Gene and Sally have lived in Charlotte most of their lives. You would never know it by their appearance, their age early sixties, the his and hers BMWs they drive or the home in one of Charlotte's pricey country club estate neighborhoods, but Gene and Sally are revolutionaries.
1968 or 2010?
Gene a recently retired engineer who once worked for NASA and Sally a self employed interior designer met in while in college in New England, during at a protest rally against the Viet Nam war.
A life time ago they both considered joining the Students for a Democratic Society, they marched on Washington and protested, anything and everything about the establishment and government. The SDS was most known for participatory democracy, direct action, radicalism, student power, shoestring budgets, the same things that have propelled the Tea Party in a rapid expansion.
Back in 1968 for Gene and Sally, besides protests and passing out propaganda, theirs was a summer of love, freedom and the joys of youth, which meant the sometimes turning back the tide of government oppression, took a back seat.
During the intervening years, they finished school sought out well paying jobs, paid taxes, raised children, and experienced the joys of grandchildren. As Gene stoically explains
"at some point we opted out of the counter culture lifestyle".
But now they are back with a vengeance.
A little too much time on his hands says Gene. It seems like we have come full circle, in 1968 political parties were all corrupt, the Democrats and Johnson took us to war and lied to us, the Republicans continued the war and lied some more. By 1972 the economy was in shambles and while the war was ending the costs continued to linger.
The Tea Party as fractured as it is, offers one general theme, that too much government is a bad thing.
These days Gene spends a lot of his time working a grass roots campaign, just to bring awareness to the tea party movement. His passion is really golf, a low handicap and a fall afternoon means the Tea Party will wait, but he wastes no time chasing down a fellow club member asking him to co host a reception in two weeks.
Who are America's Tea Party Members? Comes as no surprise to Gene they are the same people who stood arm and arm in front of MIT's student union in the pouring rain so many years ago.
Asking Gene if he might let his hair grow long again, he removes his golf hat reveling a smooth bald head, he chuckles, "I stopped protesting that war long ago".