When King George III and the British Parliament levied a series of taxes on the American colonies after the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1863, American merchants protested that the they were being taxed but had no representation in the legislative body doing the taxing. One thing led to another, and, according to historical accounts, a group of some 200 Bostonians (some dressed as Native Americans) boarded three cargo ships in Boston Harbor and dumped their cargos of tea into the harbor. This incident inflamed tensions and led eventually to war and American independence. The term ‘Tea Party’ to describe the incident, however, was not used until the 1880s.
Fast forward to the late 20th and early 21st century and a political movement arises in the U.S. that is opposed to federal tax policy – which is quickly taken over by political opportunists and turned into a retrogressive force that seems hell bent on taking the country back in time. As you might imagine, some students of history object to this confederation of dunces appropriating a revered symbol of the country’s independence from tyranny to represent what is their own form of tyranny.
I would point out, though, that the Boston Tea Party is not the only Tea Party that could be an appropriate symbol for this group. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter hosts a tea party for a collection of wackos, and somewhere in that book is a phrase where a character says, ‘things mean what I want them to mean.’ Does that sound familiar? I like to think that this is a much better exemplar of what the Tea Party now stands for than the resistance to external tyranny represented by the Boston do. What do you think?