I hardly ever drive. At the tail end of today’s biannual foray into the District I found myself predictably lost somewhere in Whitehurst territory, my personal Birnam Wood. Today my wanderings quickly turned serendipitous. I happened across the Sept. 12 TEA party, which was nothing like what I’d expected.
I found myself at the corner of Constitution and 16th — ironic, because #16 is the Amendment that permits taxing income at all — and witnessed the power of hordes of people jointly, massively frustrated with their Government.
I’d assumed the tea parties were a fun way for college kids to engage in some loud, creative destruction. It’s not that I snub college events. I’ve had the fortune to encounter some exceptionally good mentors and I love paying forward that mentoring favor by getting involved with students. But when the activity struck me as reactionary and took place on a rainy February afternoon in the middle of Moot Court season, the opportunity cost just skyrocketed.
Living in DC provides an almost-constant opportunity to Get Involved. I’m a pretty discerning joiner. Law school presents such a steep opportunity cost! Why get involved in something reactionary (rather than plain “action”) when if I just study hard soon I’ll be able to file an official complaint replete with a time stamp and the promise of judge’s attention?
I was blown away. It was pretty powerful stuff. A five-year-old waving a “Taxed Enough Already” poster confronted me from the street. Was it a commentary on perverse incentives against school choice? It didn’t matter. The point was that here were thousands of people (reportedly well over a million) who recognize that their elected representatives have become so full of sound and fury, signifying none of their constituents’ needs.
The Declaration of Independence compels citizens to take an active role in their government. Government is nothing more than a contract among many people to give up some degree of freedom for requited and more permanent stability. When one party begins to breach that contract, i.e., when Big G establishes a pattern of infringing upon the freedom we the people never offered up at the negotiation table, we’re not merely permitted but required to make some noise.
It was inspiring, to say the least, to see an organized group addressing their Government. Many of us have found ourselves behind a nonfilibusterable veil. This is not a statement against our structure of government, but rather an objective observation that all organized things tend towards chaos. Majorities speak pretty loudly, unfortunately cultural evolution behaves like all things to which chaos theory applies. James Madison anticipated “factions” in the form of organizing protections like the Food and Drug Administration and the Americans w/ Disabilities Act. None of the framers imagined that our country would devolve to a two-party system. None thought the sugar industry would develop an organized “faction” w/ a discrete lobby in the Congress.
Through some combination of appeal and personality, the “right” has simply ceded America to an indoctrinated voting supermajority between the ages of 18 and 35. There’s no question these masses have spoken. I personally would rather any potential first family stripped of pride in their country vote with their feet and go see their ideal policies already in place in a country like France than mess with my country, but c’est la vie. As my spectacular sister-in-law frequently reminds me: The masses are asses.
I take back any disparaging remarks I may have made about the tea parties. I thought I was too cool for school. Today my complacent, beltway-Scrooge-ish exterior was shattered by seeing hordes of Americans gathered for the first time in a long time to demonstrate something with which I agree. Reminding Big G that gov’t is a contract is our wont, and, as the descendants of those who penned and signed the Declaration of Independence, this is our duty.
It was incredibly inspiring to see Americans recall that contracts require that both parties adhere to their terms. It’s nice to be knocked out of complacency when, if I won’t leave the District, the mountains will come to DC. Above all, it’s tremendous to see Americans doing what we do best, acting on our heritage, and taking matters into our own hands.