Showing posts with label Rosa Parks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rosa Parks. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Sad Making of Myths

Sit back for a moment and think about Rosa Parks. What are the first images that come into your head?

Tired, old black woman...wouldn't give up her seat in the front of the bus to a white man...poor old woman beaten down by oppression...right?

Wrong. There is nothing in the above sentence that is factually accurate.

Rosa Parks was, in fact, 42 on December 1, 1955 when the bus incident occurred. Now some of you may think that is old but I'm 43 and, so if you do, fuck off! She wasn't tired from working either. She had two jobs. One was the job at the department store. The other was the secretary for the NAACP. In fact, the entire event was a planned protest and not the simple bus ride that myth making has made it into. Parks received training in peaceful resistance and had been planning for some time to not move if asked. Others had planned similar protests if the issue cam up. That seat, by the way, was in the back of the bus in the black section not the front of the bus. The law back then stated that if the front was full, blacks would have to make room for white people in the back. She was asked to stand up and didn't when a white man walked to the back to try to take her seat.

Many people believe that this famous photo (left) is an image from the incident. In fact, it was a staged photo. The man behind Ms. Parks is a UPI reporter and not some evil white man. Ms. Parks is also shown here in the front of the bus. During the actual event, she was in the mid back section of the bus and the driver came back, when the bus got more crowded, and moved the sign 'Whites Only' behind her and asked her to get up.

Over the years, the story has been simplified because people in this country need to have easy to swallow caplets. They can't take the time nor do they have the patience to think about the complexities of situations like this. They hear a few catch phrases, some pretty words, see a bright shiny object, and, before you know it, a myth is born.

This is also true of the Tea Party.

It frustrates me to no end the manner in which the Tea Party got its name. In fact, it would be one of those delusions, not opinions, that the conservative movement of this country holds. The Boston Tea Party was an event that occurred due to taxation without representation. On December 16, 1773, colonists, outraged by paying taxes to a monarch and an aristocracy an ocean away as well as the monopoly created by the East India Company, dumped three shiploads of tea into Boston Harbor.

The current Tea Party got its name from Rick Santilli who, in a CNBC broadcast, called for 'tea party' in the Chicago River on February 19, 2009. There had been planned protests before this but this is when the social movement was truly galvanized. And, as with the Boston Tea Party, the current Tea Party's cry is "Taxation without representation." Much like the story of Rosa Parks, we are seeing a myth being woven right before our eyes.

It is a delusion to say that we are taxed without representation. We all have representatives in Congress. We may not like them but, unlike the Boston Tea Party, we have the power to change that. Unfortunately, this requires time and dedication-two things people in our culture today are very reticent to embrace. Some have made Tea Partying a full time job but most are just pissed off and don't want to invest the time or attention to detail to actually solve any problems. They have heard their catch phrases, seen a few pretty words (the rebirth of the Don't Tread on Me Flag-another out of context myth), and marveled at their bright shiny object that is currently the latest social movement.

This myth has actually done a great deal of damage to the perception of our government. Barack Obama is not King George III. Nor is any other representative, Republican or Democrat. There is, however, an aristocracy but those in it are martyred by the Tea Parties as being oppressed by the socialists/fascists/nazis/communists that run our government. Yet the perception is twisted and we are left with this myth thanks to the Tea Party

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

A perfect summation courtesy of Paul Kruggman. I'll be talking more about his recent column in the future because I found it to be largely accurate but for now let's look at this statement. It's a complete myth. There are no tyrannical impositions on their liberty that come close to the ones we saw in the 18th century. It's not an opinion, it's a delusion and this is what I meant by not coddling these sorts of perceptions anymore.

Conveying historical context with the Tea Party is about as easy as pushing a 200 ton boulder up Mt.Hood. Seriously, have any of them read the Constitution which they hold up as a bastion of liberty?

Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

This is what the US Constitution says. Do they just skip over this part or do they have their own special interpretation of it?

I'm hoping that people look back on this time 55 years from now and they have not embraced the same myth that has been created around Rosa Parks. I'd like to see people wonder why on earth an organization called itself the Tea Party when the historical reference is completely inaccurate and totally out of context.

The cynical side of me is saying that I am being too naive. I wonder what lie teachers will tell their students about the Tea Party in 55 years.