Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Teabag the President? Ewww.

How lame is this tea bag thing? Seriously?

Has anyone taken U.S. History 101? Anyone gone to high school? Do they just remember that this had something to do with taxes? Because that’s what the extent of their knowledge seems to be.

Has anyone done their research, or does this just sound like a clever way to get attention?

I have to admit straight out of the gate that I would’ve easily fell into this category of people who knew next to nothing about the Boston Tea Party but remnants of what my high school history course made it into my brain. Back in my conservative days, chances are we would’ve bought our own tea bag to send to the President.

And we would’ve been stupid, stupid, stupid.

What was the Boston Tea Party about? Taxes? Yes. But the similarities truly do stop there.

Back in the mid-Eighteenth century, American colonists were beginning to form a sense of American identity separate from the British. The British didn’t like the potential for a revolt – they wanted the colonists to remain dependent on them so they imposed various tariffs and laws. Following the Seven Years War between America (who the British fought with) and the Indian people, Britain, in an effort to keep any uprisings at bay, kept 10,000 troops in North America. This was an expensive move and Britain needed money.

So they imposed the Sugar Act – a tariff (or tax) on imported sugar to the colonies and moved to make it difficult if not impossible for the colonists to smuggle sugar. The colonists had no say. The courts of vice-admirality used to force these taxes didn’t assume innocence before proven guilty. There was no trial. There was no representation. Therefore “Taxation without representation is tyranny” – James Otis, Massachusetts lawyer.

Britain felt it was only fair for the American colonists to help pay for the costs incurred by the French-Indian/Seven Years War, and so felt no regret for their actions.

To make matters worse, since the colonial taxes remained lower than those in Britain, Britain decided to impose yet another tax in a measure called the Stamp Act. This placed a tax on anything on printed paper (newspapers, letters, licenses, ship papers, playing cards, etc). This stamped paper had to be bought with hard money during a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well.

Britain’s response? “Eh, you’re represented about as well as we are here in Britain. Kinda like how citizens here represent those who cannot vote, such as women, slaves, and children.”

(sounds like us, huh? ugh. we're soooo unrepresented here.)

The colonists hated this response and it only heightened their resolve to fight against “Taxation without representation.” (Yeah, sucks to not have a voice and have yours depend on someone you don’t know/can’t see/have no or little contact with, huh? I wonder if this made anyone think of women’s suffrage if not the black man’s vote. Doubt it.)

And the center of all protests came from…Boston.

The taxes created for a worsening economy adding to the skyrocketing unemployment and inflation rates. Samuel Adams, of the beer brand, became a leader for this movement in Boston, including a group who called themselves the Sons of Liberty, who called for protesting by way of pamphlets and petitions. In time, Britain was unable to enforce the Stamp Act since all stamp distributors had left the area. And the colonists were calling for a halt to importation of goods to pressure Britain who, by 1766, repealed the Stamp Act and reduced the Sugar Act.

But they also made a Declaratory Act which basically said they could do whatever they wanted anytime they wanted. They were just being nice by repealing and reducing those acts, basically. Not backing down.

Britain’s national debt wasn’t going away. Riots and tax protests ensued at the mainland, and Britain cared more for the protests occurring at home than in the colonies which showed in their Revenue Act which called for a tax on imports such as glass, paint, paper and tea.

In October 1767, a meeting in Boston reignited the call for nonimportation as they drew a list of British products to boycott. They called for people to live more frugally and stimulate the local economy, which the small towns are rural areas loved. In time, all colonies but one enacted legislation to ban importing British goods, bringing the value of these imports down by nearly half.

By 1773, Parliament imposed a tax on tea which infuriated the colonists (who loved tea – after all) and incited rebellion and later passed the Tea Act which placed a monopoly on tea to the East India Company, a company ready to collapse in bankruptcy. Parliament didn’t want it to fail and knew the colonists loved their tea as much as they did. In time, the consumption and purchase of tea was seen as an act of treachery.

The Boston Tea Party took place late that November when Bostonians disguised themselves as Indians, boarded the ships, and dumped all the tea into the harbor, pissing off the British and making them question what authority, if any, they still had in the colonies and leading them to other Acts to punish Massachusetts. In time, we'd have the American Revolution.

Sounds just like today, eh?

Anyway, on a fun note: this is why Americans drink coffee and not tea.

See also the New York Times Online: Tax Day Is Met With Tea Parties. (registration required)


Brian Schuster on YouTube (Thank you, Project Mayhem!). I am doing my best to keep all my coarse jokes to myself, but Schuster does a good enough job I guess. I much prefer Rachel Maddow or Olbermann.

*Source: Out of Many: A History of the American People, Vol. 1. 5th Ed. 136-142


Anonymous said...

