Tea is wonderful; tea parties are stupid

T.A. Barnhart

In 1976, with our nation about to celebrate 200 years of independence, democracy and capitalism, Uncle Sam, having enlisted and trained me at the cost of thousands of dollars to independent, democratic and capitalist Americans, sent me into the bosom of our original enemy as a member of our country's great armed forces. And how did I repay this investment and faith in my ability and willingness to defend and uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States of America?

I went native.

This was not my fault. I was assigned to a small communications station at RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay, Cornwall. While there was a large contingent of US Marines and Navy guarding a weapons cache of some kind, our contingent of Air Force personnel was usually about a dozen. We were off to the west side of the base, just above the pig farm (not kidding). We were all enlisted men, and we had no on-base facilities. We lived "on the economy", receiving HOLA, COLA and other financial assistance. Going native was inevitable when you were told to find your own place to live in a remote corner of a really wonderful, warm and interesting country like England.

How native did I go? I learned how to play cricket. I bought expensive darts. And I drank tea made from loose-leaf tea.

Yes, most of those in England who drink tea use teabags. But for Americans who only know Liptons, an English teabag is almost unrecognizable. Where Liptons is tiny and full of dust (the actual term for tea of that quality and size), PG Tips (my favorite bag) were large and full of tea pieces actually recognizable as tea. With these bags, you got a cup of real tea: deep gold-brown, slightly floral, and strong enough to require a splash (or more) of cream (not 2% or other watery non-milks; the top layer of cream from a real English pinta). Oh, and English tea bags do not have strings attached. They are not meant to be quick and easy. They are meant to be enjoyed.

After I finished my four years in the Air Force, I stayed in England and moved to Bath to take a year of pre-university classes (and may I take a moment to brag: I was accepted into the English Dept of the University of Warwick but, thanks to Thatcher, could not afford the $5,000 tuition that was instituted to keep non-white, non-rich students off Britain's shores). While in Bath, I was introduced to a little shop that not only sold tea in bulk, it had done so for a couple of centuries. It was gorgeous: dark wood cabinets and counters, tea and coffee crates, and full of years of beautiful aroma. My favorite part, after the tea itself, was how it was sold: weighed into an actual scale, then poured onto a square of paper that was folded and wrapped with string.

That's shopping.

From there, of course, it was a matter of proper tea-making: fresh water brought to the boil, pre-heat the pot, add one spoon of tea for each cup being made (and one for the pot), steep for 5 minutes, pour through a strainer. Even now, nothing seems to ground me more than to make a cuppa in this manner. The little bit of extra expense and effort is worth every moment, every penny.

Which is relevant, how?

Today's idiotic spate of "teabagging" protests is galling on so many levels. First and foremost, of course, is that none of these "protesters" had a damn thing to say when Bush & Cheney were busy bankrupting the nation other than "Go go go!" (A lot of them did also say "Thanks for my tax cut" and "Hell, no I won't go".) They were for massive government spending that made them rich and kept their wingnut party in power; now that Obama and the Dems are spending money to rebuild (and transform) the economy and the nation, they suddenly discover fiscal "responsibility". Of course, for them, "responsibility" means "Oh sweet Jesus we may never get back into power again!" and "Poor me, my taxes may still be lower than under Reagan".

We'll take a break to recover from our collective gagging at their rank hypocriscy.

The original Boston Tea Party had a clear purpose: protest English taxation that was harmful to the colonists and denied them a say in the political process. In stark contrast, Barack Obama has welcomed the participation of Republicans and other political opponents from even before his inauguration. Their response, of course, was to spit in his face. Now this charade, this grotesque pretense that they give one good goddamn about the nation's fiscal and economic health. The very nature of their protests proves how little they care and, perhaps worse, how little they even understand.

The President has worked tirelessly, for over two years now, stretching back to the beginnings of his campaign, to help Americans understand that fixing the economy means more than creating jobs or saving the banks. Real economic recovery includes health care, energy, education and climate change: failure to adequately address these issues — and to address them now, and not at some undisclosed point in the future — will mean a failure to address the issues at the heart of our current crisis. Most Americans get this to a greater or lesser degree.

