The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Archive for April 16th, 2009

Why the Boston Tea Party was effective (and why yesterday’s weren’t)

Posted by ALmod on April 16, 2009

Imagine you had an issue with a restaurant.  Imagine you wanted to take action that would persuade that restaurant to change a policy that you didn’t like.  Now imagine that your idea is to get as many people as possible to eat at that restaurant.  That may get the restaurant owner’s attention, but it’s not exactly going to ruin his day.

Now imagine instead that the people angry with the restaurant decided to break into the restaurant and destroy all the food in the freezer and they threatened to keep doing it until the policy changed.

This is pretty much the difference between the original Boston Tea Party and yesterday’s teabag protests.  (Yes, it’s still making me giggle to say “teabag” but I’ll try to keep it serious.)  The original partiers were angry about a tax that British Parliament had passed on tea to be sold in the colonies.  It’s also important to mention that the tax was passed while colonists had no representation in Parliament.  That’s where the saying “taxation without representation” comes from.  It wasn’t like the situation we have now, where we vote on representatives every two years.  Unless you’re from Washington, D.C., you can hardly claim that you don’t have representation to oppose or support your ideas on taxes.

So they disguised themselves, trespassed onto private property, and destroyed the tea.  Nobody was going to buy the tea, and nobody was going to pay the taxes on it as a result.

Fast forward to 2009. Folks want to protest taxes, and that’s fine.  But the focus appears to be on showmanship, and that’s where things break down.  In an effort to replicate a part of our country’s history, folks completely missed the point of the event that they were replicating.  In protesting taxes, the protesters purchased a lot of tea bags, and in many cases, paid the sales tax that went with it.  Further, the protests were mostly held on public property (like parks) that is maintained through tax dollars AND they paid for permits.

So in the effort to protest taxes, folks used resources paid for with tax dollars and then gave the govenment more money in fees and taxes.  Let’s think about that for a second and contemplate the contrast between the original and the new and improved tea party.

So how exactly is this an effective protest of government action?  What about it would possibly encourage government officials to change their wasteful ways anymore than a letter-writing campaign, which is just as legal and shows just as many numbers.  What was the point?

While I do not condone illegal activity, you will seldom see an effective protest against government action that follows the letter of the law.  The very definition of a revolution is that people… well…  revolt.  That’s why civil rights protests and anti-war protests to the Vietnam War were so effective.  People were breaking the law by defying Jim Crow and burning draft cards.  And yes, they went to jail for it.  They also changed the world.

The drawback, of course, is that if your side loses you’re just a criminal.

Wouldn’t it have raised more eyebrows if millions of people just quit paying their taxes?  That would certainly send a message to Washington.  It would also land you in jail, but as anyone who’s ever read anything about our beginnings can tell you, signing the Declaration of Independance was high treason and carried the penalty of death.  Nothing worth having comes without a price.  So either you’re just not that fed up with your taxes, or you’re fed up enough to risk your neck to change things.

Quite frankly, I’m not THAT fed up just yet.  And read again, I am neither condoning nor recommending illegal activity.  I believe that I can write an email telling my representatives how I feel, and that if enough people join me, then we can use the power of the vote to convince.  And I don’t even have to buy a stamp to do it.

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Posted in Federal Government, Mainstream Media, Public Outrage | Tagged: , , , , , , | 20 Comments »