Dated infrastructure haunts Calaveras, an issue the Board of Supervisors aimed to ameliorate at a March meeting by contracting Stantec Inc. to update a bridge. Tonja Dausend, one of the organizers of the Calaveras County Tea Party, researched the company and discovered they were part of a worldwide conspiracy. Dausend presented her findings to the board:
“Stantec claims to be leading in sustainability,” an agenda, she asserts, that “goes against the American Principles and culture of freedom. American taxpayer money should not go to companies that support anti-American policies like sustainable development.” Most of us might think that, if there were a list of things that we want sustainable, bridges would be somewhere near the top. We, if the Tea Party is right, are wrong. And not just about bridges, but the very notion of sustainability is apparently propagated by communists in the U.N. to take the land of small land owners, an international conspiracy known as Agenda 21.
Dausend describes the danger posed to America by Agenda 21 in an educational youtube video:
“Agenda 21 is the United Nations bold plan to control land and thus power under the guise of protecting the environment and equality.” She warns of the 'International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives,' or ICLEI, infiltrating local governments to promote Agenda 21, which she asserts “can no longer be dismissed as a paranoid conspiracy theory because there is simply too much evidence available. Whatever you call it, Agenda 21, sustainable development, or smart growth, the foals are the same; to reduce and eventually eliminate private property and ownership rights.”
Her available evidence primarily hinges on two statements. She states—over an image of the U.N. flag superimposed beneath the cover of Agenda 21—that the U.N. believes that “Land … cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice; if unchecked, it may become a major obstacle in the planning and implementation of development schemes. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable...."
Except this quote is not from Agenda 21.
It is in fact part of the U.N.’s 1976 “Vancouver Action Plan,” composed as part of a U.N. mandate to promote adequate shelter and amenities for human settlements. The Plan suggested that “Instead, the pattern of land use should be determined by the long-term interests of the community.” Is this concept “anti-American”? Thomas Paine—who’s 1775 pamphlet “Common Sense” inspired the American Revolution—advocated for the redistribution of wealth and power to create a more equal society in more radical terms than any modern Democrat in office:
"The earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done… an indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before. In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for."The Vancouver Action Plan’s central proposal is also reminiscent of a 1787 letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, both idolized by the modern Tea Party:
Clearly there is a strain of American thought that suggests some degree of land use planning is necessary to prevent gross inequality. Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists either tactically ignore this or are tactlessly ignorant of it. Perhaps it is simply incovenient to debate an idea on actual merit, however, so Dausend crutches her argument on an appeal to imaginary traditions.
The Face of Anti-Americanism"Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation."
She claims “ICLEI Vice-Chair” Harvey Ruvin stated that “Individual rights will have to take a back seat to the collective, the process of implementing sustainable development.” For her, this is evidence for a nefarious communist plot. Some research reveals Ruvin to be the Clerk of the Courts in Miami-Dade County, Florida as well as a member of the North American executive committee for ICLEI. Where and when Ruvin, Clerk of Courts and suspected ringleader of the New World Order, said this is not stated. Frequently appearing on right-wing websites, the quote originates from insurance executive and conspiracy buff Joan Peros. She alleges she heard Ruvin say it a U.N. summit in South Africa in 2002. Maybe.
If we disregard the dubious origin of this statement, and let it stand against the American “tradition of liberty,” the quote holds its ground. Christopher Gadsden, whose iconic flag the Tea Party has adopted as its own, almost identically said that, “The hardship of the particulars are not to be considered when the good of the whole is the object in view.” Unfortunately, governments, American or otherwise, have always used this excuse to justify attacks on individual rights. Wrong or right, Ruvin’s attitude is certainly not outside the American tradition.
What makes this story interesting is not the incoherent ramblings of an activist at a public meeting, but how the Board of Supervisors responded. Recently elected Tea Party favorite Darren Spellman supported Dausend’s concerns. While agreeing to hire Stantec in this instance, he said, “I would like to see we use somebody who doesn’t support or ascribe to anti-American means of doing business.” Apparently, a car safely traveling over a body of water is a sure sign of creeping Bolshevism. Spellman continues, “There should be some kind of litmus test to organizations we give our tax dollars to. If they do things that are subversive to what makes us America, we need to take a second look at that and find somebody who’s not involved with people who take money from Soros.”
He is of course referring to that paradoxically “socialist agenda” promoting billionaire, George Soros, a favorite conspiracy target of Tea Party rock-star Glenn Beck. Spellman appears to be making the Soros-Agenda 21 connection extemporaneously in an impressive feat of mental calculation.
In reality, Agenda 21 is an innocuous U.N. initiative to prevent environmental degradation, particularly in developing countries. Most Americans realize the obvious importance of sustainability (particularly in bridge design), and laugh at the conspiratorial antics of the far right. The Tea Party—despite the self-described “populist” image it conceals itself in—is aware of the unpopularity of their views.
For a local demonstration of this, Calaveras County Tea Party co-founder Cory Burnell said in a conversation with Howard Phillips, chairman of the right-wing Conservative Caucus, that the “American populace really is the problem…” adding that “they continue to send socialists to office.” Burnell, a financial consultant, gained national media attention a few years ago by attempting to lead a conservative Christian mass exodus to a colony in South Carolina, a failed attempt to escape the decadence he perceives in the American populace.
Despite the Tea Party cynically smearing “We the People…” across their various websites, we should remember that at its core it is a reactionary, elitist movement.
Sustainability requires the input of the public, the government by the people, to help plan infrastructure and development that is beneficial to all. This threatens Paine’s “landed monopoly,” whose power depends on absolute control over their coveted corner of the earth, regardless of any external cost.
I can only hope that any bridge built under a Tea Party controlled government has their “Don’t Tread on Me” flag waving before it. This would not be a mark of patriotism, but rather a fair warning to all those who dare cross it.