Monday, August 6, 2012

Power versus Individual Freedom

I realized something this past week that has stuck with me, so I wanted to write about it. It’s about the Tea Party, what it is, what it represents. This is something pols and media seem to miss. It isn’t about gaining power; it’s about regaining individual freedom.

In Spherical Model terms, desiring power over other individuals is anathema to freedom. Power hunger is a southern hemisphere trait (the tyranny side of the sphere), while desire for individual freedom combined with voluntarily working together for good in the community is a northern hemisphere trait (the freedom half of the sphere). (I wrote a three-part series on the difference between power hunger and leadership here, here, and here.)
Tea Parties are not a power seeking movement, where you measure effectiveness by how many legislators they get elected. Effectiveness has to do with how much freedom all Americans feel as a result of their efforts.
First, it is not a political party; the word “party” refers to the original Boston Tea Party, which was a statement (actually a rebellious act, a demonstration) against unfair taxation. “Taxed Enough Already” is an acronym often used. It is a movement, and a revival of the original founders and their revolution against tyranny. It is not a call to demonstrate with acts of lawlessness; it is a call to action through whatever legal, constitutional means are available. It is a groundswell of regular hard-working Americans across a wide spectrum of income, experience, and backgrounds, most of whom have left the political world well enough alone up until now—until things have gotten so bad that they’re not going to take it anymore. They don’t come asking, “What can this group do for me?” but they ask, “What can I do about this mess we’re in?”
There was talk about what kind of influence they had in Texas’s senate race, where Ted Cruz beat David Dewhurst. Ted Cruz appealed to Tea Partiers; it was at my first Tea Party rally that I first heard him speak, and he made enough of a positive impression that I was willing to consider him as my candidate this year for the senate. But it wasn’t because he associated with the Tea Party; it was because his message resonated with the people going to Tea Parties: we need smaller government, lower taxes, and adherence to our US Constitution.
The local tea party group that I attend regularly (we meet every three weeks) receives no funding, collects no dues, and has no expenses. We use free social media (Facebook and Google groups), and meet in a party room at a local restaurant that lets us use the space for free on the assumption that many of those attending will buy their lunch there. We voted as a group that we would not endorse candidates. Individuals could endorse and share their opinions, but the group as a whole would give no endorsements. And yet during campaign years we have candidates come and speak with us at every meeting. They know that just having access to our group, meeting people in person, is good for their campaign.
Our purpose is two-fold: educating citizens, and helping citizens know what they can do to have an effect on government. We have learned about the US Constitution, the legislative process in our state, the specific issues before our legislature and how to best become citizen lobbyists on specific issues. We’ve learned about how the court system is set up in the state. We’ve learned about the Railroad Commission and its actual role in natural resource use.
We invite opposing viewpoints, and we share articles and ideas and discussions. We do essentially what the early Boston patriots did when they met beneath the Liberty Tree. We’re not party affiliated. Democrats get invited to come and share their positions (so far, though, they don’t come). We have lively discussions between various Republican and Libertarian viewpoints.
I expect the Tea Party, as a loose association of individual community groups across the country—as well as other-named similar groups—will continue as long as there are people who want to learn more about their civic responsibilities and ways they can work toward the greater individual freedoms that we’ve been deprived of even though they’re guaranteed to us constitutionally.
What we don’t have are people with a desire to wield power over others, only to break off those shackles that have been placed on us. Because, to those who love the great experiment in freedom that is America, it’s not about exerting force over others; it is about exercising our God-given rights.

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