April 2010 – Conservatives across America, along with some independents, have begun to band together to make their voices heard. The results: many Tea Party rallies, groups of hundreds or thousands with flags, signs and costumes in small towns and cities.
The Tea Party movement can best be described as a grassroots collection of social and fiscal conservatives coming together to do what they never could accomplish as individuals. AFA Journal recently sat down with Grant Sowell, a small business owner in Tupelo, Mississippi, who became a local Tea Party organizer.
AFAJ: What got you into leading a Tea Party?
Grant Sowell: I care about our country. When this new administration came in, I was uneasy. Then I heard about someone having a Tea Party last February. I laughed about it because it was such a bold move. It amazed me that someone was stepping out like that. Then I saw something on AFA.net for people to sign up and volunteer. Soon people started calling me asking when we were going to meet. A glitch made me the organizer.
AFAJ: How do you feel about being called a right-wing extreme terrorist?
GS: Don’t forget unpatriotic and un-American. At first it made me angry. But I’ve always heard that if you aren’t being persecuted, you may not be doing anything. Then I realized those are the rules they are going to play by and, rather than going on the defensive, saying, “I’m not this or that,” I decided to go on the offensive showing the community what I and those in the Tea Parties truly are.
AFAJ: Do Tea Party rallies really accomplish anything?
GS: Absolutely. Thomas Jefferson said, “All that it takes for evil to get a foothold is for people of conscience to remain silent.” I believe we’ve had a few decades of silence and, as a result, we are reaping the fruits. But look at what happened when the Obama administration put up the Web site Flag.gov [a site for citizens to report health care dissenters to the government].People confronted them and they were forced to pull back.
AFAJ: What can the average American do to help our country?
GS: First, let me say that I don’t have all the answers. However, I do feel I have an element of an answer. In our Tea Parties, we have a foundation called the Principles of God. We also stand on a platform of three As. We operate with awareness, accountability and action.
Awareness means we want to be up to speed. We want to know what is going on politically, up to the minute. This means not only knowing what government is doing, but also how the decisions made by government will affect our lives in the long term. This takes citizens educating themselves by doing research. Don’t just trust the media, whether conservative or liberal. You can go to Factcheck.org, AFA.net, or just check out other news Web sites. The best thing is to go to the source. If you hear Congress is going to pass this or that, call your representative.
In accountability, it is one thing to say, “Wow, we see they are trying to pass this health care bill that has 2,000 pages and they are trying to shove it down the throats of Americans overnight. That’s sad, now let’s get some sleep.” If that is all you are doing, that’s wrong. Hold your representatives accountable and let them know you are paying attention.
Action is the last one. That’s where you aren’t doing it by yourself, but you are getting others involved. Talk to your neighbors, your family, your friends. Get your community involved. That is the platform we go by and we’ve had some good feedback.
AFAJ: What is the best way to contact representatives?
GS: Some say faxes are one of the most under-appreciated methods. It is very effective. When you are deleting e-mail, you just push a button. If you get a fax, you actually have to touch it. You have to hold it and it is more likely to be read. But in one office, faxes may not even be looked at. Each representative has multiple offices. Find out which one is most active and what is the best way to contact them. A handwritten note goes a long way. Personal delivery is a great way to do it. (See here.)
AFAJ: What makes a Tea Party successful?
GS: If you do any kind of protest, it needs to be publicized well. Get local media and maybe national coverage if you can. It is important to get the numbers right. This keeps the media from belittling or embellishing the effort. Make sure your community knows about it, and that your local media is there to cover it.
To organize your own Tea Party …
1. Choose a date, time and place.
2. Secure a permit from city or county.
3. Secure speaker(s).
4. Invite band(s) or vocalist.
5. Promote event on Internet, television and radio.