By William Harris
columnist Jackson Thoreau recently compared
the legislative boycott of the 58 Texas Democrats known as
the "Killer D's" to the Boston Tea Party. Whether the Dems
took their tea hot with cucumber sandwiches at 5 O'Clock in
the afternoon remains to be seen--but if Thoreau was referring
to the famous act of civil disobedience by the Sons of Liberty,
I think he's on to something.
Now, I have never associated Texas with tea. As a native
New Englander who lived for years in Texas, I never could
get used to the horrible things Texans do to tea like serving
it sweet over ice. In fact, I once ordered hot tea at a cafeteria
in Houston. The waitress dumped the ice out and served the
beverage lukewarm in a glass tumbler while eyeing me with
great suspicion. Honestly, if I think of Texas and tea in
the same thought at all, I think of what all self-respecting
Southern gay men do on Sunday after brunch: they go to a "tea
dance," which means nothing more than having strong cocktails
in a gay bar beginning precisely at one minute past noon.
What they may do in a "tea room" after the cocktails is strictly
a matter of individual conscience.
Texas, however, has a long history of civil disobedience
in the face of tyranny. For anyone who has had the privilege
of attending the seventh grade in one of Texas' outstanding
public schools which "leave no child behind" (I, alas, did
not), the gripping story of how rich Anglo plantation owners
drove the Mexican occupiers back across the Rio Grande and
won the right to own slaves is an unforgettable and stirring
drama. If they could beat Santa Anna (which they eventually
did, I am told, though not at the Alamo), what's a few pesky
neo-conservative Republicans controlled directly by Karl Rove's
office via Tom DeLay? Texans, after all, believe in States'
Rights. Just ask your local Conservative Citizens' Council.
You remember them--they used to be called "White Citizens'
In all seriousness, what those 58 Democrats did in response
to a blatantly extralegal attempt by the White House to gerrymander
political districts was in line with the brave spirit of the
Boston Tea Party. While bearing the slings and arrows of particularly
vicious anti-Democrat radio and television ads, the issuance
of arrest warrants and the shameful attempt by the Texas Republican
leadership to enlist the aid of Federal authorities in the
drive to round up the Dems and return them to Texas, these
brave Democratic legislators remained out of state and successfully
killed a bad bill. Our Democratic friends in Washington should
take not of this. After all, for all intents and purposes
Texas politics is now national politics.
Perhaps the greatest success of these "Great 58" was in forcing
Texas and the nation to focus on other Texas Republican initiatives
while they were preventing a quorum in the legislature. Some
of these progressive and compassionate Republican ideas included
the redistribution of public aid moneys for the neediest of
Texans to a bovine genome project at Texas A&M University;
cutting funding for medication for paroled, mentally ill prisoners;
a bill which would outlaw the display of pubic hair in Texas
strip joints; and, the exemption of gays and lesbians from
the Texas hate crimes bill. (As an aside, I agree that titty
dancers really should shave their underarms and bikini lines,
but probably not for the reason Texas Republicans think they
should.) Thinking quickly, the Republicans saw to it that--like
George W. Bush's military records--the records of their request
for aid from the Department of Homeland Security disappeared.
In my opinion, this was a terrible blunder as it detracted
from the focus on their "family friendly" legislative agenda.
Just as the Boston Tea Party forced George III to show his
real colors, the Texas Tea Party will force George II and
his lackeys in Texas to show theirs. While the Sons of Liberty
dumped tea disguised as Native Americans, the Texas Dems--disguised
simply as human beings--dumped the lies and deceptions which
ultimately reek forth from the Washington skull with a tongue
in it. A politician's pate, indeed!
Next time we go to Texas tea, let's raise a glass to the
Texas Tea Party and the beginning of the end of this shameful
neo-conservative poppycock--both in Texas and in Washington.
William Harris is a composer, musician and writer living in