I still remember how to think like them. To be honest, it’s not all that difficult — a quickie divorce from reality, an irrational focus on emotion instead of fact and on race instead of character, and you’ll find yourself one tube of foot-flavored Tom’s Natural Toothpaste away from blame-shifting and the complete abdication of responsibility. So, for a few moments this morning as I stared out across a crowd of patriots in the shadow of the Washington Monument, I put on my lefty glasses and had a look around.
I scanned the crowd for racists. I found none. I looked and looked for bigots. I found none. I searched faces and tee shirts alike for homophobes and xenophobes and any other -phobes. I found none. What I found was a giant group of people who may not all look alike or think alike or act alike, but who has chosen to come together because of the core principles at the heart of our core principles. As I’ve said before, the Tea Party movement is not about race, religion, gender, nationality or sexual orientation. It’s not about the superficial issues which feed into the left’s desire to define and divide us. Instead, it’s about the proper size, scope, role and function of the government run in the giant, domed building which served as the backdrop for the day’s events, and how today’s government compares with the government envisioned by those great but wholly imperfect men who came together in my old hometown of Philadelphia to lay the groundwork for the very system that the folks in Washington are shamelessly perverting today.
Traditionally, activism was a product of the American left, the very folks who conducted sit-ins and who would likely claim to have invented non-violent protests. And yet, for the second year in a row, Americans from all across the country came together to show that peaceable protest cannot be patented by anyone. Aside from standing fast and standing up to the federal government, they came to confirm to themselves, their friends and their critics that their thoughts and concerns and worries were shared by millions.
And whatever the reason was that brought them to Washington, D.C. this weekend, each discovered very quickly that they were not alone.
Indeed, that was the rallying cry in the weeks and months leading up to last year’s 9/12 rally in Washington, D.C., an event and cultural phenomenon which came about after talk radio and television host Glenn Beck received an impassioned telephone call on his radio program from a woman who felt isolated and lonely as she struggled to find an outlet for her frustration about the erosion of conservative values in America.
“You are not alone,” Beck told her. I was driving past Philadelphia International Airport on my way into work with the radio on. Even now, I recall thinking about the inexplicable solitude that came from being a libertarian conservative in the City of Brotherly Love.
I AM NOT ALONE
When you think about it, I really haven’ t been at this whole Internet blogging thing for very long. America’s Right may be more than two-and-a-half years old, but I’m not certain that I became truly comfortable with what I wanted to do with the site until this time last year. It seems like forever and a day, though, as I’ve received my law degree and moved my family 700 miles down the coast since its inception.
As odd as it may sound, for the most part it has been a tremendously solitary experience. Sure, I knew that there were other people out there doing what I was doing, but when it comes to actually getting to know somebody, the sheer vastness and glaring impersonality of the World Wide Web is the last possible place to turn to when it comes to building relationships. The authors and writers behind the sites and blogs I found myself visiting and reading so often – these weren’t real people to me. They were names. The ones who got noticed or had trendy eyewear or ample cleavage or something else to put them over the top found themselves on television from time to time, certainly, but for the most part I did not know these people, and it was unlikely I ever would.
I assumed that everyone else felt the same way. We were bloggers, I thought. We were solitary creatures, left to our own devices in our parents’ basements or in our cubicles or on our laptops in Starbucks or, in my case, at the dining room table at midnight. There was no cohesion. There was no community. Community? Heck, you’re lucky if we were wearing pants.
So, to a certain extent, I felt alone. And I was fine with it. America’s Right was reaching thousands of people every day. America seemed to be waking up. And, for whatever infinitesimal fraction of that increased awareness I could be deemed responsible for, it was enough.
But then, this weekend happened.
As it turns out, I was invited by the great folks at FreedomWorks to come up to Washington, D.C. for a few days and attend their first annual BlogCon blogger’s conference. Not only was it a chance to come to our nation’s capital at the same time as the 9/12 rally, but the instructional aspects of the BlogCon schedule really appealed to me – mini-seminars on things like “Twitter For Those Who Already Use It,” “Podcasting: Why and How You Should Use It” and “Maximizing Your WordPress Experience” addressed aspects of my work at AR which I really needed help with, while other talks on policy and economics just seemed interesting. And everything exceeded my expectations. Whatever the wonderfully nice Dick Armey is paying Tabitha Hale and Matt Kibbe at FreedomWorks, it isn’t enough. The success of today’s 9/12 rally, folks, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything that group is doing to secure American freedom and ensure a return to first principles.
