Tea party rally generates plenty of criticism, opposing views
They were enraged about the growing costs of entitlements, the surging national debt, and everything from the bailouts of the banks to the new health care law.
Early yesterday morning, Valerie and Rob Shirk corralled their 10 home-schooled children into their van for the 2 1/2-hour drive from their home in Connecticut to Boston, arriving just in time to hear Sarah Palin denounce government-run health care at the tea party movement rally on Boston Common.
They thought it would be a learning opportunity for their children, who range in age from 9 months to 15 years old and who held up signs criticizing the government for defying the “will of the people.’’
“The problem in this country is that too many people are looking for handouts,’’ said Valerie Shirk, 43, of Prospect, Conn. “I agree with the signs that say, ‘Share my father’s work ethic — not his paycheck.’ We have to do something about the whole welfare mentality in this country.’’
The Shirks were among the thousands of people who attended the rally from around the region, many of them carrying signs with slogans such as, “What Part of Live Free or Die Don’t You Understand?,’’ “Don’t Tread on Me,’’ and “Starve the Beast by Tax Cuts.’’
Some of those attending said the health bill’s requirement to buy health insurance signaled the arrival of communism in America.
Gene Theroux, of Springfield, held up a sign that read “Against Progressivism,’’ which he said meant he was protesting “the movement to socialism’’ and the United Nations’ “sovereignty violations’’ against the United States. The 57-year-old retired Air Force chief master sergeant said he likes his government-run health care administered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, but he worries about what will happen when some 30 million newly insured Americans enter the system.
“Where does it say in the Constitution that there’s a mandate for all Americans to have health care?’’ he said. “This bill will ravage the health care that I get.’’
Lindsay Lacombe, who wore an “I Love Fox News’’ T-shirt, drove in from Fitchburg, in part to protest the health care reforms.
“This was just something I really wanted to participate in,’’ said Lacombe, 22, a junior at Fitchburg State College. “I don’t understand how everyone can get free health care. It’s not right.’’
When it was explained that the new law requires many of the newly insured to make some contribution toward their health insurance, she said: “I’m not a political science major.’’
Others came to protest the protesters.
Taylor Light, 19, a sophomore at Emerson College, held up a sign that read, “Get Off Our Socialist Commons.’’
“I think the tea party is a fear-mongering movement that spreads ignorance, hateful rhetoric, and anti-American ideas,’’ said Light, between debates with others in the crowd, whom he said shouted antigay slurs at him. “I feel a little overwhelmed by the rhetoric.’’
Eynice Ko handed out a “Pamphlet for the Informed Tea Party Member’’ that cited a Harvard study that found nearly 45,000 Americans die every year because of a lack of health insurance and a World Health Organization report ranking the US health system behind 36 other developed countries in overall performance.
“My goal is to dispel the misinformation that the tea party spreads,’’ said Ko, 21, a junior at Boston University. “If I can change one person’s mind, then I’ll be happy. I think a lot of people here don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re just angry at the government.’’
Among those incensed with the Obama administration was Jeff McQueen, 51, who recently lost his auto industry job in Detroit. He spent the week attending tea party movement rallies and selling the Betsy Ross version of the American flag, with a Roman Numeral II in the center of the circle of 13 stars. His addition to the $20 flag, he said, symbolized the second Revolution in America, which he said the movement represents.
“This movement stands for smaller government, reduced taxation, and support for our Constitution, which I feel has been trampled on by the Democrats, and George W. Bush,’’ said McQueen, who now receives health insurance through COBRA.
He was not sure how much longer he would be able to afford his insurance. “But I won’t take a handout,’’ he said. “I’ll just have to make some money.’’
Anna Kaczowka, 59, of Hanover, said she pays $1,300 a month for health insurance to cover her and her husband and came to the rally because she feared the new health care law will make her coverage even more expensive. She was with her sister, who recently lost her job and blamed President Obama.
“He’s a communist and all about the redistribution of wealth,’’ Kaczowka said. “It’s just the minorities and the illegals who are getting the benefits. Everybody who works gets nothing.’’
Kat Malone, from Charlestown, one of the few nonwhite supporters of the movement at the rally, held a sign that read, “Look, a Black Tea Partier!’’
“The media has said there aren’t any nonwhites in the Tea Party,’’ the 22-year-old woman said. “As you can see, that’s not true.’’
For the Shirks, it was a day for their children to seek inspiration from Palin and the other speakers, who questioned Obama’s patriotism and at least one of whom referred to him repeatedly as Barack Hussein.
The couple, who rely on Medicaid for their health care, were also upset about the nation’s new health reforms.
When asked why her family used state-subsidized health care when she criticized people who take handouts, Valerie Shirk said she did not want to stop having children, and that her husband’s income was not enough to cover the family with private insurance.
“I know there’s a dichotomy because of what we get from the state,’’ she said. “But I just look at each of my children as a blessing.’’