Photography by: Sean Marlin

It’s nearing midnight, and I’m waiting on a call by a waitress we met earlier after unpacking our bags and finding ourselves at her table in a café. She eventually comes around to it and agrees to show us around the D.C. entertainment district –it would be like something from film noir.

Originally edited & published at The Monarch Review.

The beautiful city I had seen during the daytime had transformed itself: Everyone in the Adams Morgan district is well-dressed (although very drunk), and the architecture looks amazing under the moonlight, but the beauty of it all is being ruined. There are sirens blaring from every which direction, people being chased by police officers, cuffs being slammed on the wrists of some poor white kid (certainly not from Georgetown). Pretty women, with pizza slices the length of my arm dripping cheese onto their dresses.  Gay men making out at the bus stop, then being taunted. And horns honking at me at every crosswalk I try and pass. I came into town thinking I would have to fictionalize Conflict, but here it all is right in front of me.

With our tour guide leading the way, we would thankfully find a way out of this mess and into an old-timey speakeasy tucked away amongst the others and plastered with ivory, apparently owned by the Thievery Corporation. A place where people could take their liquor seriously, and still not act like savages. After a couple of rounds, we would have to say buenas noches to our new friend and hail a cab back to the hotel for some sleep; there was no way my nerves could handle a walk through this Arena of Fiendishness, not tonight; I need some golden silence before tomorrow’s rally.

* * *

Our alarm sounds at 9:30 the next morning. Soon, it would be time for the Big March. But first, Sean and I would have to pre-party: I head to the mini fridge in our room on the 6th floor of the hotel, and grab a sweet tea + whiskey. I hook up the iPhone to the clock beside the bed, and start walking toward the window when I hear Kanye West coming from the clock speakers:

“With some light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowland’s –In this white man’s world, we the ones chosen!”

With my drink in hand, I look down and out at all of the Leisure Class people, tanning & swimming & living carefree in the pool below.

“Lost in translation with a whole fuckin’ nation – They say I was the abomination of Obama’s nation…”

I open another drink, still listening to Kanye, with Sean trying to tell me something as a group of blackbirds fly by just outside the window.

Thom, Jesus Christ man, we’re going to be late if we don’t catch our train soon,” He says, unplugging the iPhone and tossing it at me.
“Come on man, let’s fucking go. And put that cigarette out, I don’t want to be getting a phone call by some idiot at the hotel!”

I agree with him, and tell him that it’s time for The Party. We leave our room and head across the hall and down the elevator, rushing out across the street and down the stairs, him with his camera equipment flopping around at his side and me with an old magazine camera I figure I’ll test out. Down, down we go to the escalator to the rails beneath, under ground and into the low light of the subway. It’s here that I would see the most peaceful thing of the entire trip: a young woman on a train across the way in a Muslim hijab, surrounded by people seemingly of various ethnicities and backgrounds, but not being bothered by any of them; moving along peacefully to wherever she is going.

But that moment of Peace would not last. As Sean and I hop on our train & then off & up the escalator & out of the subway, meeting the hazy midday light, we shade our eyes and set out to find the Tea Party. We walk quickly, past this great architecture and these roped-off areas filled with great bronze statues of old men on horses. Police officers have cleared the way for these patriots to TAKE AMERICA BACK: there they are in the distance, waving their big yellow flags with attack snakes on them and the mantra “Don’t Tread On Me” in some sort of font that is not Helvetica. Past those, across the road and beyond the big green trees we see a Texas Flag in the distance, our comrades, and so we rush to get there before The March.

*  *  *

s we near the rallying point, I see a man with a big gray moustache sitting underneath an old tree. He’s reading a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, almost making me think twice about the sanity of these Patriots. Apparently they are not, in fact, all illiterate. And some actually deserving of respect, regardless of whether or not they wound up in some twisted game of Politics run by the GOP’s Ministry of Propaganda. Turns out, the guy is a retired militaryman, a worker – a volunteer for the American Red Cross. A Green Bay Packer fan. And, the man with whom I would march with.

As the march begins, we leave for the national mall behind someone dressed as George Washington in full costume, down the streets of Washington with cars on each side of us wondering what the hell is going on. Chants of “USA! USA! USA!” begin, and I just go with it, with big flags of all kinds waving around me. A huge round of applause & hoots & hollers & whistles erupt as three soldiers in uniform step out of a car and line up on a sidewalk, egging on the crowd. I walk a little further, sweating profusely with my boots clicking along as I try and keep up with the energy of the crowd. People are standing on the balconies of the surrounding buildings, all eyes on the Tea Party.  Pickets bump up and down throughout the crowd, with various signs attached to them and reading such things as “STOP Socialism” & “What Would Jefferson Do?” & “SLAVERY BY GOVT IS STILL SLAVERY” & “I STILL PLEDGE ALLEGIENCE”. It is chaotic, and I do not see order coming from it, no sir, certainly not today.

