A conservative friend sent me a Facebook invitation to attend a Tea Party scheduled for the morning of Saturday 6 February at a public venue in a nearby town. Because I had nothing pressing, and Saturday morning is usually time I have free, and because I needed to get out to the post office anyway, I sent back a Maybe reply.
Saturday morning I slept later than is my wont, but got ready in time to motor roughly south to the appointed meeting place. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I took my Pentax Optio 3.5 WR with freshly charged batteries. I stuck an ink-pen in my pocket in case I wanted to write anything down. Didn’t take paper because I supposed the group would probably pass out some sort of agenda or other handout.
I wasn’t sure where the meeting place was located, but thought it would probably be on the main drag, and it was. To judge by the number of cars in the parking lot, a fair number of people were in attendance. I was a few minutes late, and walked in the back door as the assembled group was on its feet singing God Bless America. So I kind of awkwardly stood there to the moderator’s left and sang along the last two or three lines, then saw a friend who indicated an empty seat near the one he occupied. I got a cup of coffee and sat down.
Two men were identified as reporters from a Frankfurt newspaper who had come down from Nashville to cover this much smaller meeting. I spoke with one of them after the event, and he said that because the Tea Party phenomenon is a grassroots movement, they wanted to cover it at that level. He said he didn’t think they were missing much of interest in Nashville that morning, anyway. I asked him about the popularity of folding kayaks in Germany, and he didn’t know what I was talking about until I mentioned the manufacturers Pouch, Klepper, and Pionier. He said he thought folding kayaks were popular “like 20 years ago.” What a disappointment.
Most of the people there were men, but some women were present. Most of the group appeared to be about 60 or older, although I saw some who appeared to be in their 20s. After I found my seat, the moderator suggested we observe a “moment of silence” in memory of the late Ronald Reagan, which he then used as a segue to some kind of pastoral prayer. I must say I resented “moment of silence” as both hokum and a ruse for foisting unanticipated and unwanted religious observance upon me. Not that I object to religious observance or invocation, per se, but there was something about the way it was done Saturday morning that irked. Turns out the guy moderating, in his opening spiel, identified himself as a “retired pastor.” I guess he felt the need to sneak in a worship service.
The guy had a couple of handouts. One was a true-false “civics test” which would have served well as an ice-breaker, but was not used as such. The other was a list of about 25 grievances or demands, and the moderator asked that everyone circle the statements with which they most agreed. About 10 of them did not resonate with me at all. Maybe five or six of them seemed most pressing to me. I took the liberty of marking up the sheet with my own opinions, then handed it in when everybody else handed in theirs. The “civics” exercise further revealed the moderator’s religious agenda, but also had a few items of interest. After that, some of the guys who represented groups from neighboring communities that were more organized spoke up.
One of those guys with, I think it was, Tea Party Coalition, talked in a northern accent about his annoyance with the organizers of the Nashville shindig (the one featuring Sarah Palin, who failed to serve out her term as Governor of The State of Alaska for no obviously good reason) because he felt charging a lot of money to attend the weekend event smacked of the same sort of $1500.00 a plate fundraising efforts that have for years kept “the little guy” from participating meaningfully in local, state, and national politics. He had trouble articulating at this time much beyond the fact that he’d like the political process to be less about money. It would have made more sense to voice a demand for grassroots access to candidates for elected office, and representatives holding elected office.
A woman from the Gallatin area was the meeting’s guest speaker, and after making an emotional appeal and scolding Americans for allowing the Union to reach its arguably sorry current state, went on to discuss the need for precinct work. Her ideas struck me as basically sound.
Then there was some discussion about what, as a movement, conservatives hope to accomplish through Tea Party organization. Incremental gains, “Flipping the House,” or electing true conservatives to every office possible from county commissioner and local school board to state and federal representatives. Some of the talk seemed to be focused on merging various groups, but no decisions were made. Copies of the Tennessee state constitution were made available, and a different guy from another group had handouts with information about an event his group has planned for next month.
Turns out I’d left my camera in the car, so got only one snapshot as I drove out of the parking lot on my way back to Stepford and the post office.