There was nary a breeze in the well-paved over downtown of Stuart, Florida. The temperature hovered over the registered 80, as the 90% humidity and heat waves bounced off of the asphalt and up at the Tea Party underway. The streets in front of the US Post Office are lined from end to end and flowing onto Federal Highway 1 where the intended message of revolution would get better exposure. News cameras were interviewing anyone who had something to say and lawn chairs started taking up prime curbside real estate. There were hundreds of people pounding the pavement for governmental change, like fiscal responsibility and term limits in the congress.
The people have something to say and, via keen online organizational strategy that mimics Gov. Howard Deans in the 2004 election, have opted for an evolved Tea Party to exercise their first amendment rights. The interesting thing about this well-publicized event is that it was not the grass-roots event as it was advertised, but instead a well-organized, cyber-based partisan push against the current administration. When you have Strategic Activism, LLC organizing your events, Visual Enterprise Systems, Inc., designing your copyrighted ‘grass-roots’ campaign and one of the movement’s national organizers being the founder and director of “Top Conservatives on Twitter”, there is only one more way to show your partisan stripes: having Fox News host a live broadcast on this ‘American Tradition’. Oh, they did that too.
Being April 15th, everyone is still buzzing from their annual tax shot, so the statements being made were even more poignant as individuals with slogan t-shirts walked around with home-made placards screaming everything from “No New Taxes, Cut Government Spending” to “Fire Congress” to “Freedom Not Tyranny”. Tea-bags were pinned to hats, shirts and earrings, and for every voice of dissent there was a horn supporting it. Horns for gun rights, horns for impeachment and horns for that really cute blonde girl with the ‘Freedom Not Tyranny’ sign.
The air was electric with revolutionary spirit and the South Florida Action Committee was out canvassing the youth to get them thinking about democracy and activism. Standing behind their Gadsden flag handing out pamphlets to the fresh blood, it seemed like the youth were more energized by the social energy that accompanies upheaval and dissent. The new sons and daughters of liberty were using loud angry voices paired up with the Gadsden flag and it’s defiant, “Don’t Tread On Me” motto, an exciting thing for any age. The activist energy must have worn off, as the kids who were approached by Action Committee volunteer got impatient during her spiel and just asked how they could get one of those yellow shirts with a snake on it.
A gentleman who wanted to only go by Carl, was giving out leaflets on a corner where the surrounding people were in the midst of the chorus of “God Bless America”. When asked if he had come up with the “I’ll Keep My Money-Guns-Freedom. You Keep The Change” message, he said no. Someone had seen his car all-dressed up for the event that they had asked him to give these out. He insisted on giving me two. One for me, and one for the friend that wasn’t with me.
Standing on the curb waving her American flag was another woman whom I asked why she was there. She questioned me who I was reporting for and I replied that I was doing some citizen journalism for the Huffington Post. She turned to me and from behind her big sunglasses said, “I have three kids. One who just lost a job. One who is on the fringe. And one who is on the other side of the desk laying people off. Stop taxing and stop spending. And you can tell that to Adrianna!”. Then she promptly turned around and started waving her flag again.
Passing cars were as much a part of the demonstration as the troops on the ground. One old lady screamed from the comfortable front seat of her SUV, “Fire all of the Idiots!”, then smiled, waved and drove off. A few photos later a man in mineral blue PT Cruiser comes through the big intersection making a left hand turn and yells, “You lost the election, get over it, Assholes!”, and proceeded to speed away before anyone threw a bottle through his window. Cars were honking so loud that picketing parents had to take their children out of their strollers and hand them off to the other parent who could take them away from this ruffled feathers parade.
One of the less fierce protesters was 6 year old Philip who was dressed in a t-shirt that read, “No More Zer000,000,000,000s”. Little Philip was an entrepreneur with his parent’s help, running a lemonade stand. All proceeds from the lemonade and snack sales were going to be sent right to Washington. I sat back and thought where they were going to send this to. Maybe to President Obama or maybe to the congress. What type of note would they include? Here is all of our six year old’s money, take it now and don’t bill him for it later. All I knew is that it was still a hot day and people were moving away from the Post Office where people were still driving through and dropping off their taxes in the drop box. So I decided to donate a couple bucks to Philip’s mission and cool myself off at the same time. As I handed the cash over, Philip’s dad turns to me and says, “That is the most expensive glass of lemonade you’re ever going to buy.” He was probably right.
If anything comes from this retro-revolution it just may be that Lipton’s second quarter revenue is going to outpace prior estimates, otherwise it may just be another whopping success in proving the power the internet can play in amassing momentum for a cause. As an exercise in flexing one’s first amendment might, it was quite visible that people care in this little Florida town, where home foreclosures are through the roof and unemployment is growing by the day. It seems there was a voice for every issue on the table. Voices for the left, voices for the right, and voices that just want someone to look out for the people on Main Street. Many of the voices came from pensioners that found this to be a great time to bond with their kids and their grandkids, especially seeing how everyone is affected by the downturn. This little tea party might just end up being that really fun day after Easter where the family all got together, made patriotic banners and got loud on the town like it was July 4th all over again.