Tea Party and Know-Nothings
by Joe Palmer
[ opinion - december 10 ]
"In 1854 alleged members of the American Party [Know-Nothings] stole and destroyed the block of granite contributed by Pope Pius IX, intended for the cornerstone of the Washington Monument." [New World Encyclopedia]
So it is that liberty-loving Americans use vigilante action to express their anger, just like in the movies. The original Tea Party in Boston in 1773 was a defiantly criminal action. The Crown had imposed crippling tariffs on imported goods such as sugar, coffee, and tea. Revolutionary patriots dressed as Mohawk Indians chopped open and dumped three newly arrived shiploads (342 crates) of tea into the harbor. The price of tea for everyone went sky high, but they felt they had made a point.
Whenever Americans feel cheated and politically powerless, they either pick up and move or fight back. They move, like the Mormons to Utah, or Jim Jones' People's Temple to Guyana, or they form religious sects, militias, or posses like Samuel Adams' Sons of Liberty, the Ku Klux Klan, the Militia Movement, Branch Davidians (Waco 1993), Montana Freemen, Christian Identity, and so on.
The Tea Party Movement today is a series of unorganized protests against recent government actions felt to violate conservative, libertarian, and populist principles dear to Romantic Americans. They do not think that freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. They are perhaps encouraged, if not funded, by the corporatocracy - the banks, the insurance companies, and the American Medical Association, who today do not promise even pie in the sky, holding that health is a private affair and nobody's business but your own.
The Tea Partiers say that we the people of the United States do not like the fact that it takes a lot of everybody's money to keep our way of life going with its private automobiles, its roads, bridges, waterworks, public health and safety infrastructure, the United States Postal Service, television, internet, box stores, fast food, and drugs. And our struggling businesses have to compete with Asia and Europe for technology and markets.
The Tea Party wants a balanced budget, fiscal responsibility, limited government, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, along with charity to begin at home, the free expression of opinion, sovereignty, the rule of law, justice, God, honesty, family, Kinder, Küche, Kirche, Dum spiro, spero [while I breathe, I hope]...
I think I know what informs the Tea Party.
The old puritan ethos lives among the Tea Partiers, revealing itself in the vocal rejection of the new poverty in favor of spiritual, religious, and libertarian individuality. Their private worlds have been destroyed by being absorbed into the centralized social and economic sphere of monstruous modern life. Life should not be a bag full of gadgets. Technological society and civilization gives them nothing to live for but itself.
They think economic and social inequalities among men are biologically constituted and consequently inevitable. Social justice is not the right of weak, inferior populations but rather a gift from powerful men of good will who shape public policy.
Social progress must first of all benefit and enrich the wealthy and ruling classes. Public works must profit the bankrollers. New business and real estate creation must bring a good return on investments. Otherwise nothing is created to share with managers and workers, and new ideas and products cannot be developed.
Any man who thinks the average Negro is innately the intellectual equivalent of the average White is too dumb to argue with, so racial integration is a bad idea to be thwarted at every turn.
Anyone can see that Negroes and Native Americans such as Mexicans are of limited moral and intellectual capacity, and they are less evolved than the White and Asian races.
However, when Tea Partiers leave the group and take off their white masks to reveal their public selves in everyday life, they hide their true feelings and any evidence of the inferiority of their Negro, Red Indian, and Latino neighbors, mostly because they hope to maximize profits through organization and social peace.
Fear of the unknown consequences of the New World Order has replaced fear of the outcome of the Cold War during their lifetimes. They have nostalgia for the colonies that gave way to barbarism in Africa and Asia, in Uganda, Rhodesia, the Congo, and in China. Memories of Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, and Chairman Mao as devils represent their worst fears.
They remember "Burn, Baby, burn" and they fear retribution and violence, the mayhem and murder of riots in the cities in the 1960s, and Watts, Waco, Oklahoma City, Ruby Ridge, in their minds the consequences of gun control and the Civil Rights Movement.
The overwhelming growth of the state during the Bush years, 2000-08 and beyond, has crushed their hopes for the future, and reduced them to a sniveling peasantry. Terrorism around the world, the 9/11 attacks on the Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and the ensuing Homeland Security State are abominations to them.
They say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
Fat chance. Lots of luck. They are just whistling Dixie.
The Know-Nothings who became the American Party in the 1850s, were a spontaneous, widespread expression of frustration like the Tea Party of today.
The 1854 Know-Nothings, like today's Tea Party, were not an official, national political party. They supported candidates for public office locally, as in New York, Indiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and California where they claimed to have steered the voting, even though no one could prove anything because no one knew what really went on among the supporters of slavery, prohibition, and nativism, the rejection of foreigners. Yet they elected a mayor in San Francisco, and the 1854 elections were so favorable to the Know-Nothings that they were organized as a political party called the American Party, which was immediately attractive to members of the Whig Party, and many (Southern) Democrats. They were known as Know-Nothings because they denied knowing anything about the disorganized movement before it was incorporated. Remember that President Lincoln, who freed the slaves as a matter of expediency in the middle of the War Between the States, was a Republican, for whatever that fact about what took place then is worth now.
The immigration of large numbers of German and Irish Catholics to the United States in the 1830-1850 period had turned religious differences between Catholics and Protestants into political issues. Protestants tend to keep old memories alive (A Penny for the Old Guy!). The American-born English speakers did not welcome Papist Germans and Irish. They frequently posted signs saying No Irish Need Apply and English Only in order to keep Krauts, Huns, Micks, and Paddys away. Later immigrants, 1880-1920, from Eastern and Southern Europe - Jews, Poles, Greeks, Italians, and other white ethnics - stayed mostly with their own kind in the large cities of the United States, so the rural American-born natives did not feel so threatened, although restrictive immigration laws, such as the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which included the National Origins Act and the Asian Exclusion Act (43 Statutes-at-Large 153) limited the number of immigrants.
Fleeing the tumult of revolution and poverty, a great number of German and Irish Catholics had recently immigrated to the United States, so the native (not aboriginal) Protestants' fear was that Roman Catholics would corrupt the American people by allowing the Pope in Rome to gain political control through Catholic bishops and priests. They had been taught from the pulpit and at home that the allegiance of Roman Catholics to the Pope takes precedence over their support of democracy, a belief so strong that a century later President John F Kennedy had to publically promise to deny such influence.
Many Americans are still taught that people different from us WASPS [White Anglo-Saxon Protestants] are not to be trusted. A case in point: my grandmother Delta Heacock (b.1888 in Illinois) read anti-Catholic tracts to us children stating that when the Catholic revolution came, "they" would rip open the bellies of pregnant Protestant women. Catholics even had their own schools, and they planned to build a new Vatican in Cincinnati, Ohio. To my amusement, it was true, the "mackeral-snappers" had their own high schools in Vincennes, my home town, one for boys, the Gibault School, and one for girls - the Saint Rose Academy.
Thank You, Lord. As a teenager I preferred to date girls from St Rose because they were more sophisticated and less inhibited than others, and their parents treated me like a member of the family, always sharing Apfelstrudel und Bier.
Score one for the Pope. Cheers!