The idiots playing tea-patriots do not. Or perhaps they do and they just don't care. After all, the solutions to these issues will undermine much of what has made a tiny majority of Americans rich and powerful. It will undo the health "care" industry and big pharma, it will create new industries that will bring down the oil companies and their criminal partners, and it will educate far too many children of the wrong sort. In short, if Obama is allowed to succeed in his overall platform of renewal and reform, America may be overrun, permanently, by democracy and widespread prosperity.

Of course these selfish, sightless, thoughtless partisans are in a panic, so stupidly blinded by their greed and loss of privilege that they adopt a term that has left them wide-open to well-deserved mockery for weeks (I know we're all hoping for some real on-camera wingnut teabagging today). What's really pathetic, as I watch video of the tea parties (I'm sorry, but where are the cucumber sandwiches?) is how many of the protestors seem to be the same kind of simpleton dupes who supported the Republicans destroying their families' security and safety with tax cuts for the rich and war in Iraq. They are supported their enemies for the past eight years, and they still report for duty to self-destruct. They have not learned a goddamn thing other than if Fox & Rush say jump, they are ready to play Patriot Frog.

This is enough to make a person's head explode. In a few months, my kid will be in Iraq because people like this were so stupid and frightened, they approved of the Bush/Cheney lies that started that immoral war. I would love nothing more than to head home, make a pot of tea and enjoy my book ("The System of the World"; I love that series) far away from any contact with the world. But I have my job, so I will return to work in a few minutes and focus on work. I will, however, do one thing first: Make a cup of tea. It won't be primo stuff, but it will be Tazo Awake; they make the best bag tea by far. A decent cuppa won't fix the world, but it will make me relaxed and satisfied enough to do my job well.

And if anyone wants me to teabag with them later ... nah, nevermind. It's too sad and pathetic — and real — to be funny anymore.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    t.a. barnhart:

    PG Tips (my favorite bag) were large and full of tea pieces actually recognizable as tea.

    Bob T:

    I think Fred Meyer sells these in their "Asian food" aisle which actually has sections for imported stuff from Britain, Germany, India (even Cajun country), etc. Not well advertised apparently--no one knows the stuff is there unless they look at the items as they walk by, and may wonder what "spotted dick" is, or clotted cream. I'll have to try those bags.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • gl (unverified)

    I is progressive look at my mustache...

  • (Show?)

    i had that mustache when i was a fundamentalist christian. you need a new benchmark.

  • Brian C. (unverified)

    Agreed, teabag protesters are stupid as are most protesters. Don't care who it is- anarchists, foreign nationals demanding rights, aging liberal hippie douche bags, whacked out religious zealots, bicycle freaks, trust fund babies with no real problems of their own, college students who have time to protest, pro-lifer's, pro-choicer's, feminists, GLBT activists or today's mouth breathing ignoramuses taking their marching orders from talk radio & Fox News. Much as I defend all of your rights to assemble & protest, kindly show some respect for your fellow citizens and refrain from snarling traffic, damaging property or leaving messes behind. Do your thing but please don't fuck things up for the rest of us. Peace.

  • dswogger (unverified)

    First and foremost, of course, is that none of these "protesters" had a damn thing to say when Bush & Cheney were busy bankrupting the nation other than "Go go go!"

    How do you know that? I know many Bush/Cheney supporters that protested loudly regarding their policies. AND, it seems from the many reports hereabouts there was as many Dems and Indys at these things as there were so-called "raddies". Dip that broad brush again.....

  • dswogger (unverified)

    And look at that --- a link for signing the flat tax petition. I find it rather funny that a "progressive" blog puts up such a link. Last I looked progressives are full favor of a highly weighted progressive tax on ones labor.

    How did you guys let that slip in?

  • Assegai Up Jacksey (unverified)

    The original Boston Tea Party had a clear purpose: protest English taxation that was harmful to the colonists and denied them a say in the political process.

    It really is too bad about Thatcher and tuition. You could have used a good English history course.

    A decent narrative was posted here a week ago and there has been no cognizance of it as that old chestnut is trotted out in post after post.

