Well, tax day has come and gone. Also gone, at least for now, various “Tea Party” gatherings in front of various buildings at home and across the land.

Gone, also, the excessive national media coverage of these little groups. At least for now. I’m not a fan of either: protesters or overblown media coverage. The uninformed noise and the amount of attention paid to it far exceed the news value. Or civic importance. The gatherings are interesting. But so, too, are stories about many other, more meaningful subjects..

The Douglas County fest was in front of our courthouse, scheduled late in the day so people who work could attend. That’s wise. If you know you’re a distinct minority to begin with, you want to throw your little shindig at the most convenient time.

Minority? Well, let’s see. In our county, 53,462 voters marked ballots in the 2008 presidential election: about 31,000 for McCain; 20,000 or so for Obama; the rest to minor candidates. So, some 81% scratched a ballot here, far more than the national average. A fact we’re proud of in our neighborhood.

But I digress. We were talking minority. One sponsor locally opined 1,400 people enjoyed the late afternoon gathering. Well, maybe. Sounds like a conservative trying to be too liberal. But despite the convenient time, advance publicity, all their noise and carrying on, even using his number their count was only about 2.6% of all the souls who cast ballots for president in our county in 2008. 2.6%.

OK, let’s charitably double the number. Now you’re talking 5.2%. We’re still talking definite minority here. Double it again? Same thing. And our county is one of the most conservative in Oregon. If you were going to make a case for finding Tea Party folks on your block, it would be Douglas County.

As I’ve scanned the national stories, it was about the same situation in most gatherings. Small. Distinct minority. But if you watched CNN or Fox or MSBNC or CBS, you would have thought this was something significant and we should pay more attention. They were bringing us something “important!”

Actually, they weren’t. What we saw were groups of people in various cities, all seemingly mad at something. Mad Pres. Obama has increased taxes (he hasn’t); that he was not native American born (he was); that there are “death squads” in the health care law (there aren’t); that seniors covered by Medicare will be forced to quit and join something else (they won’t); that the president and congress have been enacting laws illegally (they haven’t) and on and on and on.

We even saw some members of Congress at the Washington DC noise fest telling some of these same lies while having previously sworn to uphold the Constitution. Really proud of those folks, aren’t we?

Far be it from me to say these street gatherers shouldn’t be able to parade around and vent their anger. My only requirement to take them seriously is that they get their facts straight; that they be mad at something that really exists; that they exhibit enough knowledge of how their government works so we can believe them.

Bottom line: from their placards and statements, they don’t have their facts straight; they’re seemingly mad at nonexistent things; they don’t know enough about government workings … and often the English language … to create a meaningful sign.

As for being mad, Hell, I’m mad, too! Mad at people who damned near deep-sixed our entire economy; mad at the guys who stole more than half of my retirement assets; mad at insurance companies forcing people who’ve paid for coverage for years off their politics when they need them most; mad at Bernie Madoff; mad that Congress hasn’t cracked down with new regulatory restrictions to keep all this from happening again; mad at members of Congress who use their high office to avoid real issues in favor of their own long term employment.

Peaceful assembly to protest is a valued right. We made it so and we protect it fiercely. But there is a generally understood responsibility to be informed and knowledgeable before taking your anger to the nearest public right-of-way. May not be written in any of our founding documents but it’s a definite requirement. If you want to be taken seriously.

When marchers can’t meet even that threshold, they should not only not be taken seriously. They should be arrested for fraud.

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