I mentioned in my last post that I gave a speech at my local Tax Day Tea Party event. The response I’ve gotten from the speech — both at the event itself and with people who have read it since then — has been very positive, so I decided to post it here. As always, feel free to share and/or give feedback.
My name is Angela. I am 28 years old, an Army wife, the mother of a darling little boy, and a recovering Useful Idiot for the Left.
When I was eighteen I marched myself down to my local Democratic Party headquarters to register to vote. I was so proud to have that D after my name; the Democrats were, after all, the party of the Little Guy, whereas those evil Republicans were the party of those evil, cigar-chomping big business robber barons. I have always been particularly sensitive to what Dr. Deborah Tannen calls “metamessages” – that 85% or so of communication that is nonverbal. So, though I can’t recall any single instance of someone sitting me down and telling me any of it, there were certain things I knew. I knew, for instance, that Republicans had dollar signs in their eyes, while Democrats had compassion in theirs. I knew that Fox News, as a shill for those nasty R’s, was not to be taken seriously. I knew that talk radio was to be avoided, as its entire purpose was to tell you what to think. I knew that there wasn’t a single problem that couldn’t be solved with more government intervention. And even in those rare moments Leftist talking points clashed with my own observations, I was assured that Smarter People had already studied all these things, that all the smart people agreed with them, and didn’t I want to be a smart people too?
And so I went about my life, comfortable in my second- and third-hand assumptions; smug in my supposed intellectual superiority. And then something happened that I did not expect.
My husband and I fell on hard times, and moved in with his parents for awhile. And my in-laws watch – you guessed it – Fox News. I did my best to avoid it, but it was bound to catch up with me, and I will never forget the day it did.
They were talking about drilling in ANWR (something I knew absolutely nothing about). There was a man who was for it, a woman who was against it, and the anchor in the middle of the split screen, asking each side questions and letting them politely duke it out. And I had no idea, throughout the debate, which side the anchor favored. I came away from that segment thinking, “Huh. That seemed, well, fair and balanced.” With my husband’s enthusiastic encouragement, I began questioning other assumptions. I continued to watch Fox News. I read books by people I would have sneered at not six months before. I began to listen to talk radio, and found that, far from turning me into some sort of mindless zombie (and trust me, I can see the irony of that fear now), listening to other people’s opinions on issues of the day not only informed me of their arguments, but encouraged me to figure out what I thought about those same issues.
The three years that have passed since then have been intellectually tumultuous for me, to say the least. I have never been the sort of person to turn on a dime, and the same holds true here. There has been and continues to be a lot of study and, yes, a lot of praying, and a lot of grappling with ideas that I used to think were beyond or beneath me. For someone as mentally out of shape as I was, it’s been rather exhausting; and there have been, and will continue to be, missteps aplenty. But, in this case as in most others, the fruits of my own labor, however imperfect, are far sweeter than the prepackaged dreck I had been swallowing for so long. And for all the things I don’t yet know, I would like to share with you a few things that I have gotten squared away.
I know that I don’t want my son to grow up in a nation that believes, as my sister does, that the Declaration of Independence is “obsolete,” nor do I want him thinking that it’s a fact that the Constitution was fine for governing an agrarian society, but is simply not up to handling the industrial nation we have become, as a friend once told me. I don’t want him to be taught that freedom of speech is, as Senator Lindsay Graham put it, a “nice idea,” or that he somehow has the right to the fruits of another man’s labor, as many in my former political party seem to think.
I know that the ideological cornerstone of our nation is contained in these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And I know that, whatever peers and professors try to tell me, Thomas Jefferson’s failure to live up perfectly to those words he penned does not invalidate them, for the veracity of an idea is dependent on no man.
I know that the proper synonym for “rights” is not “stuff,” but “authority” – and I know that I cannot claim a God-given authority to take your stuff any more than you can to take mine.
I know that the greatest threat to man’s liberty is an overlarge, ever-encroaching government, and that the people seeking to grow our government, regardless of party, are only interested in us as far as it serves their agenda. Their true love is neither freedom nor safety – it is power, and they do their best to convince us that we have none in hopes that we will sell our power to them for the proverbial mess of pottage.
I know that the ideal of individual liberty and dignity upon which our nation was founded is worth fighting, and yes, if necessary, even dying to preserve; and I hope to one day look back on my life and be able to say that I lived up to this bit of knowledge.
I know that leaving the Democrats does not automatically make me a Republican, and on this point I’d like to make something very clear to the GOP: If you want me and others like me to even consider joining your party, then you need to have a better reason to get my vote than, “I don’t suck as much as the other guy.” I have already lent my name to one political party that was quite willing, even eager, to sell me down the river in the name of their own self-interest, and I’m not about to make that mistake again. Clean up your house, consistently stand for something for longer than the campaign season, and then we’ll talk.
The road we are on is forked, and one side is bright, sunny, flowered fields and easy walking. The other is foggy, and what little we can see of it is craggy, rocky, and steep. The fact that you’re here tells me that you have either chosen a road or are deciding. For the latter group: Yes, the easy road is awfully tempting. It is the path in which you shut your mouth, turn off your brain, and just hope that everything turns out alright, cause, seriously, aren’t we all kind of overreacting anyway? Sounds great, I know. But I can promise you this – that way lies regret, and missed opportunities that all the coulda-shoulda-woulda’s in the world will never bring back. I cannot tell you what is down the second road; I myself do not know. But I do know that, whatever it is, it’s got to be better than what’s down the first one.
The prevailing so-called wisdom of our day seems to be that there is a sort of magic freedom force field covering this nation; and the attitudes and actions of most in Washington can be likened to pouring increasing amounts of water into a car’s gas tank in order to improve sluggish performance. And though our President likes to portray himself as the disaffected party, it really is all of us who have inherited this mess. And we know that, hard as it will be to begin the cleanup, it would be far worse to continue kicking the can down the road. Already we Tea Partiers and 9-12ers, we Momma Grizzlies and classical liberals and independent conservatives and unruly peasants, have begun to change the debate in this country. It has been hard, and many of us are at or reaching a point where the novelty is wearing off, and we are perhaps getting tired. Just remember: this nation will not turn on a dime, and it is unrealistic and even unhealthy to expect it to. We must be in this for the long haul because, as Tammy Bruce says, the one thing that champions of big government – in both parties – are counting on, and therefore the one thing we must not give them, is our quiet acquiescence. Recharge when you need to, but be ready to bounce back into the arena, in whatever way you deem best. Draw courage from those around you – I know I certainly do. And above all, find what is true and hold to it, so that you may look back on this time of your life and say, as did Paul, “I have fought a good fight.”