  • Davros (unverified)

    anarchists, foreign nationals demanding rights, aging liberal hippie douche bags, whacked out religious zealots, bicycle freaks, trust fund babies with no real problems of their own, college students who have time to protest, pro-lifer's, pro-choicer's, feminists, GLBT activists or today's mouth breathing ignoramuses taking their marching orders from talk radio & Fox News.

    Exterminate! All other life is inferior. You will be exterrrminaated!

  • Three Slips And A Gulley (unverified)

    What's really pathetic, as I watch video of the tea parties (I'm sorry, but where are the cucumber sandwiches?)...

    Steady on there, mate! That cricket imagery you started with has spilled over into the tea protests, and they simply aren't cricket.

    Only 10 days 'til NW Cricket League action!!!

  • Dan Liu (unverified)

    PG Tips has been my go-to tea for the past few months too, but I miss that bitter tang that a good, loose leaf assam or darjeeling tea has. PG Tips is tasty, but it just doesn't have that much depth; it is, however, very good quality tea for the money.

    There's a great Iranian Earl Grey tea with long, curly leaves that my friend brings up to Portland from San Francisco, and we'll have to have some of that. Amazing stuff.

  • StephanAndrewBrodheadForCongress (unverified)

    Tea Parties are for true Patriots that care about America!

    I spent 3 months in England hauling men and material to Iraq. It was a just war! "Obama gave Aid and Comfort to the enemy" Now he gives no quarter to our children's future. for this he will reap the rath of 2012!

    Republicans will ride high in the saddle very soon!

    The British Coercive Acts of 1774 aroused Daniel Brodhead's indignation. Because the Boston Port Act crippled the economic life of Boston, Paul Revere traveled to Philadelphia to seek sympathy and assistance. Philadelphia leaders formed a committee of correspondence to circularize all Pennsylvanians in behalf of the Bostonians. This committee called upon each county to send delegates to a protest congress in Philadelphia in July, 1774. Daniel Brodhead was on the Berks County delegation; and was appointed to the convention committee for drawing up a set of instructions to the Pennsylvania colonial legislature. On that committee with Brodhead were other young men destined to be among the Founding Fathers of the new nation - John Dickinson, Joseph Reed, and James Wilson

  • Abby NORML (unverified)

    Because the Boston Port Act crippled the economic life of Boston,...

    It did not. Not paying it did. That and a minority of chest thumpers in Britain, trying to pay for wars they couldn't afford. So, I guess you think that drug crime is caused by drug laws!

    Take a breath and realize your ignorance and hypocrisy.

  • LT (unverified)

    I've had PG Tips, and a lot of other teas. I like Earl Grey, Prince of Wales (hard to find except in a variety pack with Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, etc.)and mint tea--esp. green tea with fresh mint in the summer which makes an excellent iced tea. We usually have severals in the house at once.

    My favorite tea was something one relative brought back from visiting England and when a young relative did overseas study took the box as a reminder and brought me back some more. Called something like Summer Pudding Tea, it was loose tea with a lot of dried berries in it, and tasted excellent when sweetened.

    I was at the capitol today as they were taking down the stuff from the rally. There was a big banner advertising the sponsors of the rally, incl. CSE PAC, Freedom Works, a radio station(KYKN, I think) and several others. So when I heard claims on news that these were "grass roots" efforts, that sure wasn't true of the Capitol rally.

    It sounds like the crowd which put Measure 30 on the ballot. If they were serious, they would have been inside the building talking to actual legislators. But it looked like a protest of no longer having Republicans in power.

    Where were the protests at tax cuts in a time of war, the way the Medicare Drug Benefit was written, etc? Where were these protesters last September when Paulson et al were setting up the original TARP?

    What they reminded me of most of all were the folks from slightly less than 8 and a half years ago chanting in the streets HE WON GET OVER IT! after Bush won the Bush v. Gore case.

    Maybe it is OK for Republicans to spend money and only wrong when Democrats win elections?

  • t.a. barnhart (unverified)

    i knew what "Three Slips & A Gulley" meant before i read the post. i am so happy!

    many progressives favor a tax that is mostly flat but weighted to ease the burden on lower-income earners while those at the top end pay that percentage more they can easily afford. no point lumping all of us into the same category (and esp don't assume that all who call themselve "progressive" really are; like Hillary, they may be liberals still reluctant to use the correct word).

