I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party

I think these tea parties are idiotic.

In short, it gives people the illusion that they are doing something, when in fact they are just being ignored.

This whole idea that people should protest and shout about how unhappy they are just seems like a completely ineffective way to bring about substantial change. I apply this to protests of all kinds that happen these days. It's nothing like the civil rights protests of the 1960's, for example, where the violence perpetrated on the protesters made the nation take stock of itself. Today's protests are a way to avoid any intellectual or moral responsibility by substituting dialog and real action with a "protest march" that is little more than a gripefest with other malcontents who feel equally unhappy. It isn't revolutionary and it does nothing to reform.

I left a similar comment at our local Tea Party website:

If you want to see it, you should probably hurry, b/c I'm sure it will be pulled soon.


john doyle said...

Following your link, I read the platform on which the Partiers are standing and I agree with maybe half of it, so I'm not sure I'd party with them anyway. In the last year I've called my congressman asking him not to vote for another round of funding for the Iraq war and I've stood on a streetcorner for 2 hours holding a sign demanding that Israel stop occupying Gaza. Are these useful tactics? I doubt it. What do you recommend instead, Erdman? There are those on the far left (and maybe on the far right too) who say that it's time to reconsider violent means, that standing around waiting to get heckled or arrested is just masochism dressed up as self-righteousness.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes, to me these tactics seem useless. I don't know that I would ever participate in a violent resistance, although I would never rule it out.

I was in a brief email exchange with one of the organizers of the local Kosciusko County Tea Party, and I told her that I thought that these Tea Parties seemed pointless, even if one agrees with the ideology behind it. (I'm with you, I agree with some, but I greatly disagree with others, e.g., the blanket moral assessment that "America is good.") I said the following:

"The original Boston Tea Party was 1) an act against the crown (i.e., the governmental powers that be) 2) a disruption of the economic powers that be (i.e., the British East India Tea Company) 3) an act of great personal risk to those who engaged in this anarchist act and 4) a major step toward the revolution and overthrow of the prevailing powers.

The act of dumping tea into the harbor disrupted an economic system that was directly tied to the government's power. This is because the East India Tea Co. was in bed with the British government, and the two made sure that there was a tea monopoly, ergo, the tea company made big profit AND the government cashed in with a huge tax on the tea."

Basically, if one wishes to truly upset the powers that be, one must take great risk.

Protests really do little by way of real risk. I like your summary: "masochism dressed up as self-righteousness." Real revolution requires real risk. Protesting just makes us feel like we are doing something when the reality is that we are still being ignored. A real act of revolution or reform would have to be intelligent and targeted at hurting the powers that be, which seems to imply inevitable risk to those who participate. Many movements and thinkers of the last hundred years seem to have proved that these revolutionary/reform efforts need not be violent.

Tamie said...

Yeah....I went to a peace march once back in the day and I was like...hunh...*how* exactly is this making a difference?

But then, a couple years ago, I went to a candlelight vigil, remembering the fact that (at that point) 3,000 US soldiers had died in Iraq. It was meaningful to me because I could see that I was not alone, in my sadness and anger about the war.

Personally, I've been thinking that we should have a resurgence of *non-violent* tactics, the kind that the blacks in SA used under apartheid, or Gandhi used in India. We have tried so few of those non-violent and super-effective tactics. Therefore, I don't think we have any moral ground to suggest violent tactics.

But yeah, the Tea Parties do just seem rather pointless.

jps said...

And, the bigger question is, "Where were these same people when Bush was spending his billions?" If the party of choice is spending the money, no problem!

So sad...


Jonathan Erdman said...


Many of these Tea Parties are doing their darnedest to try to be non-partisan....getting speakers from both parties, not mentioning specific parties or leaders (like Obama), etc. However, your point is noted: out of control spending was tolerated b/c it went toward the Bush wars. But as soon as Obama takes office and spends on green initiatives, etc., then spending is no longer tolerated and it is time for Tea Parties.

