Sign at a tea party tax protest earlier this week in Arizona

In the 1770s the beer and coffee drinking crowds of revolutionaries in Boston heaved sacks of British tainted tea into the deep. Since American colonists were never that fond of tea, the symbolism was not very taxing. “No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry. Earlier this week, encouraged by the right-wing media pundits on Fox News and the radio rush of vitriol, a slight rage [the oxymoron here is intentional] of tea bagging took place. Apparently the government that poured millions and millions of dollars into an unnecessary war in Iraq and lined the pockets of Wall Street executives through deregulation was doing its job when it was Republican in name. But tea is the wrong drink to describe the protesters, few of whom were the two-martini lunch crowd. This was a shot of sour grapes straight up.


Sign at a tea party tax protest earlier this week in Arizona

The butt of anger during the American Revolution was King George, whose effigy collected more spit than a baseball dugout in midsummer. Stirring the wrath of the April 15 tea-party placard bearers in 2009 was the image of newly elected Democratic President Barack Obama. Whatever the message was supposed to be, the images speak louder than the overblown rhetoric from desperate Republican candidates. Part of this message is chilling, a reminder that despite the extraordinary election in which a competent black man did become the leader of a country deeply steeped in racism, racist undertone still rings. The two images shown here were brandished at a rally in Arizona. The first must warm the cockles of the obsessive, heartless proponents of the brand name “Islamofascism”: an American President with an Islamic middle name pictured as the Nazi Hitler. This white-dirtied trinity is not very subtle: being black, being Muslim, being a Nazi — all are the same. The second image leaves the Amos and Andy watermelon jokes rotting in the field and goes straight for the sexual jugular: a black man stooping so low as to sodomize an Arab potentate. Whether intentional or not on the part of the sign maker, this kind of racist drivel literally kills two mockingbirds with one salacious stone.

There are tea parties and there are tea parties. When Queen Elizabeth throws one, nary a naughty word is spoken. When tea is served on the White House lawn, even the most resolute opponents of a sitting president mind their public political manners. But when the tea bags were flying through the airwaves this week, America was demeaned. Whether you prefer to drink your tea in Alice’s Restaurant or Alice in Wonderland, this was racism combined with MisIslamothropy. I can accept the ramblings of the Mad Hatter, but the tea parties that produced these two hurtful images could only have come from a mad hater.

P.S. There were no teabags in 1773, but Sam Adams was there and perhaps not entirely sober.

Daniel Martin Varisco