TOWNSEND, Massachusetts - It's tax day, that chilling annual reminder of just how much of your hard earned money state and federal government needs to do the people's business, especially when the people's business includes such necessary pursuits as wooden arrow manufacting and rum distillation - just two of the 9,000 or so outrageous "stimulus" earmarks that have already been largely forgotten by the public.
For those who haven't forgotten, today is the day groups of people will gather at various central and symbolic locations around the country to hold "tea parties" in protest of taxes and Congressional abuse of the public funds they've been charged with managing.
But "protest" just doesn't seem like the right description. How about: gripe, carp, or grouse? Heck, gather and network are probably more fitting adjectives; these tea parties actually look like they might be a lot of fun.
My guess is that today's tea party gatherings won't turn so ugly and, in spite of the good intentions of those who are organizing them, the result will be one collective yawn heard resounding through the halls of Congress and state legislatures across the country. The phenomenon of these so-called protests, scheduled through oh-so-trendy social media utilities such as Facebook, Twitter, and Meetup, is almost laughable. Clicking on an invitation may give participants the warm and fuzzies over being involved in civic activism, but it's far too easy for politicians to ignore such passive events, even when they are punctuated by an actual gathering of people.
Such events ask nothing of their participants, who tend to go on with their lives as soon as the clock says it's time to make the next appointment.
Contrast with the riots in Thailand - where the stakes are high and the folks at the front line are risking life and limb to get their point across. Anti-government groups recently clashed with the military in Bangkok in protest of the current administration, which came to power under a coup. What began as a peaceful demonstration turned violent, with ousted premiere-in-exile Thaksin Shinawatra encouraging his supporters and threatening to lead a revolution. The potential consequences of having been involved in those protests are severe: two people were killed, more than 100 injured, and arrest warrants have been issued for many identified as leaders. There are even reports of the establishment of organizations to investigate the mysterious disappearance of some of the protesters.
This sort of uprising is more in keeping with the spirit of the original Boston Tea Party, which, though not terribly violent, was a genuine risk to those who participated, and served as a precursor to armed revolution against an oppressive government. The government in Thailand knows the folks who clashed with the army and who burned buses are serious about their beliefs. King George and Parliament knew the colonists were serious about theirs as well.
Today, Congress knows that we are only serious about things like American Idol and whether our new iPhone has an "app for that." And until our elected officials get a sense that we're serious about our frustration - by taking action, not just gathering to gab about our "issues" - we can only expect more of the same.
On one hand, the more the folks in places like D.C., Boston, Sacramento, Des Moines, and Jefferson City ignore the public's rumblings, the more likely it is those rumblings will erupt like Mount Redoubt. On the other, accepting a Facebook invite, even when the cumulative number seems big, isn't an effective form of protest. It's time to starting thinking of other ways to get the point across.
Demanding accountability and throwing the bums out on Election Day would be a great place to start. It's what the founders had in mind to prevent the necessity of further violence, after all. They experienced the horror and tragedy of armed revolt and had the wisdom to offer a means to avoid it in the future. Unfortunately, the public's continued failure to take advantage of this measure may have dire consequences.
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Keeping pace with the times, I am now on Twitter posting thoughts on faith, politics, privacy, and the occasional random observation or comment. Look me up and follow me as spinzo.
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