At the end-point of the rally, a country and western singer begins preparing to sing to the audience, who have all by now folded out their lawnchairs somewhere in the shadow of the Washington Monument. I leave for the subway, heading back to the hotel to phone the president of Alabama’s biggest chapter of the Tea Party.

Thom Fain: What in American politics caused all of this Tea Partiness?
Loretta Wakefield: Unfortunately, the majority of Americans across the age spectrum have been asleep, and have not been paying attention. And they just let the government do whatever the government was doing. Americans got very fat and lazy and just sat back and let the government do its thing, and let it gradually move to too big, too expensive, and out of control.

TF: Have Obama’s policies created this poor state of affairs?
LW: His agenda – to fundamentally change America – made it obvious to a large number of Americans that we better put the brakes on. Because the government is spending out of control.

TF: Would you not say that the government had to step in, because private corporations had too much power?
LW: As a whole, no. I don’t think that private corporations gained too much power. I believe that free market capitalism is what made America the country that it is. I do not believe that government having control over private industry is a good thing, no.

TF: So would you say the Tea Party is primarily a reaction to Obama’s fiscal policy?
LW: I would say a huge portion of it is based on the fiscal part, because we are spending ourselves into oblivion that’s going to destroy this country. An even equal part of it is, the way that this administration is shredding our constitution. The Tea Party believes that it is a divine, re-inspired document that stands on its own that was meant to say exactly what it says.

TF: You don’t think Obama is trying to make a more level playing field by taxing the more wealthy Americans?
LW: Well a poor man has never created a job in our country. The big, powerful corporations create jobs. And this government thinks that they are the evil-doers. This administration wants to take away from those that they consider wealthy, and they want to give to those that they consider less fortunate. We care about Christian values. And we are supposed to share with the less fortunate, but not because the government takes it away from you and gives it to someone sitting there with their hand out.

TF: I noticed the Tea Party is mostly made up of people later in age. What do you think this says about the generational divide?
LW: One of the primary reasons that I think you see more older people, is because they are retired and they have the time to dedicate and show up to events. When you are raising a family, and working 50 hours a week with kids, no matter how much you care you don’t have the extra time. Unfortunately, our younger generation tend to be focusing on careers, school, having fun and living their lives. They’re not thinking about these issues. But the country is spending your future. Unfortunately, our educational system is a breeding ground for liberal progressive ideas. And they teach the children, at all levels of our education system, that big government, that socialism, that progressivism – that all of these things are great. So they don’t get involved at speaking out against these things.

TF: Do you think our values are different because of that?
LW: I think that because of the schools, yes.

TF: Do you think Rupert Murdoch supports the Tea Party?
LW: I have no idea. I’m not that familiar with him, or his views.

TF: Why are you personally involved?
LW: I’m an American who cares a great deal about this country, and I was raised in a military family. This is not about race, as the liberal media so hard tries to make it be. The media is slanting the views of the Tea Party movement. We don’t dislike Barack Obama because he is a black man. We don’t care if he is purple; he believes in Socialism, and he is working a Socialist agenda. The Tea Party cares about the Christian values that this country was founded on. The movement cares about fiscal responsibility, belief in limited government, respect for the constitution, and respect for life. This counrty was founded on Judeo-Christian values.

TF: How does the government best unite society?
LW: During Ronald Reagan’s time as president, he brought the people of America back together because he brought back Pride in being an American. He brought back Pride in our Flag, in our country, and everything America stood for. This administration does nothing but apologize for America, condemn the very things that have made America great; this administration is destroying the Pride in America. Instead of trashing our values and downgrading them, this administration needs to be Proud of the country, the flag, the values and tout those things. America is a loud, screaming Eagle. That is proud, and flies over and higher and above everybody else. The American Eagle is strong, and its powerful, and it’s got a huge wingspan – and that’s what America is supposed to be about. Not bowing to the feet of communist dictators, and apologizing for what we do and making excuses. That’s not it!
TF: I tip my hat to that.

In creating the Tea Party, Rupert Murdoch and his media empire have further diversified the conservative half of this country, and forced the Republican Party to use this take-up-arms rhetoric in an effort to appeal to a disenfranchised electorate. A populace that doesn’t believe in their government, their employer, or any form of a social safety net. On the road to an Orwellian Republic, News Corp has become the first news organization (in this country) to lead a political party – not to keep the government in check, to inform this nation’s citizens, and to exercise a professional degree of journalism – but, clearly & blatantly, they are an incorporated part of the political machine, and they are using Religion to deliberately distract The People from today’s social & political realities. And on the flip side, the Democrats and the Left in this country use Entertainment to do so. Both are a threat to our liberties and are easy to indulge in. In the end, I see that the people I marched with in the Tea Party are not drowning in a Sea of Change any more than my liberal friends float along – in Aldous Huxley’s words – a Sea of Irrelevance. What this country really needs, more than any hate-filled march full of one-sided rhetoric fueled by various politicians, newsmen and reverends, is a Rally to Restore Sanity.

Photography by Sean Marlin.