In 1773, a group of men dressed as Native Americans, calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, boarded a ship in the Boston Harbor that was carrying taxed tea and with shouts of protest dumped the cargo into the water. This is the romanticized image of the Boston Tea Party has been immortalized as a righteous rebellious act against the British in a time when Americans felt they were being treated unfairly and decided they weren’t going to stand for it anymore.
Now, in the face of the stimulus checks, grassroots organizations and discontented citizens around the country are attempting to repeat history — but not very well.
The national protests, scheduled for April 15, are being called “Tax Day Tea Parties” in tribute to the famous event in American history. The name is about where the similarities end.
In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any tea involved, and definitely no dumping of it into any bodies of water. And there definitely doesn’t seem to be much partying.
Some “tea parties” have already taken place with impressive turnouts, but without looking like much more than protests.
Some attendees have dressed up, but most tea parties are just crowds of people with poorly made signs.
In one leaked video of a rally that took place in February, a girl who looks to be 5 or 6 can be seen holding a sign that says, “Don’t make me pay!”
Not all tea parties have even had crowds. According to FOX News, groups of more than 10,000 have been estimated to participate in over 500 small nationwide rallies on tax day, but they may not meet this goal.
On April 11, a protest was held in Washington, D.C. Of an expected 400 attendees, only a dozen showed up, dressed in pink as though they were trying to topple breast cancer at the same time. Most people who showed up were passersby, smiling as though the event were mildly amusing.
The tea party effort’s Web site, taxdayteaparty.com, seems to blame the group’s failure on the fact that the effort was “left-winged.” While the tea parties are a largely conservative undertaking, one would think any attempt to support the cause would be welcome. Saying on the cause’s own Web site that one rally was an “epic fail” because the group that staged it was liberal doesn’t seem to be a good way to gain national support or present the efforts as professional.
In fact, the whole thing seems childish — and not even in a fun way. It would at least be entertaining if groups got together and dumped tea into oceans, lakes and pools across the country. In fact, if they bought all that tea, they might even help support the sad economy they’re trying to save.
Actions speak louder than words. Protests are intended to bring attention to a subject, not change it. In fact, by definition, protesting is just formally announcing opposition and disagreement.
Anyone can see the economy is in trouble, and many have already publicly voiced their disdain for the stimulus plan. This information and these opinions can be heard on the news or read in any number of blogs on the Internet.
Samuel Adams, one of the Sons of Liberty and the instigator of the first rebellious tea party to inspire these rallies, said, “It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
He understood that one day of protest will never change the world, no matter how many people show up in costumes. Real belief in a cause means unceasing action.
These tea parties need to understand that surrounding a building for hours on a single day will be nothing but a mild annoyance. To protest every day, to march across counties and states, to write petitions and to stand strong — these are the direct actions that inspire change.
Emily Handy is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.