A dangerous misreading of the Boston Tea Party from rightwing anarchists | Timothy Snyder for the New York Review of Books blog | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk



A dangerous misreading of the Boston Tea Party from rightwing anarchists | Timothy Snyder for the New York Review of Books blog | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

This is a fine distillation of my own thoughts on the matter. We’re ideologizing ourselves into irrelevancy, insolvency and facelessness. By claiming to want to return to some non-existent Golden Age, discarding facts, creating others out of whole cloth, we erode the ground beneath our feet and give up what truly did make us somewhat special.

Though not always, perhaps even rarely, getting it right, we did strive for a more perfect union, strove to move forward in brash waves of creativity, often times reckless naiveté, and we relished our mongrel nature of the American mixed salad — out of many, one and the whole being much more than the sum of its parts.

But now we strike out in mindless rage, aware that something’s ‘not right’, we’re not on the right path, but allow ourselves to be misled, blinders pulled down tight and our anger directed away from those who oppress, who destroy our way of life, our creativity, our identities, our generosity of spirit — turning us into callous, callow, recalcitrant children.

We claim religious fidelity, yet we forget the exhortation to give ‘unto the least of these’. We claim our fervent desire for freedom, wrapped in ketchup-stained, too tight flag t-shirts, yet would deny that freedom to any and all perceived to be not like ‘us’. We claim we are peaceful and tolerant, yet wage wars across the globe and are quick to mob mentality at the faintest dog whistle.

We say we want our country back, but don’t even remember who we once were, nor realize who we have become — who we are.


What is needed is a truly patriotic position, one that would explain to voters, whatever their sympathies, that there is no American nation without an American middle class, and no American middle class without an American government that provides the essential services that allow people to move up in a globalised world. Whatever one thinks of the Tea Party’s Orwellian references to our revolutionary heritage, there’s no danger of a return to an 18th century: when Ohio did not even exist, and the midwestern economy depended on the Indian flint arrowheads that today pass beneath the blades of the massive high-tech combines. The real danger is that we will move briskly forward to national non-existence, misunderstanding the plainest lessons of our own past along the way. By the time the costs of rightwing anarchism reach the truly privileged, it will be far too late for everyone else. If we don’t find a way to adapt own national thinking to global reality before then, all we can look forward to is leaving a trace: like fossils, or arrowheads, or the mammoth tusk that hangs on my grandmother’s porch.”