Besides what I saw this morning at the foot of the Washington Monument, however, to me the best part of the weekend was perhaps the hardest to explain. Gone in a matter of days, see, has been that overwhelming feeling of isolation. While I was here, I had the chance to meet and get to know people like Melissa Clouthier, Kathleen McKinley, Kristina Ribali, Erick Erickson, Steven Crowder, Glen Asbury, Scott Graves, Cheryl Prater, Susannah Fleetwood, Mary Katharine Ham, Michael Chamberlain, Ace of Spades, Tania Gail, Daniel Glover, Robert Stacy McCain, Lisa Miller, Stephen Kruiser, Warner Todd Huston, Evelyn Call, Jason Mattera, Chris Renner, Nice Deb, Caleb Howe, Mark and April and Emily from HoosierAccess, Dan Riehl—a Jack Palance look-alike, whether he likes it or not—from Riehl World News, Duane Lester from AllAmericanBlogger, John Sexton from Verum Serum, Shane Vander Hart from Caffeinated Thoughts, Jim Hoft from Gateway Pundit, John Schulenburg from Infidels Are Cool, Kevin Jackson from The Black Sphere, Bill O’Connell from Liberty’s Life Line, Brian Sutton from The Right Scoop, Lisa and Jenn from Snark And Boobs, Jim Jamitis from Anthropocon, John Hawkins from RightWingNews, Ari Armstrong from Free Colorado, Matt DeLuca from SaveJersey, whole contingencies from Utah and Oregon and South Carolina and beyond, and a whole lot of people who I’ll add later as I recall their names and locate their own little slices of the Web.
I learned that each and every one of these incredible folks are in this and involved for the right reasons, that they know exponentially more than the left would ever give them credit for, and that they all have highly overactive funnybones, endlessly enormous hearts, and freakishly strong livers.
Most notably, I learned that each and every one of us share a common thread – during the day, to some extent we all juggle kids or work in law practices, campaign offices, construction sites and everywhere in between, while at night or on lunch breaks or whenever we have the chance, we all work hard to educate the public and foment change and a reversion to first principles. To some extent, we are all simultaneously Clark Kent and Superman. That’s not to say that we can leap tall buildings, that we all look good in tights or that even the strongest of us are somehow bulletproof, but there’s something to say about people who can accomplish so much and ask for so little in return. Unlike Stephen Kruiser, whom I learned does apparently possess special powers, most of us are just normal people who want to make a difference in whatever way we can. And there’s something to be said about that.
See, the media landscape is changing. Thomas Jefferson noted that an educated populace would be the only “safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society” and that the involvement of those who were “enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion” would serve as the “true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power.” And that’s what we’re seeing here. One side wants to educate, while the other wants to dictate and dominate; increasingly, those who desire an education turn to people like those I broke bread and clinked glasses with this weekend.
Even above and beyond my former feelings of solitude, it makes me happy to know that these people are out there and that they are just like you and like me. So long as they are out there, those of you who have made the commitment to read and pay attention on a day-to-day basis can continue to realize that, truly, you are not alone.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
“I look around here and I look at my father and I can see that he feels it all over again,” said a woman I met on Saturday named Sandy, looking down and gesturing toward her aging and wheelchair-bound father, who squinted in the sunlight and nodded imperceptibly in response. He was a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, she told me, her voice carrying loudly and strongly above the rushing water from the fountains at the World War II Memorial, loud and strong enough that she was beginning to attract a crowd.
“He has told me on several occasions that he worries that what he and so many others did back then will be lost today, forgotten by younger generations,” she explained. “I worry that it will be more than that – I worry that we’re not just forgetting that America saved the world during the war, we’re forgetting what America is all about to begin with.”
I stayed at the memorial for about two hours on Saturday, walking from wreath to wreath, speaking with older vets and current servicemembers when I could. One of the latter, a 31-year-old Air Force officer named Weber, explained to me that one of the aging World War II veterans who was scheduled to fly to D.C. and visit the memorial a few weeks ago (thanks to the phenomenal Honor Flight group) had passed away only days before the trip.
“This place is for him,” he said. “This place was built for him. The things that these guys went through, I cannot even comprehend. This is his memorial, and yet he never got to see it.”
