The following article originally was published on April 27, 2009, by Grand Junction’s Free Press.
After tea, try long, cool drink of liberty
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
On April 15 thousands of Coloradans gathered in cities across the state to protest big-spending politicians and advocate liberty. They joined hundreds of thousands across the nation. But a tea party is not in itself a liberty movement. We must dig beneath the political crises of the day and nourish the roots of freedom.
We are encouraged by much of what we heard April 15. Here in Grand Junction, Ryan Frazier said, “We, and more importantly our children, are being saddled with endless debt upon which we will all have to pay… We choose capitalism over socialism… We believe you cannot make one man more free by making another man less free.” He advocated people’s “liberty to live [their lives] as they see best, and a government that protects their right to do so.”
Your junior author Ari attended the rally in Denver and recorded a number of interviews. Peter Perry advocated “lower taxes, less government, and more freedom… Let’s get back to the original Constitution.”
Thomas James: “I hope the elected officials who this is aimed at develop an awareness that the people are not happy… with the taxing, spending, government growth, irresponsibility, and that people are waking up and they want their liberty back.”
Anthony Gillis: “We need to take a stand for liberty, and for our livelihoods… The spending is simply out of control.”
Ed Carter: “I’m here with my son to try to take this government back for the people… We need to get back to what our forefathers intended this country to be all about.”
Carol: “I have eight grandchildren… [They’re] going to have to [bear] the brunt of paying this off… and I’m mad as hell about it, too. Our kids shouldn’t have to pay for somebody else’s misappropriation of funds.”
Terry: “I’m tired of seeing the Constitution stepped on… Government is out of control.”
Bob Tender: “The government is spending too much money. Congress doesn’t even read its own bills, comes up with ‘stimulus’ that has hidden pork in it, taking away our future, taking away our kids’ future, taking away our grandchildrens’ future.”
Mel, an Air Force veteran of Vietnam: “I feel this taxation, and also the overspending of the budget is definitely wrong. It’s a free enterprise country. If you can’t run your company, you should resign or default, and not have the government pulling you out.”
The tea parties were deeply inspiring for those of us who cherish economic liberty and see that robbing Peter to pay Paul cannot restore prosperity. But we need more than anger at the current (or the last) administration. We need more than criticism of Congress. We need more than signs, rallies, and speeches.
We need ideas. We need the ideas that informed the signers of the Declaration of Independence, that each person has the moral right to his or her own life.
Our favorite Tea Party speech was given by John Lewis, a history professor, at Charlotte, North Carolina. You can view the speech on YouTube or read the transcript online.
Lewis said, “The Founders of this nation brought forth a radical idea… This idea was the Rights of Man…
“These inalienable rights are The Right to Life — the right to live your own life, to choose your own goals, and to preserve your own independent existence.
“The Right to Liberty, which is the right to act to achieve your goals, without coercion by other men.
“The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness, to act to achieve your own success, your own prosperity, and your own happiness, for your own sake.
“And the Right to Property -— the right to gain, keep, and enjoy, the material products of your efforts.”
Lewis summarized, “Each of us is an individual, autonomous, moral being, with the right to choose his own values and capable of directing his own life.”
Over the last century, Lewis explained, government has turned away from protecting our rights to seizing the wealth of some to hand to others. To the degree that government follows that path, it must control the lives of the citizens.
The trend of government controlling our wealth has led to a “vision of man as a whining dependent, who begs for the needs of life from an all-powerful governing aristocracy. This ruling elite claims the moral right to distribute the wealth of those who earn it to those who wish for it,” Lewis said.
Lewis asked the audience, and he asks you: “Look at yourselves again. Do you see in your face, and in the face of the person next to you, the slave of a group, with no moral status, no rights and no liberties, who is bound from birth to serve? Or do you see an autonomous being with the right to live for his own sake?”
On April 15 we stood among a vast crowd. But we stood with individuals.
One thought on “After Tea, Try Liberty”
Ari, your last line is the poignant. This is what made this protest different from any I have seen for a very long time.
And it is also why the Progressives don’t understand the whole Tea Party phenomenon.
And you are also right in that now there is much work to be done to educate ourselves and our friends who went to the tea parties. We need ideas more desperately than action if we intend to take our liberty back.
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