You have forgotten your place…
By John D. Turner
12 Jun 2013

“…I am not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my lord for mercy. I’m a born-free American woman, wife, mother, and citizen, and I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my wellbeing and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty, and you have faltered…” – Becky Gerritson, President of Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama, in testimony before Congress on the IRS scandal

Becky Gerritson, American citizen; called before Congress to tell her story of what happened to her and her group when they tried to exercise their rights under the US Constitution and the Federal Tax Code. She succinctly put into words what many of us out here in the great unwashed feel about our government in general, and the IRS in particular. You can read a transcript of what she said and watch a video of the actual testimony here.

But who is Becky Gerritson? Is she some high-level operative of the Republican Party? Is she perhaps an agent of Karl Rove? Is this just another attempt by those on the right to smear this administration and bring down President Obama? She is the president of a “Tea Party” organization after all – aren’t they just a bunch of right-wing nut jobs with tinfoil hats who band together at night and swap conspiracy theories?

In fact, I know nothing about Becky Gerritson, other than she is the founder and president of the Wetumpka Tea Party. Before the other day, I had never heard of her. And I would be willing to bet that millions of Americans still have not and never will. A Google search on the name Becky Gerritson turned up 104,000 hits – but it wasn’t until page 2 of the links that I found even one mention by a major news outlet, and that was a Yahoo News link to a rather bland article by Reuters entitled “Tea Party groups say rights violated by IRS reviews.” The article was very general, lumped her testimony in with that of others who testified, and gave no specifics on what she said other than this one quote:

“I'm not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America I grew up in,” Gerritson said in a shaky voice.

I found mention of it on a whole slew of conservative websites; but I was 8 pages into the search before I found mention of it by even the first “mainstream” quasi-news organization, MSNBC – that being an article entitled “Irate conservative groups lash out at IRS” (Hardball with Chris Matthews – go figure).

I consider MSNBC to be a bad parody of what the progressives claim Fox News to be, but that’s my personal opinion. Then again, this is my column, so I would presume you would expect to get my opinion.

At that point I gave up. I never did find an original article by ABC,NBC, CBS, CNN or even that non-news network (at least according to President Obama) FOX News. That’s not to say they haven’t reported it – just that it isn’t what you might call a “front burner” issue with them.

As for the rest of the “mainstream media” (MSM), they are too busy with damage control for the Obama administration to properly do their jobs. Of the four big Obama scandals currently active; Benghazi, Verizon, the IRS, and the Justice Department seizure of Associated Press phone records, none were broken by the mainstream media. I heard rumbling about the IRS problems back before the last election from conservative sources. They were widely discounted as the mad ravings of the discontented right and ignored in the euphoria of President Obama’s re-election bid. Oddly enough, the IRS outed itself on this one.

The only scandal to gain any traction once it broke has been the AP reporters’ scandal, which, oddly enough was not reported initially by the AP itself! Like the IRS scandal, the Justice Department outed itself, otherwise we probably still wouldn’t know about it. Now that it has been reported, the press is on it, primarily because it involves the government violating the media which is something even they don’t have the stomach for. Bad mistake on the part of the administration – don’t bite the hand that feeds you. You never know – the press might wake up and remember that they are supposed to be investigative journalists, not extensions of the administration propaganda machine.

I did find the website for the Wetumpka Tea Party. You can click here and check out this “subversive” organization for yourself. They look like a bunch of real desparados! Actually they look pretty normal, somewhat old, and mostly (but not all) white. The progressives would have you believe that this is an indication that the Tea Parties are all composed of racists who just can’t stand the idea of a black man in the White House. With 95 percent of the African-American community having voted for Mr. Obama in the last two elections, what would you expect? It takes real balls as an African-American to stand up and join an organization that is protesting against this administration, or to say anything contrary to Mr. Obama at all. Those who do are immediately labeled “Uncle Toms,” “Oreo Cookies,” “traitors to their race,” and even face physical threats against themselves and their families.

At every turn I see news articles that point to a government out of control; an administration that at best is incompetent, and at worst is behind abuses of power that would give Richard Nixon a “thrill down his leg” that even Chris Matthews would be proud of. Most of the reporting I see comes from England, as the American news media remains disinterested or unable ideologically to report the stories. I almost wish this were a Republican administration; then you can bet the media would be all over it.

Because this is important people! We need to wake up now or we will wake up tomorrow to find that this experiment called the American Republic is all over; that we have “moved on” from being a representative democracy to being a dictatorship. We may well retain the trappings, but our actual freedoms will be a thing of the past. This is not a partisan issue; it is an American issue. It is a freedom issue. It is about whether we own the government or the government owns us. Is it government of the people, by the people, and for the people as it was envisioned, or is it just another despotic government, run by elites and peopled by serfs like most governments in the history of the world?

“We’re just another country,” this administration tells us, “nothing special, no different than any other nation upon the face of the Earth.” And they would like us to believe that, because if it is true, then there is nothing special about our government either, and they can exploit us freely, just as most other governments around the world do. And all those freedoms penned in our constitution, that they want so badly to be a “living, breathing document” that changes arbitrarily and means whatever they want it to mean at any particular time, those freedoms that we think we have, are simply meaningless words inscribed on a piece of parchment; no different than the constitution of the Soviet Union, which sounded great but was never followed.

