I've seen some strange things. (Like this, and this and this). About 15 years ago I went to Dragoncon in Atlanta, where I saw people dressed as every comic book, Star Trek and Star Wars character imaginable. I even saw a woman walking her boyfriend on a leash. Until today, that was the weirdest collection of oddballs I'd ever encountered in one place. But tonight the Bi-Lo Center was ground zero for every anti-government ideologue within driving distance.
There were Confederate flags, "Don't Tread on Me" flags, American flags turned upside down (violating Flag code 176(a)), guys with tea bags taped to their straw hats, t-shirts with the slogan "White Power", toddlers with signs taped to them denouncing the IRS, people dressed as colonists, others dressed as Arabs, and lots and lots of anti-Obama signs. I'm sure the lack of African-Americans in the crowd was pure coincidence. One radio talk show host, Dr. Tony Beam violated US Flag Code 176(d) while welcoming his "fellow extremists."
There seemed to be no clear consistent message among the crowd. Some wanted to abolish the IRS. Some wanted to secede from the union. Others wanted a government based on the Bible. One guy had a sign referencing Ayn Rand's atheistic/libertarian tome Atlas Shrugged. Most seemed to really hate Obama and taxes, despite the fact that Obama just gave most of them a tax cut. One sign stated "Capitalism Works" which is somewhat debatable given how many private businesses are failing, but it was certainly working at the rally. These folks who felt their taxes are too high seemed to have no problem paying five bucks for parking, four bucks for a Coke and three bucks for a bottle of water.
For the first half of the rally, the audio was very poor, which one speaker blamed on - you guessed it - taxes. Seriously.
Representative Gresham Barrett, spoke passionately to his base, who booed him so loudly little could be heard (which seems oddly out of character for a group whom Gov. Sanford referred to as a "silent majority"). Despite his status as the second most conservative member of Congress in the country, the crowd found him too liberal for their tastes. When Governor Sanford spoke, he mentioned that he told his kids that they were going to Greenville to see some "patriots." Apparently there aren't any between here and Columbia but he was happy to have found them amongst this crowd.
The following is the Cliffs Notes version of every speech made at the rally.
Speaker: Do you love freedom.
Speaker: Do you love liberty?
Speaker: Do you hate taxes?
Speaker: Do you hate government?
Speaker: Do you hate terrorrists, child abusers, and fire ants?
Speaker: Do you love baseball, apple pie and your mamma?
Speaker: Founding fathers....Valley Forge....Apostle Paul....George Washington....Constitution.....Guns, Abortion, Guns, Abortion, Liberty...Freedom!!!!!
Crowd: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!Yeah! Yeah!Yeah! Yeah!Yeah! Yeah!
Several years ago I was an audience member at the filming of an episode of Two and a Half Men. Between takes, while the cameras were being moved, a comedian entertained us, and production assistants came around constantly offering us chocolate and soft drinks. They wanted to keep us excited and hyped up on caffeine and sugar between takes so that when the cameras were rolling we were laughing to create a good live laugh track. There were similiar cues today. One speaker quoted Patrick Henry but when he got to the last line he began speaking in a quick halting manner..."Give! Me! Liberty! Or! Give! Me! Death!," and the crowd went wild.
On the walk home I realized I needed a reboot, a defrag or in Macintosh terms, I needed to reset the p-ram. Fortunately, a short stop at Smiley's did the trick.