When I first started organizing events as a tea party leader in 2009, I recognized early that quite a lot of people were passionate about shrinking government and curbing its excesses and fighting for the principles we believed the country was founded upon. Runaway spending, bailouts, earmarks – all of these became household words in the homes of millions. Throw in Obamacare, the IRS, and Homeland Security surveillance of our events and you had a toxic mix created in Washington that had people rallying and marching and confronting Congressvarmints at their town halls.
It was easy to get people worked up in those days. Tax Day? Call a rally and over 11,000 people would show up in downtown Houston. Nancy Pelosi coming to town for a fundraiser? With a day’s notice we could have 500 people show up during rush hour at one of her events at a downtown theater or a northwest-side hospital. We worked closely with the police in those days, too; alerting them to our events, hiring off-duty officers for security when needed, coordinating huge demonstrations. The police in Houston even helped us plan a march to surround the Houston Chronicle office, closing the streets temporarily to get us there and back to the originating venue. It was a time when we always seemed to be on the march.
In the midst of this energetic season of protest, a friend asked me a question I will never forget.
‘Are you willing to go to jail for your beliefs?’
That’s not a simple question. That’s not something you can brush aside with a quick answer. Given the high regard in which the movement holds the Founding Fathers, and the lengths to which they were willing to go to secure their (and our) freedom, one would think that our movement would be willing to consider it readily, and often. Still, the ramifications could be far-reaching. Would you lose your job? Would you be able to make bail? Would you be able to pay the legal fees required to defend yourself?
And beyond that, the answer depends upon what actions you might take to land you in the slammer. We were politely tossed out of a few Congressional district offices in our time, but what if some had decided to stage a sit-in? During a town hall we staged on health care, what if the hotel had refused to accommodate us by opening adjoining ballroom space and we exceeded the capacity per the fire codes but people wouldn’t leave?
No, we weren’t often at risk of having to go to jail for our beliefs; as I said, we worked closely with law enforcement and always attempted to protest within the parameters they asked us to. Still, when we began to notice Homeland Security vehicles at all of our events, some people did decide not to continue to join us anymore, and others removed themselves from our e-mail list, citing concerns that they would end up on a list somewhere in Washington. (Too late, we now know.)
That brings me to today, though. Another video focused on Planned Parenthood surfaced today, this one from Houston. As someone who has attended protests and prayer rallies regarding this particular enormous (and according to the video, enormously profitable) facility, this one punches me in the gut even more than the previous ones. It’s also the first video to be released after the injunction slapped on Center for Medical Progress, likely a politically-motivated injunction, but one that seems to have had as much effect as one of those Sternly Worded Letters that passes for diplomacy nowadays.
I don’t know the risks that CMP is taking by continuing to release these videos. One imagines that if there are fines levied, that donations will flood their offices to pay them. Given the funds raised and support given lately to high-profile victims of left activism – from bakeries in Ferguson to pizza joints in Indiana – I have every confidence CMP’s possible financial needs will be more than met. That’s the kind of people we are.
But the question that the CMP’s principals seem to have asked and answered for themselves – whether they are willing to go to jail for their beliefs – hasn’t yet been tested. I don’t even know if it will in the current climate. Given the outrageous discoveries we are making every week with these videos, it may be that there will never be the political will to try to concoct charges on which they could be arrested. I certainly hope that’s the case. But CMP couldn’t count on that when they began this project. They knew what they were doing, and what could potentially come of it. And they did it anyway.
And from that, I think we all ought to examine our level of commitment; not just to life, as this series focuses on, but to all the values and principles we champion. Are we comfortable being armchair activists? Do we feel signing petitions and sharing images are enough? And if not, what ought we to be doing to further our causes? Amplifying the champions of those values? Committing to learning more about the issues? Perfecting our messaging? Working stealthily to reach the middle, the leftwashed, and the apolitical? All these must be done, but who will do them?
Whatever it is we think we ought to be doing, we must be about it, and soon. CMP knows how high the stakes are. We, too, should make sure we know them. And then act on them.