Today is Tax Day – the day by which we must pay Uncle Sam for the privilege of living in our own country. And it is the day of the great Tea Party Protest.
At the original Boston Tea Party, Sam Adams led a group of men aboard a British ship. In protest over a recently imposed British tax on tea, Adams and his cohorts seized the ship’s cargo of tea and threw it into the Boston harbor. The crux of the protest wasn’t to throw tea in the harbor. The point was to prevent the tea from being unloaded, to render it worthless, and to deprive the Crown of the despised tax. Their protest subjected Adams and his friends to the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Today, angry citizens are gathering at sites across the nation to once again protest the imposition of ever-increasing taxes. However, unlike the historic tea party protest, today’s protest consists of driving to the grocery store, purchasing tea, taking it to the designated gathering point, and throwing it in the harbor, bay, river, creek, swimming pool.
My, how far we have come.
Throwing my own tea into the bay reduces the brave act of Adams to mere symbolism. It deprives no one but myself of anything (the tea I purchased with my own money). Yet, somehow this symbolic act is supposed to send a message. It sends a message, but not the one the protesters intend.
The message of today’s Tea Party Protest isn’t one of angry defiance. Instead, today’s message says, “We am not willing to take any step that threatens our own comfort.” We have nothing but gestures and hollow words. We are all about rhetoric and not about substance. What about throwing our tax returns in the bay? What about a massive refusal to file a return? What about filing but not paying? That would cost us something, but it would send our elected officials a message they would understand. We don’t need symbolism, we need substance.