Providence, RI, Tax Day Tea Party Speech
This is one of those times in history when a society must make a decision. Social commentators of the near future will say one of two things about us: If we fail to be heard, then these tea parties, these expressions of outrage across the nation, are the final lunge of a fading culture, riddled with the errors of an unenlightened past. Or, if we can rein in our government, these demonstrations represent the reawakening of the American spirit, reasserting the principles of the United States.
Our country is defined by its principles. There is no picture of the typical American. We aren’t a race. We aren’t a religion. We aren’t a tribe or a sect or a straight line of lineage. The typical American is a person in motion. With a swagger. Sometimes a smirk. Often a smile. But always, there’s a set jaw and a confident stride toward the future — toward growth and improvement and a better life for all who’ll but seek it.
Future historians will either tell the tale of a nation that tipped the scales toward the final decline of Western civilization, or they will celebrate the character of a people who saved the world once again. Because it was right, and because it was who they were. Who we are.
We are called, most critically, not to stand against an external enemy — although that exists — but against a corruption of spirit. There is a cancer running through our culture that wants ease instead of opportunity, that takes a life of stability to be a higher goal than a life of achievement. Powerful interests will punish those who strive and excel because they want to be the ones providing everybody else’s comfort — defining everybody else’s well-being.
We here today do not savor work, but freedom. If we aren’t free to err and struggle, we aren’t free to succeed. If we aren’t free to build organizations and businesses and lives according to our beliefs and our goals, and based on our own experiences, then we just aren’t free. There is no stability without risk, and freedom is the only defense against stagnation.
The forces of stagnation have waged a decades-long campaign to advance their cause incrementally. Little by little. While they hold sway in the halls of power they inject their principles of big government and nanny-state dictation into the body politic, and then, when the poison reveals itself in painful consequences, they recede into the shadows and await their next chance.
When a welfare and social policy regime results in a desperate underclass, these forces point to a bogeyman of bigotry. Conveniently, it’s always to be found among their political opposition. When quasi-governmental lenders back unsecure investments and build an edifice of financial straw, would-be magicians of the political sphere spread our great-grandchildren’s earnings around in order to establish the principle that government knows best how to run all things, large and small. They connive to foster dependency. They know that an antidote never fully overcomes addiction.
They take, and they tax. They regulate, and they assert authority. They preach their own superiority. And every year, they control a little bit more of our lives, telling a distracted citizenry that they are all that stands between our families and utter collapse and that only their guidance can protect us from our prejudices. They push the fallacy that an increasingly complicated society requires centralized oversight and central planning, when the polar opposite is true. Well, I’m sorry, Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressmen Langevin and Kennedy, but no matter how eloquent and genuinely intelligent our new president may be, even if he’s the brightest bulb in that dim capital, his thinking is fundamentally flawed. It is dangerous. Oppressive.
If we cannot put a stop to the lapse in our national ideals currently seeping into Washington — very similar to the illness that has ravaged Rhode Island — we will cease to be the United States of America. If we cannot say to the president and his followers, “you lied — you sold us a break, a period of cooperation,” if we cannot say that and make the schemers in our government stop pasting a radical pastiche where they promised the even lines of a new realism, then they will have no fear. They will march right into our lives. They will know that the nice image of helping our old country to cross the road to a time of undefined hope and dubious change is suitable propaganda to cover their power grab.
I suspect that most of you here today now understand that there was never any intention to compromise. Those who rule our nation — and who would rule the “global community” — have an idea of compromise that is merely to mouth some pleasing words about listening and then to do whatever they want, take whatever they want. And that is why we must be uncompromising in our message. Enough is enough. That is the statement that the people of these United States have to make. That we have to make here today. And that we must continue to make as we turn our country back toward the right direction in the months and years to come.