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Commentary: Tea Party invokes spirit of great patriots

WFAE commentator Matthew Rich. hspace=4

No matter your opinion of the Tea Party movement, most of us can probably agree that it evokes strong emotions. Commentator Matthew Rich has never attended a Tea Party rally, but he's a fan of the movement. In 1773, the British Parliament passed a series of taxes. They were designed to take money out of the booming colonial economy and place it in the "wiser" hands of the British government. The lords and ladies of the mother country felt the colonials were little better than the 'savages' - the vernacular of the day - that otherwise populated this continent. The patriots who snuck onto those British boats were not just disguising themselves; they were also thumbing their noses at the elitist Brits. Thanks to those patriots, when I hear the term "Tea Party," I picture a group of men with hatchets merrily polluting Boston Harbor. The modern-day TEA movement is a group of people who feel that the governing body is out of touch and out of control. So what do these people want? A little more thought for the consequences of far-reaching legislation, and recognition that you cannot spend a country to financial health. On those points, I have a hard time disagreeing. But what of the big protests? Well, we live in a country borne of protest. It is part of our national DNA, the fiber of who we are. The abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and women's suffrage were all advanced by those who raised their voices in protest. Is Sarah Palin the incarnation of Susan B. Anthony? Is Ken Blackwell the new Frederick Douglas? Perhaps (sigh) or perhaps not. But Abraham Lincoln was called a buffoon, and was regularly cast in editorial cartoons as an ape until he was martyred; the past and the present don't always see with the same eyes. Are there some Tea people who are clearly out of the mainstream? Well sure. There are in any gathering. The media loves controversy, and some people love attention. Are the voices of disagreement sometimes too loud, or their words uncivil? Well like it or not - and I do not - we live in a "Jerry Springer" society. Many seem to believe that the only way to be heard is to shout down everyone else. But now I hear people calling for restraint and civility. Oddly, no one ever seems to ask the same of Michael Moore or Code Pink. It appears that we only want restraint on the part of those with whom we disagree. Thank God we have voices of dissent, from both ends of the political spectrum, and that they can be freely heard here. Matthew Rich is a computer programmer in the Charlotte area.