Thursday, April 09, 2009

Of Tempests and Teapots


This is not my original idea-I am inspired by the rant represented by the link above. The language is mine, the vitriol is mine, but the idea and some of the content comes from the above.

But I read this yesterday, and I've been thinking about it off and on since then, and I still feel this way, so I'm going to go ahead and say it. As always, accusations, questions, comments, threats, veiled insinuations, and theories about my parentage are welcome in the comments.


The Boston Tea Party, essentially, was petty theft. A bunch of high minded Bostonians decided one night, as a symbolic gesture, they would go onto ships in Boston Harbor, full of tea, which would not be unloaded until Bostonians agreed to pay the King's tax on tea, and dump the tea into the harbor. The tea did not belong to them, of course, so, essentially, they stole it.

Of course, it was more complicated than that. Boston was, of course, an English colony at that time, and England, like the rest of Earth, was run by force, more or less. The government controlled the weapons and the money and the power, and if you didn't like it, that was just tough luck, bucko. If you caused too much trouble for the powers that be, they kicked your door in and beat the crap out of you. It had been this way for approximately ever, and, for those in power, it, admittedly, was a pretty sweet deal.

Now these Bostonians, like Bostonians before and since, were a disputatious lot. (I can say that because I are one, to quote Jeff Foxworthy.) They came up with this radical idea that dammit, if you're going to take my money away in taxes, you should at least ask me first-give me some say, even if it is a tiny, unimportant say, in how it is raised and on what it is spent.

But even that tiny little concession was too much for the powers that be. "You should be happy I'm not kicking your door down," the King said, more or less, and the Bostonians were not soothed by these words. The tea was spilt, and then blood was spilt, and the Revolutionary War was fought, and America was formed.

Now there was more than tea at stake here-I hardly think that, if there had soon been a "Member of Parliament from Massachusetts", that would have been enough for these men. They would have battled again about something-these were disputatious types.

But they were also serious men. At one point (I think it was Adams, but I'm too lazy to check) they said they would pledge "their lives, their fortunes, and their Sacred Honor" to the cause. And they did. Men died, men suffered and spent their savings with no hope of repayment except a wing and a prayer. And, sitting here 200 plus years later, it is easy to forget what a near run thing it was. A few twists of fate here or there, and the whole thing is rolled up and over with-another rebellion against the sensible, sane rule of the King of All England snuffed. These men would literally be executed-Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Knox, Allen, Morgan-as traitors if the war doesn't go their way. So this was not a sure thing, and this was not nothing they were arguing about.

It was a new idea, and, in the history of humankind, these are few and far between. It is an idea that you don't get to be in charge just because your Dad was. You get to be in charge by earning your way there, by the people choosing you to represent them. And, if you piss them off long enough and often enough, you get to be kicked to the curb by them. The idea that everybody counts, and nobody gets left out. While the execution of this idea has been imperfect to say the least, it is this idea that animates our country to this very day.

So why the history lesson?

There are a series of protests being held around in the country called "tea parties" that have been in the news a bit lately. Fueled by part politics, part genuine concern and part pure nuttiness, these "parties" are supposed to "send a message" to the government. I can't really tell what the message is, since so many of the sponsors and founders and media lackeys that are spreading this virus seem to be mad about so many different things, but the general theme seems to be outrage about the deficit we don't have yet because of the money we haven't spent yet. Or something.

My objection to these tea parties is not to argue that they shouldn't be held. One of the most sacred rights that we hold dear is the ability to petition your government for redress of grievances. If you have grievances, by all means-express them. God bless you for it. Knock yourselves out. Petition for redress until you're blue in the face. And seriously-if you have an honest difference of opinion about the direction you think your country is headed in-by all means do something about it. That's why it's great to live here-nobody from the government is going to kick your door in because they don't like your blog post.

So let me be clear-you're a tea party person? Go for it.

But let me just ask you a couple of things.

First of all, have you written your Congressman? Your Senators? Have you written them AGAIN? Have you called them? Have you tried to visit their local office, or if you're near Washington, their Washington office? Besides attending your little pity party that you hope the local news will cover so that maybe Sean Hannity will call you a hero, have you done anything to really express your opinion? Like, with alternative proposals and things, and stuff? Even better yet, have you run for something? Or volunteered for someone who is? The real tea partiers risked their LIVES on a notion that had never worked before, in the entire history of everything. It is insulting for you to call an afternoon in the park a "tea party."

Second of all, just where the hell have you been? When your president said that anyone, anywhere, could be held in prison, forever, on his say so, without ever seeing any judge, violating the most sacred principle in the history of Western law, where were you? Where were you when billions-BILLIONS-of your dollars disappeared into a maze of cost plus contracts and shoddy workmanship that killed American soldiers, or just plain disappeared entirely? When your president lied to you and said that wires would not be tapped, and it turned out that any wire, any where, would be tapped for any reason or no reason at all, and you didn't even have the right to know, where were you? When the surplus disappeared, where were you? When an American city drowned while your president played guitar, where were you? Where were you when the PRESS SECRETARY said Americans had to "watch what they say"? Where were you when Americans who didn't agree with the president were called traitors and cowards and quislings and backstabbers? Where was the outrage then?