How funny that you would post this because I had just had a huge lesson about this with my son, when I was homeschooling him for part of this year. So when all these Tea parties started popping up online, I wasn't getting the connection..maybe because there IS NO connection! Lol...everytime I see that a friend is participating in one, I just have to shake my head and chuckle to myself.

Grégoire said...

"So they imposed the Sugar Act – a tariff (or tax) on imported sugar to the colonies and moved to make it difficult if not impossible for the colonists to make use of smuggling sugar from other parts of North America, such as from the Spaniards in Texas."

Minor point, but if your source actually talks about "sugar imports from the Spaniards in Texas" in 1773, you'll definitely want to toss it into the wastepaper basket.

Lisa said...

ah dammit, i meant to double check that one. that was just me trying to remember something before checking.

thank you greg.

Lisa said...

there was an issue with smuggling but i forget which part of the country the smuggling would've come from (the Indies?) so I'm just going to leave it at "smuggling."

I'm tired.

Grégoire said...

I spent so many tedious hours in Texas History as a young kid, imagining that the memorization of all those names and dates was completely useless. Not until today did all that work pay off.

Lisa said...

aw I'm glad


thanks again.

Grégoire said...

If you like this stuff, you'll like this guy:

I've read all his major works, but one is particularly notable. It's called The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Check it out if you get a minute.

Soxy Pirate said...

You can't go wrong with Zinn's "A People's History of the United States."

I thought it was mighty peculiar when a couple members of the Church from my parents' ward went off to one of the tea parties today.

They are on church welfare, food stamps, disability, medicaid, and practically every other kind of handout you could imagine. I wonder exactly which one of those checks they're willing to give up.

Lisa said...

Thanks, Greg I'll have to look into that.

Maren: Sorry I missed you before. I think it's hilarious how we seem to always be dealing with the same thing. Ha! To think some homeschooling parents are actually teaching their kids the parallels here (how we're currently experiencing "taxation without representation")


Soxy: Oh man don't even get me started. Goes back to the other issue I have (and experienced)

We're supposed to be a self-reliant people, yet how many of our young members marry and have fifty children before they're truly able to afford them?

How many of them are on government programs when, if they'd just waited, they wouldn't be?

These same people are the ones decrying universal health care and the welfare system (which, while it needs help, isn't a horrible thing)

I just don't get it.

Grégoire said...

Soxy sez:
'...a couple members of the Church from my parents' ward went off to one of the tea parties today.'

This is the strangest thing, isn't it?

About a year ago a woman who lives in my condo complex desperately needed medical treatment, but couldn't afford a trip across the border (the Canadian system is almost thoroughly broken because of 'conservatives' like Stephen Harper). Anyway, she was loudly complaining about taxes (which in BC are less than they are in Washington, USA anyway) and 'giveaways to layabouts and refugees'.

I kept the fact that I skipped the waiting list and got my own surgical procedure done in the U.S., for a rather nominal fee, on demand. I didn't want her to set me on fire or anything.

The people who *actually* suffer most from current conditions seem to be the people who don't realize it. (It's called false consciousness.) People who can't afford food on their tables in Vancouver and then complain about taxes going to Sikhs in Surrey are simply regurgitating the propaganda that is subliminally fed to them daily by the media, schools and churches. The values of the ruling class become ingrained as the common-sense values of everyman. It's really beyond the scale of comprehension.

J said...

"To think some homeschooling parents are actually teaching their kids the parallels here (how we're currently experiencing "taxation without representation")"

I agree that the tea parties are ridiculous, but there are still U.S. citizens being taxed without representation. If all the protestors and "revolutionaries" would just refocus their argument to get the District of Columbia a vote in the House then the symbolism would suddenly be meaningful.

Gwenny said...

The thing that has amused me most about this was the HORRIBLE choice of the word "teabag". Most of you lovely innocent women are unaware, likely, that "teabag" is slang for an often homosexual sex act that has found its way into the gaming world so that even the youngest online gamer knows that "teabagging" is an act of humiliating your opponent with a simulated sex act. According to some of my military male friends, it also refers to exposing ones boy bits, surreptitiously of course, to a superior officer's drink before serving it to him.

So, when I first heard "Teabag Obama" I was alternatively amused and horrified, since in my gaming world "teabagging" follows killing and the last thing we need is some teenager thinking he had a mandate to assassinate the president.

Lisa said...

J: Touche, though I can't comment further as I know *very little* about DC and its politics. But interesting point, thank you.

Gwenny: Yep. It did bring out the Beavis and Butthead in those of us who know :)

And I only know because my husband worked nights at a grocery store with some guys who taught him all sorts of fun terms.

So besides the historical ignorance, the use of this term shows further ignorance from the right. But understandably so. That said, you'd think they would've retracted the phrase once word got out, eh?