But, beginning last year, something else special happens on April 15th. Tens of thousands of South Carolinians from all walks of life have begun assembling for “tea parties” to protest a government which has grown too big, too costly, and has strayed too far from the vision of our nation’s founders.
From the Lowcountry to the Upstate – and, indeed, all across the nation — ordinary citizens gather at modern versions of the Boston Tea Party.
They meet not only to voice disapproval of the $787 billion stimulus and the government takeover of health care, but also to appeal for a new direction for America — in particular, to change our leaders’ indifference to how they spend our hard-earned tax dollars.
I have been proud to attend several of these rallies, and each time I have been struck not by the size of the crowds, but by the diversity.
They appear to represent a cross-section of our state — young and old, blue-collar and white-collar, folks of all races and backgrounds.
As I surveyed the crowd, I thought about how fortunate we are to live in a land where such a gathering is possible, and how we owe deep gratitude to those who fought for the freedom to assemble that we often take for granted. Many who attended had served in the military to guarantee this freedom.
Of course, not everyone shares my view of these rallies. Many in the media have dismissed them as “tax protests,” and members of one major political party have stooped to ridiculing and belittling those who attended.
I’d argue that citizens who take the time to gather and deliberate on the future of their state, their nation or their local community should not only be respected, they should be cherished — whether at a tea party to express frustration with the rapid growth of government, or to speak out about local zoning matter in their local community.
Their views should be valued — even when we disagree with them. Unhindered public expression is an American ideal. Those in positions of public trust — from our U.S. Congressman down to our local council representative — have a particular obligation to make sure citizens feel they can safely speak their minds, and that their voices will be heard.