The Sign of the Tea Party
A few nights ago, having returned from his weekender to Europe and Greece, Glenn Beck lamented the fact that the Tea Party has no unifying symbol. He said that local organizers were asking, in essence, “Who’s in charge?” Who do we contact to join the club?
There are several organizations in contention for the privilege of being the clearinghouse organization. Tea Party Patriots is one. They may also have been the bunch that destroyed the online network that local Tea Parties were using to communicate with one another. However, FreedomWorks has come forward to be that new connection and hopefully more trustworthy. They’re one of Glenn Beck’s sponsors and they’re as good as any good group at helping get groups together.
Let us take a look at how the original Tea Party organized in Boston in December, 1773. Their membership came from various rebellious, and often violent, groups in Boston which met as clubs in taverns, such as The Green Dragon. Samuel Adams was the rabble-rouser who got them all together to throw the tea over the sides of the British ships.
They signed on to do the job, but they signed on in secrecy and anonymity. No one would ever know their names, although of course, all of Boston knew their names. They dressed up in various disguises. Some historians hold that they dressed up as Indians; others, that they simply smeared soot, grease or lampblack on their faces and wore dark, ragged clothing.
A crowd was gathered up to create a disturbance in the streets to distract the British while they went on board the ships. The Dartmouth, the Beaver and the Eleanor contained between them 342 chests of tea worth 18,000 English pounds. The warning had gone out to all the seaports to not allow the ships to unload their cargo. By law, the ships could not leave Boston harbor unless they did, or received permission from the governor. The stage was set.
While Sam Adams was the organizer, Paul Revere was in the thick of things. The raid was successful. Benjamin Franklin and Congress were outraged. Franklin felt freedom would come in the natural course of time. The growing population of the Colonies would settle the matter. Washington, while deploring the destruction of the tea and advising that reparations be made to the East India Company for their loss, he also welcomed the act as a decisive step towards eventual freedom.
Two centuries later, the Americans who came together for the Tea Parties, particular the April 15th Tea Party, were not rabble rousers. Mostly, they were quiet suburbanites who had spent the last 40 years watching the rabble rousers stage violent demonstrations, increase the size of government, raise their property taxes to reward unionized teachers and other civil servants, destroy the banks, and give homes to people who couldn’t afford them.
The first Tea Parties, at the call of Rick Santelli on MSNBC, were worrisome affairs. Those early Tea Partiers looked like rabble-rousers, running around aimlessly, shouting and waving their home-made signs. Americans still at home liked the idea of taking a stand against a leviathan government from their own town squares. They loved the signs; that was something they could do. If only the rallies could be more organized.
First impressions die hard, and those images were the ones the Media froze before the nation’s eyes. By the time April 15th arrived, Tea Parties had already been branded lunatics. Organizing organizations came out of the woodwork to advise the Tea Parties. Our local tea party in Morristown was a do-it-yourself group – a thousand do-it-yourselfers showed up at one organizing meetings. Morristown had its act together. It had an agenda, booths, speakers, and even a rough security plan to deal with problems.
Not surprisingly for a community group, they had some inner conflict. Those issues were settled, though, and Morristown is going strong. So is the North Jersey Regional Tea Party. The members of both groups wanted to go beyond just holding signs at rallies, which was fair enough. North Jersey is on the trail of Agenda 21. Go, North Jersey! More about Agenda 21 and the town of Pompton Lakes tomorrow.
There was some organization at the national level, but those nationalists found the going not all that easy. Their meetings allowed leaders to connect and network. When you get right down to it, it’s still about and will always be about the grassroots. The work begins at home.
Those international groups are to be admired for their spirit. Seems everyone wants to be American. That is, they want to embrace freedom and battle the foes of freedom. You start by taking on your local politicians. Gather your friends and family. Then make friends with groups in other towns. You can take some lessons from the territorial groups in New Jersey (some good, some bad). Garden State tea parties are extremely territorial and jealous of one another. There is some unification on the state level, but only among the leaders.
That territorialism may not do much for unifying a national tea party but it motivates the local members. That fierce independence and rugged individualism means they abhor, above all other other things, collectivism. The Tea Parties are okay with being friends, and even being united in cause, but they don’t want to be told what to do. North Jersey doesn’t want to do rallies and that’s that (!).
If a group like FreedomWorks wants to help, let them create a forum through which Tea Parties all around the world can communicate with one another. That’s how the New Jersey tea parties got started, through the Internet. As the Garden Staters were discussing their plans, they found would-be Tea Partiers from other states joining in on the conversation, wondering how they could organize rallies and get in on the action. (Wyoming Tea Partiers gently scolded the New Jerseyans for complaining about a 45 minute ride to Newark. We told them if they ever saw Newark, they know why we didn’t want to hold a Tea Party there).
Create a forum for Tea Partiers from around the globe to network and they will come.
Glenn mentioned a unifying symbol. Since there’s no national Tea Party organizational chart, no membership, no dues, making such a decision would be pretty difficult. Someone can come up with a design and the groups will either accept it or they won’t.
Only a few symbols come to mind, and they’re all rather detailed for promotional purposes. The teapot, the teacup, the teabag (and its banal associations), or some picture of the original Tea Party. My suggestion would be a home-made looking sign that says, “The Tea Party”, like the signs that originally attracted ordinary Americans to the cause. One designer makes it, copyrights it, and allows groups to sell it as “Tea” shirts, bumper stickers and so forth. Someone has created a Tea Party bumper sticker, with a patriot on it, which is pretty neat. So neat, in fact, that every time I go to the supermarket, some furious Liberal yanks it off. Other designers have used the Liberty Bell. Paul Revere, a silversmith, was known for the church bells he cast.
(That leads one to an idea regarding churches and religions under attack: have a bell-ringing day.)
In the meantime, the international Tea Parties can go to FreedomWorks or Tea Party Patriots to get in touch with their American counterparts.