Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally (Tea Bag Heaven)

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August 31, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Six buses filled to capacity with Tea Baggers (conservative demonstrators bent on giving all elected officials heart burn) were speeding through the predawn darkness headed for the bastion of bureaucracy and vast wasteland of all things political, Washington, D.C.

The faithful had been called by Glenn Beck to his “Restoring Honor Rally,” and many from this area poured into buses and cars to make the journey.

Glenn Beck, a popular conservative commentator and Fox News talk show host, was promising that a miracle would happen on Aug. 28, and so far he was right. It was a miracle I woke up at 2:30 a.m. to catch the bus. In fact it was a tandem miracle -- my wife was with me.

Our bus was flying the “pine tree” flag courtesy of the bus driver. His views politically mirrored many of his passengers, so a flag that was a revolutionary symbol of independence and rebellion seemed very appropriate. I personally own a “Don’t Tread on Me,” flag but I left it at home knowing that reporting the event with camera in hand and waving a 3x5 flag of revolution would be a real juggling act. And I knew I couldn’t count on my wife helping me. She voted for Obama. In fact, I tricked her into going. I just.told her that we were going to the National Mall. She asked if they had a Neiman Marcus.

RFK Stadium was our destination. At more than 5 miles from the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the rally, the only practical way to get there was the Metro, or as I like to call it now, “the subway of the living dead.” Never in my life have I seen a system designed to be mass transit fail so completely. I felt like “mooing.” In thinking about it though, what else would you expect of a city that only exists to piss off everyone else in America? Built by Satan and operated by morons, we spent most of our time underground at the Metro. In finally climbing into the light on escalators that were not operational, one woman yelled, “Fresh air!”

I just yelled.

What greeted us top-side though was a truly awesome sight. People were streaming in large groups and long lines from everywhere and heading in one direction -- toward the Washington Monument and the Mall. When the crowd started to slow and forward progress became impossible we were more than one-quarter of a mile from the Lincoln Memorial.

Looking down the Reflecting Pool, people on the steps of the Memorial were specks.  Behind us all the way to the Washington Monument it was one mass of humanity. I laughed later when the AP said there was tens of thousands. They lied. Conservative estimates put the crowd at half a million.

Orderly and polite, the crowd clapped and cheered at the large screen televisions strategically placed giving us very good sight and sound even that far from stage. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Althea King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King) were just a few of the speakers. There also were ordinary citizens picked to receive medals for their accomplishments, but I didn’t follow that too closely. I was distracted by the crowd.

And let me say right now, it was not a typical Tea Party demonstration. It was a camp meeting. Yes, a camp meeting -- complete with scripture reading, prayer, Amen and praise God. In Becks own words, “This has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with God.” Yow!
 
I go to church and consider myself a spiritual sort of guy but I came here for rousing speeches and quotes from Thomas Jefferson about our duty as patriots to fight government oppression. I came here to yell loud enough so that they could hear me on Capitol Hill and maybe go say hello to the “snake pit” (Congress) as long as I was in town.

But what I got was gospel singers and Faith, Hope and Charity. Not a bad thing, but I was getting on Saturday what I usually get on Sunday. I was blindsided. I found myself wishing for the delightful smell of tear gas just to feel like I was accomplishing something or the sight of riot police lined up menacing the crowd. But actually, the police presence was very light.  

This was all too “gushy.”

But you know, as I listened and took in the spirit of what was going on, I had to admit that what they were saying made sense. How can you change America without changing yourself? How can you fundamentally change this nation without unifying its people? Good message.

The message of brotherly love and individual responsibility lasted exactly the length of time it took to walk back to the “yawning gates of hell” of the Metro station. It was there that my patience took the taxi back to the buses, leaving me alone as “Conan the Irritable.” I tried my best to behave and asked myself, “What would Jesus do?” Dumb question; Jesus was in the taxi.

So it was quiet bus ride home. Not boring though. The one thing I like about Tea Party members is their passion. I’ve found them to be very engaging as a group and with a sincere desire to restore America.

The movement may yet transform the political landscape and make Washington accountable. They are, at this point, a not-to-be-ignored influence in many elections.  And unlike the water cooler or barroom know-it-all who will argue politics to the death but never call an elected official, or the voter who just pulls the lever or pushes the button for one party because “my family has always voted this way,” these folks will board the buses, write the letters, call the politicians, vote as independents and get involved probably better than anybody and they’re just getting started.

Despite critics who would make them out to be racists, tools of the Republican Party or unenlightened right-wing gun nuts, they have been not-so-quietly gaining strength, all the while enduring what seems to be a valid prejudice in the media with a high degree of resolve.

And when leaders appear within the movement who will not play politics as usual and who have strength of character and morality, it may be the transforming force that America desperately needs.

The message that I was privileged to hear in Washington last weekend has been on my mind for a few days now. As usual I will be a bit cynical and slightly irreverent (OK, a lot irreverent) when a leader speaks and that probably stems from a lifetime of disappointment with elevating anyone that you admire. But I’ve come to respect those who sincerely try to do good for their fellow man with the working knowledge that perfect leaders don’t exist.  Glenn Beck, if he can be viewed as a leader of the Tea Party Movement, is probably as close to the getting my respect and support as any leader out there.

Oh, about that miracle.

Since there were no visits by angels on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or signs in the sky, I’m probably left to conclude that the miracle could be an individual experience. To this, I will testify. Arriving at home and watching coverage of the event, Rev. Al Sharpton, who lead a counter demonstration in D.C. that day, was speaking on television. I did not throw my shoe at the screen or make my usual comments but actually thought he had a couple of good points.

Oh My! Where did that come from?

Additional Images: 
A mass of humanity on the Metro. (Photo by Tank Baird)
Marching towards to Lincoln Memorial. (Photo by Tank Baird)
Rally on the Memorial steps. (Photo by Tank Baird)
Tea Party supporters wave flags. (Photo by Tank Baird)
The rally's theme, Restoring Honor. (Photo by Tank Baird)
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