Without a hint of awareness of any contradiction, the Tea Party Express and headliner Sarah Palin recently gathered on the Boston Common, one of the oldest government-maintained spaces in America -- to denounce government.
They vented anger about a government doing too much. A strange complaint from self-styled patriots, given the crises this nation is still facing:
Two wars. Foreclosures rampant. Unemployment spiked to nearly 10%. Millions more underemployed. Small business owners afraid to invest more. Small banks failing, and large banks consolidating power. And much of it flowing from the embrace-the-free-market policies of the conservative coalition in charge since 2000, while many Tea Partyers were apparently tranquil.
So what does a grass roots movement which claims the mantle of the Revolutionary builders of our country have to say about solutions? Do nothing!
No, worse yet: undo whatever change has begun to bring the economy back to health. Stop investing in jobs. Stop investing in education. Stop providing help to those who have become victims of one of the greatest financial thefts in American history. And most of all, let those without health insurance go bankrupt.
Why? Because helping the country requires asking them to sacrifice something personally. And from their rhetoric, Tea Party activists apparently don't believe in sacrifice for the common good.
Not so the real, original Boston tea party patriots. They took personal risks to secure liberty, but they also launched independence by declaring "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
There is little praise for mutual pledging in today's Tea Party movement. Instead of seeing America as a nation that is in this together, they choose to rail against infringements upon their personal right to be indifferent to the suffering of others.
Already on average better off than most Americans, they have constructed a wonderfully self-serving vision of America where government programs that benefit them equate with freedom, but anything that benefits others is tyranny. Hands off their Medicare!
Tea Party pretenders also claim to revere the Constitution above all else. Under our Constitution, we hold free and fair presidential elections every four years. No serious person disputes that Barack Obama won the last election by a large margin, and voters gave Democrats large majorities in Congress. Yet do they respect this mandate of the people?
No. From Inauguration Day on, they have disrespected the President. And in doing so they have disrespected tens of millions of citizens who voted for him, and the very basis of a democracy -- that elections matter.
So it is no surprise that the keynote speaker at a Tea Party convention says, to applause: "People who could not even spell the word 'vote', or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House." Words of respect for democracy, or the whine of a sore loser?
At bottom, the Tea Party leaders seems to speak themes better suited to those who in reality want a "me" party. No "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" socialist nonsense for them. Far better to dress up your rejection of responsibility to your fellow Americans in language of patriotism and righteous outrage.
Yearn as they might, however, theirs is not a movement that harkens back to the Founding Fathers. It is a movement espousing self-interest, denial of liberties to others, and a good side to greed.
That's not what Sam Adams and company stood up for when they denounced taxation without representation. Modern-day Tea Partiers seem instead to be fighting for representation without responsibility.