The Tea Party reveals a clash of ideologies and the underlying unity we all share

Apr. 16, 2009


Walking through the crowds of the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) party in downtown Sarasota Wednesday made me re-evaluate ideals, partisanship, patriotism and what our country stands for in general. As a laboriously unbiased journalist I always try to see both sides of every issue, and usually do, before making my personal judgment on a matter. As I snap pictures of teens, obviously too young to vote, waving anti-Obama banners and seniors, who probably voted for Eisenhower, holding “stop socialism” signs I think about what we all hold common across generational and party lines.

One of the biggest drives of libertarians is the view that the 16th Amendment — which states, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration” — should be repealed. And this view is shared across party lines.

The 16th amendment was ratified on Feb. 13, 1913. On Dec. 23 of that same year, Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law, officially creating a quasi-public central banking system comprised of government entities and 12 regional privately owned Federal Reserve Banks. These Federal Reserve Banks now issue Federal Reserve Notes as our official form of currency, which replaced the United States Notes that were issued by the Treasury Department. The banks officially won, and Andrew Jackson officially rolled over in his grave.

This is our history, and we have to live with the results. We the people allowed the banks to take control of our country, and now they have it. Every American citizen should be furious that our earnings have been spent to support failing banks that greedily bet our money away, but they shouldn’t be surprised. This is an inevitable result of unregulated capitalism and the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules. Conservatives rightly complain that we are passing debt onto future generations, but we have all inherited a debt that will never go way — the rule of banks.

Instead of pointing fingers and accessing blame we need to work together toward common goals. I talked with a man in the tea party crowd named Gaston Larranaga who immigrated to the United States from Uruguay and had recently retired from IBM after 32 years of service. He was holding a sign that said, “Stop the power grab” on one side and “Don’t tread on me” on the other. In his opposite hand he held a pocket copy of the Constitution that he waved at passing cars.

“I became a proud American by choice in 1973 and I had to read the Constitution very carefully,” says Larranaga. “I became aware of a lot of things. For example, when the power is not defined in the federal government, it resides in the states. When you have a federal government like this one, which is telling the states, ‘We don’t care what you say locally; we’re going to make you spend the money whether you like it or not,’ that’s unconstitutional.”

Larranaga, who says he travels with the Constitution and reads it “constantly,” believes that the problem with President Obama and congressional democrats is that they do not understand the exceptionality of our country. “We’re the only country in the world where the rights of the people do not come from the government, they come from the creator,” he says. “Whether you’re religious, Jefferson was supposedly not, but he believed in providence right? In European countries, even though they have social democracies, the rights of the people didn’t come from God, they came from the king. The king had the power from God and he lent it to the people — very different concept.”

Larranaga had me take a picture of him standing next to a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty while he held up a sign that said “Nut Case” with an arrow pointing toward her. A man with a fake severed head on a spike is packing his stuff into the Statue’s truck.

“What they’re doing is attempting to say they’re part of this crowd, which is a very respectful crowd,” he says. “What they’re trying to say is, ‘We’re going to go kill people.’ They have a head on a stake. That’s crazy. They’re trying to impugn the entire crowd. I don’t want to kill anybody. I just want the government to do what’s right.”

What’s right is always up to interpretation. As I talk with Larranaga by the road he holds up the pocket Constitution to a passing car whose passenger flips him off. “Look at that,” he says. “I show them the Constitution and I get the bird.”

These are trying times we live in and no amount of middle fingers, heads on stakes or protest signs will get us out of them. Our insatiable appetite for money has led our country into an ideological traffic jam — and nobody has the right of way.


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