I am proud to be affiliated with the TEA Party movement because its focus is the economy – an issue on which people of all political affiliations can agree. TEA Party rallies are unifying experiences, bringing together people from all political parties who share the belief that government has grown too large, intrusive and inefficient and offers poor value for the tax dollars it collects from taxpayers.
TEA Party rallies appeal to individualists like me because there are no rules. They’re come-as-you-are gatherings to which participants bring signs of their own making. Unlike typical political events, TEA Parties encourage creative self-expression. It’s fun to hang with energized, well-informed people who love freedom, individualism and capitalism as much as I do.
The East Bay TEA Party regularly sponsors street rallies in Contra Costa, which I attend occasionally as my schedule permits. Last Friday’s rally was in Lafayette and it was my first time attending a TEA Party there. It was a baffling experience.
Lafayette is an upper-income liberal East Bay bedroom community. Its population is 80% white and in the last general election nearly 70% voted for Obama. Accordingly I brought a TEA Party sign that was intentionally apolitical and (I thought) inoffensive, which read:
Now I’ll admit I’m naive at times, but I was shocked by the hostile response to this message. Many passersby reacted negatively – mostly women and all driving late model Prius, BMWs, Mercedes, Porches, Lexus and Jaguars. (After all, it’s Lafayette and these are, without doubt, “The 1%”). I was greeted with grimaces and thumbs down, obscene hand gestures and shouts of “Obama” out of windows. Several yelled profanities. Classy.
I was struck by the fact that the sentiment on my sign evoked such a strong negative emotional reaction from Obama supporters. Do these women truly believe that prosperity, freedom and national security are bad for women? Or are they simply self-destructive and wish to drag others down with them? Or perhaps they’re just offended by street rallies by patriotic types dressed in red, white and blue.
Thankfully I also received many positive “thumbs up” responses from mostly younger women and a fair share of men. So my impression of Lafayette residents was somewhat redeemed.
Perhaps the political pundits are correct that our society has become hopelessly polarized – not to mention rude and vulgar. I’m still trying to understand how anyone could take offense at my non-controversial sign and its self-evidently true statement.
Readers, I’d appreciate any insights you have to offer, as I remain flummoxed. Help me out here; I’d really like to understand more about what motivates human behavior — especially during this critical general election season.