Once Obama was inaugurated, I still held out hope that things wouldn't get THAT bad. When the first 100 days included legislation that pledged United States taxpayers' money to fund abortion services overseas, I knew that I could not remain optimistic.
Over the next year, in the shadows of debate over the healthcare reform bill, I educated myself. I listened to journalists and pundits on both sides. I read everything I could get my hands on - including the atrocity otherwise known as the "Affordable Healthcare Act." People who supported the healthcare bill kept telling me that if I would just read the right information, I would be in favor of it. But the more I read, the more I hated it. The more I believed with every fiber of my being that that one piece of legislation could very well be the straw that brought down the eagle.
My first experience with the Tea Party was shortly before the health care bill passed. A friend was involved with the Rolla, MO Tea Party, and I took the kids out to a protest.
I was so incensed at the thought that Americans were getting ready to willingly hand their rights back to the federal government, that I wrote my first ever essay on the subject. I started talking about the healthcare bill at work. I joined a forum on a page called "Moorewatch.com," which started out as an anti-Michael Moore website (that information alone made joining totally worth it) and had morphed into a forum for all topics. With members from all over the world, the Moorewatch forum boasted every possible ideology. It was there that I learned to apply my education and honed my debate skills. (Since then, Moorewatch has moved to "Right Thinking.")
One day, the Troop Clinic OIC (Officer In Charge) overheard me talking about it as I walked by. She then proceeded to inform me that "criticizing the President's healthcare bill was seen by some as speech that maligns the President," and that I could face administrative action. My response was, "Ma'am, with all due respect, the bill is Congress's, not the President's. And I have no intention of maligning the office of the President. My problem is not with any person, but rather with a piece of legislation - if it is not in keeping with the Constitution, there should be nothing restricting me from saying so." She left me with a repeat of her first warning, but to silence my newly found voice would have violated my conscience.
After the healthcare bill passed, there was a lot of talk about it within the military medical community. Soldiers were joining Tea Party groups en masse. The Marine SGT who started the Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook page was threatened with Court Martial, and the Chief of Staff of the Western Regional Medical Command (which I was part of) sent out a memo which on the surface seemed to say "don't say bad things about the President," but further examination revealed a veiled "don't you dare joint the Tea Party" message.
When I left the Army and came back to St. Louis six months later, I went back to school. I followed the Tea Party goings on on the local news (when they bothered to cover it), but forgot about getting involved myself.
Then one afternoon, while driving the kids to see their father in Rolla, I turned on the radio and tuned into The Dana Show on 97.1fm...
Her guest that day was Andre Harper, and he was promoting his new book, The Citizen's Guide to Defeating the Mainstream Media. In fact, he was talking about a book release party that was to be happening that evening. I did some quick calculations in my head and realized that I could make it to that party...
That night I met Andre Harper, Dana Loesch, Christopher Arps and Martin Baker. I knew the minute I walked into that room that I was finished with my old life. My politics moved from the periphery to the central focus. And I got moving as well. To the St Louis Tea Party Coalition, to a position on Martin Baker's Congressional campaign team, and to the Gateway Grassroots Initiative.
What's next? Who knows? But I'm in.