Day or two ago, Ridenbaugh Press Prop. Randy Stapilus wrote a piece about two congressional meetings held in his Northwest Oregon neighborhood: Sen. Ron Wyden in one and Sen. Jeff Merkley in the other.

He wrote of the crowd’s usual questions about Social Security, Medicare, our two wars, unemployment and the other normal issues politicians discuss at these sorts of gatherings.

Then he added this: it was mostly “a civil crowd … and questions were more friendly.” And “not a sign of the Tea Party or its sympathizers.” Without thinking, I sent him back a note saying the same sorts of quiet meetings had been held in Southwest Oregon earlier this month.

Then it hit me: why is it newsworthy to include comments about crowd civility and normalcy when talking about the usual constituent meetings of members of congress? Why did I feel it was necessary to take fingers to keyboard to support his comments? And since when is the expected norm of civilized behavior a deviation worth noting?

Much of the answer to those questions lies in that little sentence Randy included: “Not a sign of the Tea Party or its sympathizers.” Which brought about yet another query: Why?

For the record, I am not a Tea Party sympathizer nor admirer. While the concept of making your feelings known on issues political and to those in office is right, just and guaranteed, it comes with certain responsibilities. My belief is you do so (1) knowing enough about what you’re talking about to discuss facts without over-the-top speech or using threatening rhetoric coupled with right wing talking points and (2) with the understanding that your issue is no more important than the guy on your right or left who may disagree with you and (3) you conduct yourself peacefully, courteously and civilly.

But in the last two years, loud disruptions of meetings with elected officials have too often become shouting contests dominated by some with little or no knowledge of how government works. So many of these sessions have featured people at their worst, coupled with personal threats against the elected, that reporters now find it newsworthy when such is not the case.

To me, the words “tea party” have become more a catch phrase than being used to describe a valid citizen movement. Your neighbors who are “members” of such groups will be the first to tell you there is no “party;” just people sympathetic to certain hot button issues.

In my view, whatever real “Tea Party” there may be can be defined by two basic points. First, control by very wealthy people behind the scenes putting multiple millions of dollars into efforts to rewrite our constitution, put power in the hands of a few and to exercise control of conditions under which this country is governed.

And two, the “Tea Party” is being offered by them as a seemingly innocent gathering point for Americans who are scared, willing to follow something new, people who often lack an understanding of what government is – and isn’t – and to some who oppose any types of controls on society though they may be necessary to assure the common good.

In a recent speech to a Tea Party Group, Rep. Michelle Bachmann praised the founding fathers for “condemning slavery” and ”working tirelessly to abolish it.” People applauded and cheered. She got repeated national media coverage. Facts that slavery was guaranteed in the original constitution and about half the signers were slave owners were ignored. Her words were taken as gospel in support of whatever point she was trying to make. Phony history was being espoused by a member of Congress, unchallenged and on national television.

Taken as a single instance, just words from an ignorant person. The problem is she … and others in congressional and Tea Party leadership … are looked upon by followers as experts. Their utterings are accorded belief and trust. They pass along this bad information to friends and actual history sinks further into a morass of lies. Makes no difference if she says these things deliberately or because she’s ignorant. Some people … too many people … listen and believe.

Massive amounts of cold water are about to hit those supporting this hollow movement. Many of those they’ve sent to Washington to change things will prove no more worthy of their continued backing than those they chased out. Former marchers in the streets … no matter how honestly motivated … are going to find little to cheer about as Potomac fever claims more victims and self-service keeps their “candidates” from bringing about the “revolution” they desired.

Those aren’t the people who worry me. It’s the others with the money who know better. If the control and power they seek still eludes them, what will they do next? How high will they turn the rhetoric? To what ends will those with the deep pockets go to redesign our democracy?

Two Oregon congressional constituent meetings “highlighted” by civility and proper decorum seem relatively far away from all that. But for how long?

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