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An Open Invitation to the Tea Party

11/22/2010 05:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The original Tea Party took place at Boston Harbor in 1773. You can attend a popular re-enactment of it every December (adults $9). Two miles away, the Fenway Victory Gardens, started in 1942, are still growing (admission free). Both sites mark the safe-guarding of American freedom.

Like its namesake, the present Tea Party's labors culminated in a single event: on a recent election night, citizens cheered as one liberal after another splashed into the harbor. So what now, Tea Party movement?

I suggest a short metaphorical drive to the Victory Gardens. Victory Gardens grew vegetables in public parks and neighborhoods during WWII to save food and fuel for the war effort, growing 40 percent of the United States' produce at their peak. Present day community gardens are a patchwork of independent, community-centered, local food (and flower) growing hubs.

If you want less government, then you must have confidence in personal responsibility and communities. Either that or you're willing to accept an almost feudal inequality that would horrify the original Tea Party activists.

One potential path is clear: in a fragmented, tight-budgeted, polluted and statistically obese country, we need to Victory Garden again.

The great thing about putting seeds in the ground -- mustard greens in Massachusetts or tomatillos in Texas -- is that you get different vegetables, but also different priorities, "growing" in every community. I've heard about volunteer opportunities for marginalized teenagers, green space initiatives, community dinners, urban renewal plans (that are working), grow-a-row for food pantries, food for senior homes, food for elementary schools, food for the poor, and one of my favorites, Seeds of Solidarity ("Grow Food Everywhere"), that tries to do all of this. I played at their Garlic and Arts Festival. I was paid in garlic.

I feel like if I talk about community gardens' ability to create organic, local produce, I'll remind you of some Woman who shops at expensive natural food stores, preaches food purity, and doesn't understand that access to this kind of food is not available to all incomes. If that oblivious Woman exists, I don't know her, and I don't think I'd like her.

I want a real Victory, the kind that makes us self-sufficient, courteous, generous (nothing makes you feel more generous than having too many tomatoes), and aware of our towns as a vital mix of old, young, functional, crazy, strong, weak, and of unconventional strengths. And also one that provides organic, local produce.

If you don't mind getting on the bandwagon, chickens are a strongly libertarian option, too. The New York Times ran an article about how owning chickens is comforting but not cost effective. Silly left wing rag! Our neighbors get over two dozen eggs a week from their six chickens. We bring them kitchen scraps to offset feed costs. Then we get eggs. Everyone wins.

And once you're involved in side-by-side bean trellising or conversations about henhouse mulch, you might find your way back to other local connections, like government. When the city of Buffalo outlawed Monique Watts' backyard chickens, she documented their cleanliness and even found a decibel meter to show they made no more noise than a barking dog. She brought all this to city hall and won the day. Chickens had been outlawed at a crowded, under-vaccinated point in history, but now the law could be changed for Monique and her neighbors. Government got the government off her back.

As you might have guessed, I don't want to scrap what you might call big government. I distrust big business more than big government. But often enough the two entities have been bedfellows with silk sheets and matching toothbrushes, so I'm willing to meet you halfway. I'll meet you in a community garden. Community gardens close the loop, decentralize power, and let people help people, addressing issues that differ from region to region. They improve our physical health and increase self-reliance. With greater strength of the community mind and body, we're better able to deflect the buzz and hype of anyone that does not have our best interests at heart. We The People can do that.

Perhaps you're surprised to be called radicals just because you feel passionate about something. I was. But radical comes from a Latin word which means "of roots." It makes sense that we'll find answers at the roots, in an actual landscape of plants and people. The Tea Party was a bell-clanging event, but our real Victory is still uncertain. Right now, teenagers could use a massive dose of reassurance. Potential green spaces are filled with litter and nothingness. Our children are hungry. Our neighbors are scared.

All radicals welcome.

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