It is very frustrating to see some people in the Tea Party movement not get the recognition they deserve; but if I can help one young man receive his rightful place in The Tea Party Hall of Fame it would be Mr. Matthew Perdie. Yes, I would recommend him for “The Teapot Award of Merit and Valor Extraordinaire with Oak Leaf Clusters” (and without kisses on both cheeks- that’s for the French to do.)
So who is this Matthew fellow, and what makes him so very special to the Tea Parties, you ask? Well, it’s a very long story (at least for him) costing him more than a year of his own young life; enduring all kinds of weather and terrain; hours and hours of pain, sickness, and loneliness; and to date, after many blisters—nine pairs of shoes. (He carries no extra body-fat either!) He is just inside the Arizona border, shouldering his well-worn American flag, and a 75-lb. pack with GPS. His trek began last year in June at the tip of Long island, New York; proceeded south to Washington, D.C.; then on to Atlanta (where I first met and learned about him); then west across Alabama to Louisiana by last Christmas. Following a return to Atlanta by car with a friend for the holidays, he bussed back in January to the exact spot in Louisiana where he had left off, resuming his march westward toward Texas. (Texas was a long affair to say the least as Matthew would tell you!) Then finally he reached Las Cruces, N.M., and with “only” 700 miles to go, Matthew visualized the “Promised Land” coming “shortly” into view. (By the way he doesn’t really resemble Moses at all physically, being just 24 with no beard, but certainly has Moses’ faith in his mission.)
Matthew, you see, has a gnawing drive to do something, anything, to draw the attention of people, especially young people, to the failing condition and ultimate cliff that this Republic is rushing hell-bent toward. He settled on the idea last year of a personal crusade (an “Army of One” to borrow a phrase) to walk across the Nation, coast to coast, protesting Big Government’s waste and corruption. He calls it: “Perdie Across America” if you go to his website, perdie.com.
Maybe its his age, but he set about his task without a great deal of angst, planning, or over-preparation, believing and trusting as young folks often do in their own invincibility. (I look back with great incredulity now, at my own journey at 19 to Vietnam, wondering then, who at the time out of the 300 on the Braniff International flight weren’t coming home? Never thought it might be me!) But Matthew quickly discovered what infantrymen find out: the most important thing you possess is your footwear. Blisters became a plague early on, and how to treat and prevent them, a science. By Atlanta his feet were hardening, and he knew what a good sneaker was, and what wasn’t. His laptop would later be stolen out of a car in Atlanta when he returned at Christmas, but was replaced by a new one from a generous contributor, who was following Matthew on his Facebook page. Matthew endured several incidents with sickness, and some incidents where money became a real concern. He also discovered that Americans by and large are very generous when a need is presented. He walked through areas where he knew it wasn’t real safe! He also had two friends who accompanied him at different times during the march westward, and at times when he desperately needed real companionship (both of whom also learned about footwear the hard way.) He sometimes slept outside, when rooms or hotels weren’t offered, and found that 30 mile per hour winds were impossible for tents.<!–nextpage–>
As Matthew nears his final destination, the pier in Santa Monica on July 4th (the perfect date), I can’t help but feel a great amount of pride in this young man’s singular accomplishment. He has not gotten anywhere near the attention he deserves from the media; nor for that matter, from the Tea Party organizations. Umbrella groups like: TPP, TPN, Freedom Works, and other lesser ones, constantly vie for prominence for their paid staff and titular heads, each claiming the mantle of “Founder of the Movement,” seeking donations and control as the movement gains steam and success. (Having media prominence and access is important for your spokesperson, you know; especially if the Tea Parties triumph in November. Power always abhors a vacuum!) But, Matthew Perdie was nowhere on any of their radar screens as he inched across the map!
And Matthew isn’t like that. He isn’t paid, receives no per diem, and basically trusts that each day will work itself out; even if there hasn’t been any donations to the cause that day. He’s had to deal with the proverbial naysayers, who doubted his commitment early on, or accused him of trying to draw attention to himself. (If that’s what they thought, then Matthew failed miserably at self-promotion!) He represents, and is, the little guy: the 1200 Tea Parties, the real grassroots people who shell out their own money, make their own signs, assist and support each other, and ride buses all night to attend rallies and events where no one wants to claim to be the leader to the media’s consternation. And Matthew’s trek is, out of all the Tea Party activities this last year, the best example that comes to mind of individual achievement. Individual, not group achievement is what has built and has sustained this country, and what is reflected in the aspirations of this movement. A return to what is good about the Constitution, guaranteeing our individual rights and freedoms, is what Matthew’s journey symbolizes for all of us.
As Matthew travels across the U.S. he is recording everything with his digital video camera: episodes of his interactions with average Americans he meets and talks to in every town and city he visits. His humor in these episodes is dry, entertaining, and often revealing. He talks to everyone! These episodes are then downloaded to his laptop and published for anyone to view on his website. Eventually he plans to put them all together into a full-length movie of his odyssey.
I plan to fly out and greet Perdie when he arrives at the pier on the 4th, and encourage anyone in the Tea Parties who can get there to let him know what a hero he is to all of us by attending. Ten different Tea Parties in the Los Angeles area have already offered to help make his arrival a huge rally for him. Matthew is excited, and plans to have a great big steak for dinner he told me. (An “Army of One” like any army moves on its stomach!)
On Saturday, Sept. 11, it is my hope to see Matthew Perdie and his flag, walk down Constitution Avenue as the first person to lead the “March on DC,” then walk up to the podium at the Washington Monument and give the first speech that afternoon. He deserves it!
William Temple is a historical re-enactor, a pastor of a Bible church in Brunswick, Ga., and a well-known figure at Tea Party events across the country.