Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On teabaggery

Okay, so I usually start my day with a cup of hot tea. It makes me less jittery than coffee, and my office is so cold it's nice to have something that warm in your hands. Usually, it's Bigelow's green tea with pomegranate; today, I met a former colleague at Lucy's and discovered the wonder of the Republic of Tea's vanilla almond tea (I have never tasted a tea so smooth and fragrant. It was like the tea equivalent of hot cocoa).

This morning, I kind of wished I had skipped the tea in favor of, say, coffee, or a shot of Gentleman Jack with two maraschino cherries, or a whack upside the head with a Bible, because all anyone could talk about was damn tea parties. It's like one of those things where you stop wearing your grandmother's vintage cloche hat or listening to the Clash because it's suddenly become trendy. My consumption of tea has nothing to do with your objection to taxation.

Yeah, I know that all of these quote-tea parties-close quote have nothing to do with actual tea. Nor, however, do they have much of anything to do with the Boston Tea Party to which they owe their names. See, the Boston Tea Party took place because the colonists, taxed on various commodities like tea and without any representation in legislature with which to determine their own governance or even any real avenues through which to voice their displeasure, sacked up, physically boarded three ships, and expressed said displeasure by actually destroying more than 300 actual chests of actual tea.

Elsewhere in Boston, people gathered and shouted things and came up with catchy rhymes to shout and probably had signs and stuff with more catchy rhymes. We don't know much about these people. This is because the people who actually accomplished their goal of sending a real message to their government had the stones to be up on the damn ships.

Now, I don't actually care about your opinion on Obama's tax plan. I personally think it's great. I think that the U.S. budget is heavily weighted in the direction of useless pork and crap that won't benefit the vast majority of Americans, and I think this has left us all with an unfair tax burden, but it's my personal belief that relieving the tax burden on the lower income brackets (up to, say, $250,000) is more likely to have a real impact toward economic stimulus than lowering the taxes on executives and, God help us, corporations that never actually trickle it down, as much as they promise to, because hey, why bother, when they can just as easily not do that. I'd like to see any tax adjustments made now as a temporary fix until the budget can be trimmed such that essential infrastructure is taken care of and Bridges to Nowhere are pretty much eliminated. I loved that scene in Dave where Kevin Kline sits down and physically Sharpies up the budget to balance it out. I don't think that could actually happen, but it would be cool. And then, once the budget has been cut to reasonable levels, tax levels can be similarly adjusted to burden each bracket minimally. And some people would still bitch, because some people always do, and some people resent being asked to contribute anything to help fund the government-provided benefits that we all enjoy, but fuck 'em, because I sure like having interstate highway at various points between Birmingham and Columbus.

But whatever your beef, for the love of God, have some perspective. There's a highly organized and focused movement, and then there's a bunch of nutscrubs getting together to wear teabags on their ears and complain about... something. High taxes, I guess. Government overspending, sure. Taxation without represen--wait, no.

Come on, y'all. Remember when you wore those band-aids with the little purple hearts on them? Remember when you waved flip-flops around? Significant, world-shifting grassroots movement, or just a bunch of tools who didn't really know what they were talking about but wanted to get in on something? Remember when you painted your fingers purple?

I'm not saying there's anything wrong or without value in gathering en masse to express your displeasure with government policy or action. Things like anti-war protest, pro- and anti-choice protests, and civil rights marches do a great job of sending a message and finding strength in a group of like-minded, motivated individuals.

But y'all, at least know what you're protesting. Is it high tax rates? Is it high government spending? Is it pork? Is it folks winning Congressional races who weren't the ones you wanted to win? Is it the legitimacy of the Obama presidency? Are you standing in a square in Chicago holding a "God Hates Fags" sign and wondering why you don't see any others? Did you just e-mail your senator a photograph of a teabag and think, as you hit "send," "That'll show him"?

Maybe you just realized that you're not sure what you're actually rallying about. Maybe you just took a moment to check and see if you're actually represented in your taxation, and maybe you're now wondering if your event is really a grassroots movement with world-changing repercussions a la the actual Boston Tea Party. A quick quiz:

1. Did you come out in protest because Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin said to?
2. Did you organize your activity on Facebook?
3. Did you pre-print bumper stickers and/or sell t-shirts through CafePress?
4. Did you first figure out what you were going to call your event and then sit down and plan what you would actually do during said event?

If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, your event is probably Astroturf. Which is not to say that it's not a valid expression of opinion; it's just not the kind of enduring historical movement likely to end up as a highlight in a textbook. Have fun, enjoy your rhymes and your signs, and be sure to Twitter with your friends tomorrow about how empowering it all was. And then get on with your life. Go back to doubting the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, fantasizing about going Galt, and watching Fox News. Eventually, Sean Hannity is going to get pissed off by something else, and you'll be able to pull your "Commander in Thief" sign out of the closet and march out once again.

(UTA: Oh, Jesus God.)

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