  • rw (unverified)

    Hooray for T.A. Fine bit of writing, laudable thought product, and my sentiments. Exactly. OR nearly so.

    "go, go GO!" indeed. Morons! Devoid of the riches of cultural context and lacking in moral right to the ground anyway!

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    I dunno--I had fun with the teabaggers. I made a sign that said "Shut Down the Socialist Fire Department", and ran around yelling about how unfair it is that I have to pay to put out other people's fires. And then a fire truck showed up (someone needed some socialist help), making my point even clearer.

    As I was leaving, I overheard a teabagger complaining that he had to pay taxes on his...can you guess?...on his f'ing UNEMPLOYMENT!! Shocked to hear that a teabagger would participate in such a blatantly socialist program, I proceeded to berate him for his hypocrisy. Fun times!

    While most of it was pretty silly, and generated by a well-funded right-wing media/PAC combo, there was some scary shit. The Constitution Party was there, people with anti-immigrant signs were there, people with signs about the US being a Christian nation were there, lots of young people were there, lots of people were there--it's not a just a few wackos in the "Hinterlands". People are hurting, they are pissed, and the right is doing a much better job of giving them something to be angry about. We need to get our shit together and start organizing, and we need to do it fast!

  • (Show?)

    Chris, there are plenty of people organizing, plenty of opportunities to do so. there's no need to tell people they need to do it; it's being done. Change for America, the continuation of the president's campaign, and Democracy for America, Howard Dean's organization, are just two of the nationwise organizations hard at work. here in Oregon there are a multitude of issue-oriented organizations and the Bus Project continues to be a good means of progressive activism. if anyone is unsure how to get involved, a bit of googling should find them several progressive options for action. at the very least, they should be writing their members of Congress and the Oregon Leg.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    These are the people that have no one to blame but themselves. They foolishly and selfishly passed measure like M5 and then wonder why there isn't any money to subsidize what they need.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)

    t.a., aren't most of those efforts primarily about building the party, or building stuff to support the party? I'm talking about building a grassroots, progressive movement that is independent of the party, which is something completely different. This difference might have to do with our perspective on the party as well, where you see it as providing solutions, I see it as part of the problem.

  • (Show?)

    Chris, no. CfA is about supporting Obama's efforts; it's the same list of people who got him elected. DFA is Dean, so that's the people who are behind his efforts. many groups are issue-oriented (for a very good example, see Archimedes Project, led by John Kitzhaber, seeking a new kind of politics thru health care change). the Bus is non-partisan. and even some of the Dem county parties are more interested in fixing what's broken than pushing candidates willy-nilly (the Mult Dems are truly focused on the issues).

    if you want to start your own grassroots organization, go ahead. that's the point. but there are already a multitude of them out there, and they are doing what you say needs to be done. if you had followed Dr Dean since 2003, you'd know that part of this is to bring that change into the Democratic Party, so that it represents the 'roots and not special interests. and one of the reasons for the victories of '06 & '08 is that grassroots involvement -- and Dem politicians know it. they are listening to "us" more and more. party politicis isn't for everyone, but the party is a major change agent in this country. it has to be transformed like everything else.

  • rlw (unverified)

    TA, maybe Chris and his ilk need something that resonates with them. It's ok with me if he energetically and with a fresh and humorous voice reiterates that we need to really get our shite together and go go GO!

    Yes, there is a lot going on, and more can go on besides that! Chris, you should organize comics, artists and the whacko fringe - Firesign Theater, Monty Python, The LIving Theater cum Comedic Enterprise... in the streets. Nothing wrong with more to mix in with teh "better"... :)

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    Don't crush that dwarf....hand me the pliers.

  • rlw (unverified)

    Heh. :)

  • jonnie (unverified)

    Chris #12 - The Feds run the Fire Department? I never expected you to "get it" but to make such a fatally flaws analogy is even beyond what I thought capable of Progressives. No wonder you don't mind spending $10T you don't have.

  • Lloyd Woods (unverified)

    Excellent points T.A.

    What really got me was that Victoria "I hate the world" called the protesters Patriots, but when there were protests in the same place against Bush, she called them unwashed hippies who hated America.

    I guess she thinks only neocons have the right to protest.

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