Monday, May 24, 2010
And they said we wouldn’t make it part II. Drinking Campfire Mocha while talking Tea Party politics.
This is a follow up to my post entitled: And they said we wouldn’t make it. My experience with a White Male Tea Party Member.
Based on some of the comments from the post, this follow up was necessary. I found out some information after the fact and wanted to set the record straight. The original intent of the post was to talk about meeting a Taxed Enough Already party member aka Corey Thompson. My intention was to talk about how pleasant my experience was. Especially since African Americans have such a negative view of the Tea Party. Due to some miscommunication and confusion, the post turned into something that I never expected. Although the intent was clear to me, I realized (hindsight is truly 20/20) it was not to others. In the end, I take responsibility for everything that is placed on my blog. It is up to me to make sure my readers understand my thoughts and views. Words carry much power and they have to be used with great caution. When I’m wrong I’ll own up to it. But if I feel my convictions are true, I’ll fight for what I believe in. So I decided to reach out to Corey Thompson to hash things out.
So my phone conversation with Corey Thompson, candidate for County Commissioner, was a pleasant and respectful one. During our conversation, there was never any hollering, screaming or racial epithets involved. We decided that it would be good for us to meet and “chew the fat.” I know some people questioned my decision to meet with him but it was necessary. It’s easy to talk about people on-line that we have differences with but it’s not easy to engage them on a personal level. We can’t always live in the comfort of only knowing what is comfortable. So we decided to meet at Caribou Coffee on Sunday (i.e. this past Sunday).
Corey (I guess we are on a first name basis now) gave me the history of the Tea Party in the 1700’s and in our modern era. The modern incarnation is a movement with no clear leader that has different groups all over the country.
One thing that they have in common is the dislike of the following:
B. Government run corporations
C. Programs that they feel are socialist i.e. The New Healthcare Legislation
And they are in the favor of the following:
A. Smaller Government
B. Lowering Taxes
C. Upholding the Constitution
The Tea Party is made up of Republicans, Libertarians and Independents that dislike the Government for what they feel as an over reaching of authority. He knows that President Obama is a popular target of his organization but he says all politicians have felt the Tea Party’s frustration. He showed me photos and websites that showed Tea Party member’s signs that were both anti Obama and anti Republican. Of all the things that he showed me, I never saw anything that was racist. Don’t get me wrong because the signs still had some bite to them (but nothing racist). He does think that on a national level the Tea Party needs to be clear on their issues. From an outsider looking in it seems that each group has the same platform but goes about their agendas differently.
Corey also explained the history of the “The Don’t Tread On Me” flag. This is the yellow flag that you see Tea Party members’ wave at their events. There is the original version of the flag where the Snake is cut in different pieces (each representing the colonies). The current version shows a fully extended Snake coiled with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” The message on that flag was for the British to back up or get smacked up. He also gave me a little background on himself and his reasons for running for office. As a history teacher, he has seen the effects of the recession on a personal level. Our school district has been laying teachers off since last year. A lady I knew from college just started temping at my place of employment. She was a school teacher that was laid off last year. His fellow teachers were laid off as well. And he still had to deal with the financial strains that all of us (well at least from the middle class on down) felt since this mess started. What really bothered him was that the County Manager took a bonus while his fellow co-workers were getting laid off.
Side Note: I’m still pissed off that he took that bonus too!! The timing was really bad and it showed a lack of compassion.
He is a fiscal conservative that is running to change the way our current government does business. That means he will be preaching the gospel of tax cuts. And we all know everyone likes that sermon. Another one of his core beliefs is in being a public servant to the community. He and his wife left their private school jobs to teach at a school where they could make a difference. He teaches at West Mecklenburg High School and is proud of his job. In my last post I called it a “Hood School” and he was offended by that statement because he thought I said he said it. That was strictly my words alone. And based off the location of the school, I am standing by that statement. A “Hood School” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad school. It means that it’s in the hood. Some of our countries best charter schools are in the hood.
We talked about Republicans that he liked and my favorite subject: Race. Some of the people that he likes I don’t particular care for. We both didn’t say it but I think we voted for the same politician during the last national election. I know I didn’t have a problem with the guy and he said he liked him so I put two and two together.
Side Note: For full disclosure I am a former Democrat turned Independent (aka “oh you’re one of those people.”)
As a history teacher he realizes that the election of President Obama was historic but that shouldn’t stop people from protesting if they take issue with him. He feels that the media has painted an image that if you go against Obama you are a racist. He doesn’t like the accusations that are always leveled against his organization. He feels the media slant hurts the Tea Party when they only show the negative. He personally would not be involved in anything that was racist. And as he has told me before, all the events he has attended never displayed racist imagery or rhetoric. He asked, “Did blacks dislike Bush because of his race or his policies?” He just wants his organization to be judged on the issues and not because they are against the policies of a president that happens to be black.
In the end, it’s hard to say whether or not Oprah would have been proud of me. I think I was impartial and I asked very good questions.
We agreed on the following:
A. Term Limits for Politicians
B. Special Interest Groups are hurting the political process.
C. All citizens should be involved in public service of some type
He knows he is not going to win everyone over and people will still question the Tea Party’s motives. He did invite me to come to some of his events in order to learn more about the organization. I shook my head with an “I just might do that.” I told him that I am on my fraternities Political Action Committee and I would like for him to come out and speak to us. He was gracious and agreed to do that. I realized that even though we are both Christians and Americans we see our country differently. I don’t doubt for a second that he doesn’t care for this country. And I would hope he believes that I care as well. I just believe the Tea Party views America as a GREAT PLACE that has individuals poised to take it down the wrong path. On the flip side, I view America as a place with GREAT POTENTIAL that has individuals poised to take it down the wrong path.
Although we have come a mighty long way, we are still not close to the America that Rev, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about. But on that Sunday, two people from different backgrounds came together for a conversation. The media wasn’t there to witness the event so all I have is this blog to tell the tale. We might not agree on everything but we both agree that we want the best for our city. That is all that is needed for the starting point of a conversation. I only wish that our local and national politicians could do the same thing.