At just the time that the IRS scandal shakes our confidence that our ever expanding government has our best interests at heart, comes revelations of secret government courts issuing secret rulings to secretive intelligence agencies to conduct secret operations to secretly collect information on U.S. citizens – not via wire taps or spies running hither and yon, but from online social networking sites that millions of Americans access every day without a thought that their activities might be monitored.

“Not to worry,” says our government. “We aren’t actually listening to you, and if we were, as long as you aren’t doing anything wrong, why should you care? We are only after terrorists, after all.”

Ah yes, here is CNN weighing in, carrying the President making comments on today’s revelations. “It’s all hype,” says the President. “Hype” seems to be a pet word of his. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about,” he says. Well good. I feel so much better! After all, if the president says so, it must be true, right? “’Nuff said!”

Bloomberg reports that billions of telephone calls have been mined, but it’s in a good cause – seeking terrorists. According to the report The government is barred from indiscriminately sifting through the telephony metadata (data about data, such as where the call originated from, who received it, calling-card numbers used, how long the call lasted, mobile phone identifying data, etc, not your actual conversation) acquired under the program.”

Right. And the IRS isn’t allowed to target individuals or organizations based on their political affiliation either.

I can understand a program like the one described in The Guardian and The Washington Post, and how it can be used to combat terrorism and I understand as well the grave implications to national security by outing sources and methods. The problem here isn't really the program in and of itself; it is really one of trust. Do I trust that the government is indeed doing what it is supposed to be doing with regard to oversight, and do I trust that what I am being told by this administration is in fact true?

Unfortunately, the government’s other activities that have recently come to light, things like the IRS scandal, make such trust a difficult proposition. If the government would use the IRS for political purposes, might they not also use the Intelligence agencies as well? If a request was sent from the IRS for example, requesting all available information on an individual or group that the IRS was investigating, would the data be turned over? I don’t know. One of the things the PATRIOT act was supposed to do was facilitate data sharing between government agencies.

They say they are only looking for terrorists; trying to keep us "safe" – but who or what is a terrorist in their eyes? The Global War on Terror is supposed to be winding down. We don’t even call it that any more. We won, the administration tells us. And we are bringing the troops back home. So why are we ramping this capability up at exactly the same time we are drawing down everywhere else? And why is the finger pointing inward instead of outward?

Who were police looking for during the Beltway sniper incident in 2002, not too long after al Qaida operatives took down the World Trade Center buildings – Muslim extremists? Nope! A white male with military experience driving a white delivery van. Turned out to be two black males, the main one an adherent to the “religion of peace” – Islam. How about the recent bombing at the Boston marathon? Muslim extremists? Nope again! Speculation first centered around the possibility that it was carried out by Tea Party adherents. Reality? Gosh, Muslim extremists again! In every case in recent memory that I can recall, suspicion was first aimed at conservatives, white males, tea party members, and “gun nuts.” And in each case they were pretty much wrong. Not once was a Tea Party member involved.

And who was the IRS targeting? Tea Party members, conservatives, and others of that ilk. Hmmmm. So when James Clapper, the DNI says that the data can only be queried when there is a “reasonable suspicion” based on specific facts that the basis for the query (of the database being compiled) is associated with a foreign terrorist organization,” what does that really mean? And since everything is secret (or way above secret), how would we know if those rules were being followed? Who has oversight? Can we trust them? We would have to as there is no way we can find out because, “we the people” don’t have the “need to know.”

Trust us. We have your best interests at heart. Well, maybe. I would feel more secure if I didn’t know that that list of “potential terrorists” includes things like “U.S. military personnel returning from Iraq or Afghanistan”, “preppers” (this one might also get you identified as a “hoarder”, which has now been listed as a mental illness), “homeschooling”, or, oddly enough, being a “tea party member”. The result is that over 875,000 people are now on America’s terrorist suspect list. How many of these are Muslims, the main perpetrators of terror attacks against the U.S.? Sadly, not that many I would suspect. But we are all over the “Tea Party” threat.

But it was just some rogue agents in Cincinnati, wasn’t it? Well, no. The IRS workers in Cincinnati say that higher-ups in Washington directed the targeting of conservative political groups. I suppose they could by lying – or the higher-ups could. Who to believe? I tend to believe the worker bees – it’s really hard for your average worker bee to do what the higher-ups are claiming without anyone knowing whereas the reverse is relatively simple. When presented with two choices, I tend to go with Occam’s Razor.

But no one at the top knew, right? Well, no, not exactly. Apparently as many as 88 IRS employees may have documents relevant to the investigation, and have been asked to turn them over. Even though this doesn’t mean that all of them were directly involved, it does show that the knowledge at least is more widespread than the IRS admitted.

But only a few folks or organizations were affected, right? I mean, there was no wide-spread targeting of Americans, just a few. Not unless you consider 500+ individuals and organizations (with more reporting all the time) to be just a “few.” Even one or two Americans targeted by the IRS for their political beliefs is a “few” too many. If you were one of only a “few” wouldn’t you think so?

No, I don’t know who Becky Gerritson is, nor do I care. Nor do I know any of the many others who have testified and will testify before Congress in this investigation. What I do know is that she is a fellow American, a citizen of this great country just like me. What she said resonates with me because I feel the same way. I share her indignation and her fear.

Becky Gerritson said it perfectly with regard to the IRS, indeed, with regard to the entire government under this administration: “you have forgotten your place.”