It only takes a few minutes at the site to see the difficulty facing the World War II veterans when it comes to simply getting around. While their faces would light up and their backs would stiffen when they were approached and thanked by civilians and current servicemembers alike, Weber took care to remind me that these time-bent men were in their prime at the time the battles enshrined in the memorial were taking place. I couldn’t help but think that America had once been in her prime as well, and that she, too, has been deteriorating before our very eyes.
A few short years ago, as we watched former president George W. Bush admittedly abandon free market principles and, later, as we watched the current president foreclose upon the futures of our children’s children, those of us who recognized that something was amiss understandably may have felt like an island of reality in an ocean of ignorance. No more, though, and just this morning I had the chance to attend a non-denominational service at the foot of the Washington Monument, all in advance of the 9/12 march.
I saw young people, old people, black people, white people, a few weirdos, a bunch of patriots, and more flags than you could shake a flagpole at. Speakers during the morning event included Revs. C.L. Bryant and Louis Gohmert, former Congressman John Hostettler, FreedomWorks’ Tabitha Hale and Matt Kibbe, the aforementioned Steven Kruiser, and many more. It was chilly, drizzling, and a little muddy in spots, but those I spoke with said they would have been similarly undeterred even if conditions were much worse.
“Our troops are fighting and dying in the name of our freedom,” said Rebecca, a 27-year-old medical student originally from Lexington, Kentucky. “The least we can do is endure a little rain and do our best to fight for it in our own way.”
“They’re convoluting our Constitution,” said 57-year-old William Chintock, a retired engineer from south Florida, nodding toward a sign reading as such and being held by another man a few feet away. “I think we should come here every darned weekend until Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Barack Obama actually hear us.”
“I think it’s either we do it in November or we never can do it again, and we can kiss America goodbye as we know it,” said Cindy, a retired schoolteacher from Massachusetts who attended not only today’s march but Glenn Beck’s recent Restoring Honor rally as well. “Our country is a country in decline, and … unfortunately a lot of people still are too busy watching Dancing With the Stars or what have you and just don’t see the signs. We had to be here. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
I looked around and I saw the reason Democrats need to worry in November and establishment Republicans need to be concerned from that point on. While the only context I had in terms of political rallies came from events at Philadelphia, hardly a bastion of conservative thought, it was perfectly clear to me that this group is here to stay. While the true test of the lasting strength of the movement will come, in my opinion, in the days following November 6, 2012, many said unequivocally that they would hold a Republican Party with majority power just as accountable as they hold today’s Democrats.
Rebecca, the medical student from Kentucky, admitted that she was a former Democrat who started to change her tune a few years ago but found her misgivings with her former party confirmed when the debate over health care reform turned to the individual mandate.
William, the engineer from Florida, has been a lifelong Republican but refused to even vote at all in 2006 and 2008 because it became clear that “the GOP had completely lost its way.” Republicans, he said, can definitely count on his vote against the Democrats in November and against Barack Obama in 2012, but beyond that “had better earn my vote or they should just stay home.”
Cindy, the schoolteacher, said that she was thrilled to vote for Scott Brown back in January but wishes he could be “more conservative.” Asked whether she’d vote for him again, Cindy said that just as she supports merit-based pay for teachers, she supports merit-based votes for Republicans.
For me, the 9/12 rally ended at approximately noon, when everyone began marching from the foot of the Washington Monument to the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. I had a flight to catch. As I was walking away from Freedom Plaza and back toward the Smithsonian Metro station, I found myself smiling uncontrollably as group after group after group of patriotic Americans strolled past me in the opposite direction, headed with flags and signs and smiles of their own toward the march just getting underway. Some were singing. Some had kids running around and bugging the squirrels. All of them just oozed purpose.
As for me, I didn’t feel alone anymore. I spent the weekend with men and women who make me proud to do what I do when the Clark Kent eyeglasses come off at night after the wife and kids are in bed and the house is finally quiet. And you shouldn’t feel alone anymore, either. I spent the morning with ordinary Americans coming together to do an extraordinary thing – to act now so as to save America from those who wish to do her harm, and on behalf of those who may not even be born yet.
Ordinary people. Extraordinary things. So simple, and yet it escaped us all for so long.
* * *
Some photos from BlogCon were posted by John Hawkins at RightWingNews, Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain and Duane Lester at All American Blogger. As difficult as it is to miss someone of my size, you won’t find me in any of them because I avoid the business end of cameras like the plague.
As for photos of the 9/12 rally, here are a few more from me: