The musk of democracy in full swing hangs in the air over the Hayden Lawn at Arizona State University as Ron Paul supporters gather to hear the Texas representative speak.
Roughly 200 people – smaller than his last speech at ASU – rally like moths to the flame around the podium set up on the north end of the lawn backlit by the school’s solar panels. A recording of the Beatles “Come Together” plays softly in the background as guests settle on the grass in front of the podium.
Master of ceremonies Barry Goldwater Jr. clamors like a drunken prospector overlooking the steady stream of young voters making their way to the Nov. 19 rally.
“The next thing they’re going to outlaw is Four Loko,” he says with a drawl akin to a 1940’s John Wayne impression.
First at the microphone is Tyler Bowyer, head of the College Republicans at ASU, who sums up the libertarian attitude surrounding the rally.
“Free markets, civil liberties and a peace seeking foreign policy are the most beneficial ways to structure society,” he says.
He continues by unleashing a resounding call for the protection of personal liberties; slamming into the mainline of the each speaker’s talking points.
The next few speakers shuffle on and off stage like the opening bands you didn’t pay to see, luckily the rally is free and there are plenty of interesting folk to prognosticate on the country’s state of affairs.
Nicole Holden, An animal physiology student at ASU, came to show support for Ron Paul and his policies; like Paul’s American Traveler Dignity Act that would prevent the Transportation Security Administration from using X-rays and enhanced pat downs to screen passengers for flights.
“I like everything that Ron Paul is about, which I’ve never found in any politician ever,” she said.
A flagrant socialist is next to catch my eye, sporting dreadlocks and a bright red T-shirt with the hammer and sickle scrawled across the front.
Marshall Goldschmidt says he’s here to support the opposition. Last year Goldschmidt said he was hassled by the head of the Students for Liberty for shouting communist slogans during a speech. While Goldschmidt agrees with some of Paul’s policies, he also wants to act as a voice of opposition; touting his First Amendment rights.
“Nobody else is here to express the opposition, nobody has the cojones to do this,” says Goldschmidt.
Finally, Ron Paul enters the stage amidst a burst of jubilation from the crowd.
“I’m on time this year. I was a little bit late last time. I got through TSA without hitting anybody even though I felt like it,” Paul says. And with those words the tone of the rally is confirmed.
The speech centers on the notion that government has been ineffective in dealing with the terrorist threat and has sacrificed civil liberties for safety. Like the thread that destroys a sweater, Paul describes the government as “our own worst enemies,” a threat that’s pulling at the fabric of America’s freedom and liberty.
“The government has failed,” he decries.
Focusing on the rugged individuality that today’s college generation craves, Paul coddles students, reminding them they are the center of their own universe and no one, especially not the government has the right to take away their personal liberties.
“They will fail at the effort to take away your liberties,” Paul says.
Behind me a self-proclaimed anarchist corroborates this sentiment toward self ownership.
“If you own yourself and the fruit of your labor then there is no justifiable reason for people to take what you make, starting with taxes. If anyone else takes what you make it would be theft. Yea that would be anarchy and that’s what I want,” he says.
Paul continues with his regular talking points: End the Federal Reserve, bring back the troops, stop all foreign occupation, get rid of income taxes and oppose the government’s attack on civil liberties.
He concludes the speech with an ominous prediction of the future, briefly citing a collapse of the country’s currency as the reason for the government’s future downfall. He then reminds the crowd that the role of the government is to protect personal liberties, not prevent us from harm. By shrugging off the shackles of big government and standing in civil disobedience to the rights that are being stripped from the people, our liberties will be restored, he says.
Empty cans and flyers litter ground as the crowd disperses. Yellow rubber bracelets are strewn across the grass inscribed with the words “WE THE PEOPLE. IN GOD WE TRUST.”
I can’t help but walk away thinking our generation wears scowls like the hippies wore flowers, but perhaps with more apathy.
– Arizona Capitol Times‘ intern Ryan Van Velzer is a senior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.