On Saturday, I checked out the Tea Party at the Capitol, and I thought it would be educational to bring the 5-year-old along. The trip turned out to be an educational experience for both of us.
First of all, as we drove into downtown Austin, we saw at least three people with signs saying "I Need Tickets." The 5-year-old pointed out that those people shouldn't have been there because they should have gotten their tickets already. (This makes the 5-year-old wiser than many adults, apparently.) I then explained that many times, these people end up paying much more than the original ticket price, which pretty much solidified the 5-year-old's opinion on the matter.
Finally, we got to the Capitol Parking Complex, where I discovered, to my chagrin, that unlike what I had been led to believe, the first two hours of parking were not free. This led directly to my first real takeaway from this event, which should be passed along to anyone wanting to schedule an event in downtown Austin: never schedule an event in downtown Austin on the day of a UT football game. (The corollary to this would most likely be that people should never drive anywhere near downtown Austin on a UT game day without expecting to sit in traffic.)
We got to the Capitol grounds about twenty minutes before the event was supposed to start. There were already quite a few people there, as I expected. I haven't heard an official count (this site says more than 4000 were there), but we were both given wristbands (so "the media can't say 45 people were there", someone said later). The first person we met asked me if I was aware that Debra Medina (warning: page has embedded autoplaying video) was running in the Republican gubernatorial primary against Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison (I was). Most others were similarly genial, although there was at least one person shouting about his pet issue (in the case I'm remembering, the right to own guns). The 5-year-old didn't understand why he was shouting, and I tried to explain without going into a lot of detail.
As expected, there were hundreds of signs to be seen at the Tea Party. The 5-year-old wasn't paying attention to most of them, which was a good thing (because the 5-year-old reads quite well, thank you). Of course, everyone who wanted to be there came because we are not happy with the way the Obama administration has handled, well, pretty much every major item (I, for one, am not thrilled that the 5-year-old will have to help pay for this mess), but some of the signs were juvenile at best. I mean, do we really need plays on Obama's name, rude insults thrown at him (mostly...some were thrown at Nancy Pelosi and others), or whatever else? I feel about this about the same way I feel about people who use the term "teabaggers".
Anyway, about five minutes after the event was scheduled to start (and after the 5-year-old had asked me about 15 times when it would start), the canned music was turned off, and the first of many people took the microphone. I won't go into a lot of detail about what was said (the entire event has been posted on YouTube, starting here), but I will note a few things. First, I was surprised to see the event start with a prayer (that our country would do God's will), and I was happy that the 5-year-old got to see/hear someone sing our national anthem. Most of what I heard (I don't always hear too well, thanks to the 1990s and many pairs of earbuds) was about what I expected. Steven Crowder, who emceed the event, was his usual funny self.
With that said, I wasn't thrilled with what others said. Someone, I never knew who, raised the specter of whether Obama would allow elections in 2012. Um, yeah, didn't we hear the same thing about both Clinton and Bush? Besides, there are enough legitimate things to worry about with this administration, such as whether the dollar will have any value left after we print a bazillion of them to pay for everything. My takeaway from this: if you're concerned about a current issue, focus on that, rather than raising what-if scenarios to make things seem even worse. Both sides are bad about this, of course, but for me to be present at this particular event when someone said such a thing made me feel as if I was tacitly agreeing with him. Not so.
And this reminds me of something else I learned: if you didn't enjoy scheduled pep rallies in high school, you probably wouldn't enjoy political rallies such as this one. I always hated having to cheer on cue back then, and I felt rather silly when it was encouraged by the speakers at the Tea Party. Yes, I enjoyed hearing most of the speakers, you know, speak, but I wasn't moved to yell and scream in agreement by most of what I heard Saturday.
I did see some counter-protesters (three) holding signs in favor of a public option for health care and against "big insurance", but I didn't see much of any interaction between them and the main crowd. (One of them yelled about stopping big insurance, but no one knew what to do with such a remark. Seriously, everything stopped for about ten seconds.) But at least there were no hostilities that I could see. Takeaway: it is possible to protest and counter-protest without getting into fights, or, say, biting someone's finger off. (No, I'm not linking to the story, as most of my readers probably have seen it already, and it's gross.)
As it turned out, though, I did not get to see/hear all of the speakers (for example, I missed Joe the Plumber). The 5-year-old apparently has little tolerance for sitting and/or standing around listening to people speak for three hours about topics which are not quite as interesting to a 5-year-old as they are to me. I attempted to explain to the 5-year-old that people were not happy with what the president was doing, but later, the 5-year-old could only summarize what I said as something to the effect of "President Obama needs to stop." (At least she was trying to listen to me explain this.) The 5-year-old also wanted to go inside the Capitol and view the dome, which we did, and after that, we did not stay much longer, as the 5-year-old was "homesick", which I took to mean extremely bored.
And that brings us to the main lesson to be learned in all this, which I think many could stand to learn: don't bring a 5-year-old to a political rally.