Or are you only outraged when Democrats are in power? Only when Rush Limbaugh says it's okay? When it is POSSIBLE-not even actually true yet, but just POSSIBLE-that the tax rate on people much richer than you are might creep up a percent or two? THAT'S when you get upset? When somebody decides that gee, maybe it's a good idea if we hire some of these unemployed people to fix up roads and schools and such, so they can take that money and buy their kids shoes and put tires on their cars and medicine for their arthritis, THAT'S when you get outraged?



  1. They do get some of their facts wrong. Such as " When the surplus disappeared, where were you?"

    There never was a surplus. The national debt increased every year Clinton was in office.

    Also, I don't believe that further overtaxing people, even by one or two percent, is a good thing at all. Expecially with the fragile economy. Maybe the government could spend the money more wisely instead. We could start with SCHIP, which gives free government health care to rich adults despite the claim that it is for poor kids. Then there are the corporate bailouts with no strings attached.

    I won't be in the tax protests, but they have a great point that Washington should stop flagrantly wasting the vast sums of money they already get before plundering us even more. And none of this had anything to do with writer;s claims about Bush (false and true). Bush is not in office anymore.

  2. But that's exactly the point-why outrage NOW, when Democrats are spending it, and not THEN, when Republicans were?

    That makes me think that the protesters are not concerned about government spending-they're concerned about government spending that comes from the guy they didn't vote for.

    A far cry from risking lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

  3. Good post.

    Too bad there are so many people who don't know history, try to rewrite history, and ignore our history.

  4. "But that's exactly the point-why outrage NOW, when Democrats are spending it, and not THEN, when Republicans were?"

    Maybe because that despite other bad decisions, Bush was reducing tax rates. Improving the tax picture, really. However, Bush is not in office, so it has nothing to do with the merits of such protests now.

    And the current protesters can also make a case that the current President risks "A far cry from risking lives, fortunes, and sacred honor."

  5. I am forced to conclude I'm a crappy writer, because you're just not getting what I'm trying to say here.

    The entire point is that I question the sincerity of the protests. George Bush is not President anymore, that is true. My question is why does THIS spending offend you, when THAT spending did not? What is it about THIS spending that causes you to rush into the streets, choked with rage, when you were not so moved while George Bush let Halliburton loot the treasury?

    I submit it is because the spenders are Democrats. People are being manipulated into a faux populist outrage by partisan hacks who oppose government spending when they are not the ones in control of government.

  6. But Bush is out of office.

    What is the problem then? Should the protests be outside the doors of Halliburton offices then? I assume that the Obama administration has continued many of the same contracts with Halliburton.

    Also, I haven't read the sites for the actual tax protest organizers, but aren't they protesting overtaxation, and not spending?

  7. Yes, I get it.

    My question is for the protesters. From what I read, they are annoyed by the stimulus spending-but of course, any individual tea partier may be mad about anything, from the Trilateral Commission to the Designated Hitter.

    My question for them, simply, is why is THIS spending (the stimulus) so much worse than THAT spending (the waste, fraud, and abuse during the Iraq War) that it motivates them to take to the streets.

  8. I'd be curious how much was overpaid to Halliburton.

  9. Particularly treasonous, to me, was the Kellogg, Brown and Root contract to do plumbing at a US base. Due to their error, two servicemen are electrocuted. And what happens? They get MORE CONTRACTS!

  10. Sounds like what often happens when a union is there to protect the jobs of dangerous workers. But I doubt there was a union involved at all.

  11. I'll out myself. I went to a tea party protest. To answer your questions:

    1. Yes, I've emailed both my federal representatives twice. First, the federal ones BEFORE the omnibus was passed protesting earmark spending. It did not good, I knew it wouldn't, but I knew I owed it to democracy to speak to my reps. Second, regarding the stimulus bill. Ditto the above. I haven't gotten arounnd to my state guys, yet, as they are only just beginning the budgetting, "will we raise taxes?" debate. I will email them shortly, as the details of the plan emerge.

    I haven't run for anything yet, because I feel unqualified. I have recently become very active in following politics, but I have a lot to learn before I could look in the mirror and see someone with the knowledge and backround to represent her fellow citizens effectively. If I ever reach that place, I will run. Absolutely. In the meantime, I'm actively looking at candidates for the next cycle, and yes, I will give the money and my time.

    2. I am no fan of President Bush. At all. He spent too much, and recklessly. You won't be seeing me defend his handling of the Iraq war. He left his party in tatters. But your question, where was I? Well, starting my career, getting married, switching my carrer, and having babies. I simply didn't have the time in my life I do now to be as active. Not everyone has the luxury to attend protests in the middle of the week or write a blog or read mutliple papers daily. I just wasn't at a place in my life where I could.

    I don't like Rush Limbaugh. Although I'm a fiscal conservative, I don't listen to talk radio. I find the tone ugly, combative, and unproductive. And, some of our local conservative guys use language I find offensive (sexist and racist). So, I'm not following their "orders."

    I hope that answers your questions. I don't know if I'm representative of who was there.

  12. I'm sure you're not representative of the Tea Party crowd...I'm sure you're much much smarter.


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