the government of the United States, to a willingness to nullify by force the votes of myself, my wife and my daughter, then what does? And if that day were to come when he were to take these words to their ultimate implication, were he "to fight, kill, or die" to remove he who he has declared to be a domestic enemy, ineligible to be President and not qualified to be Commander-in-Chief, then who would he fight? Who would he kill?
Would it not be we, the American People, those of us who live right here in Wasilla and elsewhere, who, in a Constitutionally held election and under laws and rules that found candidate Obama to be eligible, voted him in as President? Not only would that fight be against us, it would be against many who voted with Rick against President Obama, people who deeply oppose our President and resent his policies, but who are loyal Americans with deep respect for the foundations that hold up the United States and would defend their country.
While I hope and do not believe that it will ever come to this, should Rick or any others who share this sentiment ever act out the full implication of his stated words, he and they would then literally become the domestic enemy that he swore himself to defend against.
That's what his words say to me. They tell me that, while he was part of the laudable "get out the vote in 2010" message of the Tea Party rally, should that effort fail to achieve their desired goals, he has considered other, non-democratic options and found them acceptable.
Again, to those who see a more positive, non-threatening interpretation to his words, I invite you to express your viewpoint.
Look at that mountain, standing so beautiful above and indifferent to the fray. It is not on your side, it is not on my side. It doesn't give a damn about you or me or our squabbles. That mountain is Alaska, that mountain is America. It is the absolute, real America. When we are all gone and forgotten, it will still stand. Not forever - nothing of this earth does, but long beyond any memory of us.
Other speakers stated that the Heath Care Bill was Pearl Harbor to conservatives and that it would result in the deaths of more Americans than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 combined; that, compared to nature, humans pump one tenth of one percent of the total amount of the gas that climatologists blame for global warming into the atmosphere, so humans cannot possibly change the climate.
My father fought the Nazis in World War II. Many times, he risked his life. A bullet from a Nazi machine gun once struck him in the forehead of his flight helmet, turned it 180 degrees backwards and knocked him unconscious. His captain thought he was dead and ordered a crew member to shove his body out of the way and take over his spot.
Many of the airmen that he flew with died fighting the Nazis.
Down on the ground, Americans and our World War II allies were killed by the hundreds of thousands in combat against the Nazis.
To use the word "Nazis" as it is used here cheapens the sacrifices they made to rid the world of this evil. To use the word in this way dishonors the tens of millions of innocent men, women and children murdered by the Nazis.
Why not use the word "Nazis" to describe... Nazis? No one else. Why not use the name, likeness and moustache of Hitler to describe just one man... Hitler?
It really lets both Hitler and the Nazis off far too easy to lay these obscene titles upon your fellow Americans because they disagree with you.
This also goes for Liberals who would use the word in the opposite direction.
It truly is a great country that we live in. May it long survive and stay that way.
I have already stated my feelings about this one, two photos above.