It is interesting to see if those on the left and right can come together with a common libertarian-type vision: the government should not be spending huge money for anything, foreign wars or domestic engineering. I doubt it, but one can always hope.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

...Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?"
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

And they were amazed at him...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Mustard Seed,

Timely verse.

Very timely.

The vision of Jesus, politically speaking, seems to be a-political: don't accumulate or fight over the treasures of earth, put your heart and energy behind the things of God.

I wonder, though, if Jesus would be an anarchist who works to upset the power structures. The powers usually gain their leverage through force and through having an economic advantage. Presumably Jesus was non-violent, but would he have engaged in non-violent strategies aimed at disrupting oppressive powers?

Like a Mustard Seed said...

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."

Sounds like a non-violent strategy to me...

john doyle said...

"if those on the left and right can come together with a common libertarian-type vision: the government should not be spending huge money for anything"

That's not my hope at all really. I'd like government to act on behalf of the citizenry rather than as an autonomous sector of the economy or (worse and perhaps more typically) as an agent of the wealthy and privileged. So, e.g., if the government really could be a tough negotiator for better healthcare goods/services at cheaper prices I think it would be a great thing. The more likely scenario in the US is that universal healthcare becomes a legal mandate for everyone to pay whatever the doctors, hospitals, and drug companies want to charge. And that sucks, obviously, at least for most of us. Not sure if this is the forum, but what the heck...

Jonathan Erdman said...


This is ALWAYS the forum.

Question: Do you like what Obama has done so far? What are your thoughts?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Here is the full article covering the local Tea Party, from The Times-Union, the local paper for this area.


Organizers of the Taxed Enough Already Party rally Wednesday afternoon called it "only the beginning."

With more than 700 people on the Kosciusko County courthouse lawn, speakers encouraged everyone to help send a message to Washington that enough "taxing and spending" is enough. The people agreed, holding up signs reading "Keep your hands off my piggy bank," "Stop stealing from my grandkids" and "Give me liberty, not debt."

The Kosciusko rally was Kody Linville's second TEA Party rally. From Kendallville, he already attended one in Albion, and is going to the Fort Wayne rally Saturday.

"I'm tired of the government taking everything," Linville said prior to the rally. "Government doesn't listen to the people anymore. They need to start listening to us."

Sue Stevens, Pierceton, said she was there "because I'm fed up with the way the country is going." She said the government wasn't handling taxing, spending or the budget right.

"You read your bills, you read your legal agreements. You don't just (hand out money)," she said.

Stevens held up a sign that read "Say no to Fascism and Socialism."

"It seems like that is the direction we are heading with some of these decisions," she said.

Retired Staff Sgt. Paul Snell said ever since the military existed, the military has had to take an oath to uphold and protect the U.S. Constitution.

"Now, they (the government) are taking the Constitution and running it through the shredder," Snell said. "Congress is suppose to work for us, we don't work for them."

Ryne Schaden, 23, Warsaw, said, "I don't feel like giving my money away to useless spending. I don't want to be considered a terrorist; I do own a gun and I aim to keep it."

He said he was surprised by the large turn out. "I didn't think there'd be this many people on the same page," he said.

As the rally began, event co-organizer Monica Boyer said they were gathered there for one purpose, to send Washington one message.

"We are tired of them spending our money," Boyer said.

It doesn't matter what political party is in charge, or what administration sits in the White House. She said, "We want to see Washington stop the needless spending."

Boyer said common sense needs to return to Washington. Is it too much to ask Congress to read legislation before it is passed? she asked. The politicians need to do as the people say, or they all can be replaced in 2012, she said.

Al McClelland said he felt that the rally didn't need and shouldn't have had to happen. "I thought in 1776, we discussed this business," McClelland said.

Jim Heierman spoke about when America's founding fathers came together and asked God for help and guidance. He said the country today needs to ask God to be America's leader again.

With politicians absent from the organized event, citizens like Sue Bendorf spoke. She said she wasn't deeply involved in politics, but she loves the United States.

Not only was the crowd there to send their leaders a strong message about taxation, she said, but the crowd also was there for their love of the country. She said America needs to do a lot of soul searching.

