Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Political commentary brings out the worst in some readers. That’s why I did so so little of it for years. Lately, a particularly ludicrous idea cries out for comment: Think “Tea Party Movement.”

The stated reason for the Tea Party Movement is to protest tax money being spent for programs that President Barack Obama and (so far) a majority of Congress believe will get our economy back on track.

If you read the blogs promoting the movement, though, it becomes evident that it is fueled by people who voted against Obama and ended up on the losing side. Sore losers we called them when I was playing vacant lot football.

Meaningful protest is good; I’ve done a lot of it. It is protected by the First Amendment. But here’s a suggestion for these particular protesters -- hire somebody in public relations to find an appropriate symbol and rallying cry.

The one you are using -- The Boston Tea Party -- does not fit in any form or fashion.

The Sons of Liberty who dressed up like Indians and tossed 45 tons of British tea into the harbor were protesting “taxation without representation.” That is to say, American colonists were being taxed by the British without the consent of the governed.

Furthermore, tea was a commodity that practically everyone used, every day. Today’s protesters can dump tea to their heart’s content -- except where it is deemed an environmental hazard -- without upsetting coffee-drinking Americans. It’s their money and their tea.

It should also be noted that none of these latter-day Tea Party protesters are being taxed without representation. From city councils, all the way up to the President of the United States, we all have democratically elected representation.

To clarify, we directly elect the representatives. In the latter case, we vote on electors.

It may be worth reminding everyone who doesn’t understand that we are guaranteed a vote, but not a winning vote. They call it an election because one candidate loses and the other wins.

Also on the subject of appropriate representation, nowhere in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution is it stated that citizens get a free ride. We may not like taxes and we may not like what taxes are being spent for, but our elected representative make those decisions.

We pay taxes or face consequences, just as citizens of every civilization have done. The difference is, we get to elect our representatives.

Back in the 1970s Caesar Chavez, leader of the National Farm Workers Association, called for a boycott of lettuce. I and many others participated because it had a purpose -- better treatment of migrant workers -- and a rally cry that made sense, “Don’t Eat Lettuce!”

Before that, draft-age young men had burned their Selective Service cards to protest being inducted (involuntary servitude, some believed.) I didn’t because I had already volunteered for the U.S. Army. Protest actually cost many draft resisters prison time.

If the present day “Tea Party protesters” want do something meaningful they might stop making house payments in protest of bailouts or refuse to pay income tax. Of course, that would actually cause them personal problems.

It may be better if they just keep brewing tea and pouring it out. It doesn’t change anything and nobody actually has to take any risk on principle.

Painless protest could catch on. Heck, I may stop wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day to protest Irish elitism.

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