Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some thoughts about tea parties and history

For the most part, I didn't concern myself too much with the tea party rallies held around the United States yesterday. My theory is that these events had little to do with tea and taxation, which was their stated purpose. Instead, they were an orchestrated effort to keep a certain demographic group in our country riled up1 about something, anything, so that they remain blindly aligned to a political cause that rarely aligns with their economic interest.2

I summed up my attitude about the tea parties yesterday in my Facebook status message: "David thinks the tea parties are a wonderful idea! The people who participate in those things will enjoy the day off from their usual routine of book burning and gay bashing." I may have actually used the word "idiots" on Facebook instead of people.

The tea parties do perturb me a little bit, and that's mainly because of the historic symbolism of the original Boston Tea Party3. Consider that the Boston Tea Party was not as much a statement about higher taxes as it was a protest against the Colonies' lack of representation in Parliament. The most likely parallel today would be a protest over state representation in the federal government. The last time that happened in the United States was the 1850s: the dividing issue was slavery, and the outcome was the Civil War. Also, remember that the Boston Tea Party was the prelude to the American Revolution.

This all makes me wonder if somewhere, deep down, organizers and participants of these tea parties truly want to revolt and reshape the United States in their image.

A few more notes from the history books:
  • Members of the Boston Tea Party did not announce they were dumping tea in the river ahead of time, or invite the public to show up, or have an official media sponsor.
  • There were no tea bags at the Boston Tea Party. Tea bags didn't exist in the 18th century. They were invented, I think, in the early 1900s.

1 Cf. the Two Minutes' Hate passage in "Nineteen Eighty-Four."
2 For further reading, see What's the Matter with Kansas?
3 As an American who grew up in the UK, I have had the benefit of learning about the American Revolution from both the US and British perspective.

1 comment:

ben said...

nice history lesson