"If we continue to remove God, who is the author of freedom, from America, then it will cease to exist as we know it," Bendorf said.

Adrian Messer Jr., community coordinator with the Indiana Fair Tax, said, "I am scared to death about what's going to happen to my grandkids and their kids."

He said the country has politicians who manipulate the tax code for their own purposes and special interests. "What do we do? We have to go back to common sense," he said.

America has the second highest tax rate in the world, he said. He spoke about the Fair Tax Bill and how it would help the country get back on its feet. More information about the bill can be found online at www.infairtax.org

"If your politicians are at least not entertaining it, they're being disingenuous," Messer said.

With the Fair Tax Bill, Messer said, "You get to keep all of your check. Nothing is taken out of it."

Gordon Velle, another citizen, said there are many things people can do to keep the movement going. Prayer is a starting point, but people also need to become active.

"We may not realize it, but we are in the majority," he said. "The problem is we've become passive for far too long."

Other things people can do, Velle said, is find out how the American system works and make it work for the people; keep meeting with each other; don't rely on mass media to be informed; share information on who are good candidates; help educate others; contact public officials on issues; and take an active role in a political party.

"I'm tired of not having choices" in elections, Velle said.

"One more thing: We must never give up. Twenty years from now, I don't want my grandchild to say, 'Grandpa, why didn't you do something? Why didn't you do something when you had the right to speak? Why didn't you do something when you had the right to vote? Why didn't you do something when you had the right to worship?' I don't want that to ever come up," Velle said.

Event co-organizer Jeremiah Heierman said he was told by someone that he was anti-tax. But, he said, that's not true - he likes paying taxes for roads and schools. However, he doesn't like pay taxes for bridges to nowhere.

"If Washington doesn't have a backbone, we can send all they need from Kosciusko County," Heierman said.

Later he said he was told he was a radical because he wants people to be fiscally responsible. "So am I hanging out with a bunch of radicals?" he asked the crowd, which shouted with a chorus of "Yeahs!"

"I'm proud to be a radical American," he said.

Jon Fussle, event co-organizer, spoke of the founding fathers and how public service is a dying form of patriotism where the servant sacrifices personal gain for the good of the nation. He spoke of the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and how it brought about the American Revolution.

"Today we gather on the lawn of our county courthouse to ignite a new fuse, a fuse that will lead directly to Washington. The ensuing explosion will sound across this nation to tell them that we are through with the wasteful ways of Washington. It will sound across this nation as hundreds of thousands of people from coast to coast gather together as we have today. It will sound across this nation to tell them that it is time for a new generation of Americans to step up and take this country back," Fussle said. "Look around you. The people you see around you are the first sign of a tidal wave headed toward Washington. The people you see around you today are here to join you in sending a signal to Washington; change your ways or find a new job. Get out of my government."

Fussle then read the Declaration of Independence that the founding fathers sent to King George in London.

"Washington would like this to be the end, but it is only the beginning. You have shown up today to show your support for a change in our government, an ideological and fundamental change in the way they look at us taxpayers. We are not servants," Fussle said, "we are owners. We are not here for the pleasure of the government, to fund the pet projects of crooked politicians. We are the boss of those politicians. And I propose that we the people fire those politicians who have made a mockery of our tax dollars."

For more information about the TEA Party or related information, e-mail kosteaparty@gmail.com

Jonathan Erdman said...

The above article is a rather good representation of what I hear a lot of people say they care about: God, guns, and keeping their money to themselves. Much of it honestly doesn't make a lot of rational sense to me....for example, someone in the article stated that "If we continue to remove God, who is the author of freedom, from America, then it will cease to exist as we know it." Also, someone seemed to indicate that they felt people thought that those who owned guns were terrorists.....so, much of it (in my opinion) seems motivated by a) fear and b) a desire to believe that one is making their voice heard.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Here's the link again....just in case it didn't show up well.

tamie said...

More than anything, from what was said in the article, the reason for the Tea Party is vague, and the politics of the group reported on seems mostly just incoherent.

Have you thought about writing a letter to the editor about this??