GUEST COMMENTARY: Crashing the Tea Party
(By PJ Breslin from the Aspen Times)
As a fan of founder history, and an owner of the collections of Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, and other great writers who inspired our independence, I am both amused and offended by the misuse of revolutionary symbolism in the so-called Tea Party movement. I’m sure our founders are either laughing hysterically, or rolling in their graves, at the egregious hypocrisy of those who use their language and symbols to justify what amounts to the opposite of their intent.
A glaringly obvious example of this misuse was the sight of a Gadsten Flag sticker on the bumper of a natural gas service vehicle. The irony is obviously lost on the geniuses who use the coiled rattlesnake and the “Don’t tread on me” motto to epitomize their unhappiness with our current administration. The fact that this particular symbolism is invoked to support the unfettered right to corporate profit, over the safety and security of people, as evidenced by the current BP debacle, is both outrageous and ridiculous.
Benjamin Franklin first used the snake symbol in his now famous political cartoon from the French and Indian War. He defends his imagery by explaining: “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage … Conscious of this, she never wounds till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her. — Was I wrong, Sir, in thinking this a strong picture of the temper and conduct of America?”
Hardly an image one would conjure for self described “Tea Partiers,” who attack the patriotism of those who disagree, and use lies and deception to smear good reputations, and criticize intelligence. Who advocate for “we the wealthy,” and against the well-being of working people. Who rally for corporate rights and deregulation, and against fair and safe oversight, and environmental practices. Who rant against health care for all, while collecting Social Security and Medicare. Who favor enriching banks and insurance companies, while endangering and bankrupting the citizenry. And most tellingly, who are willing to apologize to an oil company responsible for the destruction of an entire culture and ecosystem, while families and wildlife struggle to survive the consequences of their heinous irresponsible acts.
And while our courageous forefathers risked their lives, their liberty, and their sacred honor for the betterment of people everywhere, these self-proclaimed patriots risk nothing. They’re sole concerns being their own bottom lines, being able to continue to fill their SUVs, and to perpetuate rationalizations for their prejudice and self interest. All the while masking their true intent with the inspirational words and symbols of those who were willing to die to forever secure the rights of “We the People.” The fact is, the “Tea Partiers” are the British in this “revolutionary” comparison, and they’re too historically impaired to even know it. The irony would be incredibly funny, were it not so hideous.