Many of you are probably unaware, but the Clam wasn’t the first time I’ve used my obnoxious voice to bring some snark and ridiculousness to the table. Here’s the story of the most awesome event I ever pulled off, though. I’m probably not topping it ever.
Five years ago today (thanks for the reminder, Timehop), Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express came to the Boston Common to rally their troops, arriving in a terribly decorated series of buses. It was an event not to be missed if you liked things like “a lot of guns” and “elastic waistbands”. On an online community I was a part of (LJ b0st0n represent) someone asked, “How could we show up and register our displeasure with the tea party in the funniest way possible?” Because let’s face it, the tea party was a pretty big joke.
I, being, well, you know, me, said “With a real Tea Party. The joke will be that we thought it was a real Victorian tea party, and we’re all quite confused at why there’s so many angry people in fanny packs.” I made the comment offhandedly. We all had quite a lol. And then it took off. It was a thing. People wanted to do it.
And so then it began to be A Thing I Had To Do. I didn’t know anything about protests. I rolled up my sleeves, dug in and figured out how to pull it off. Luckily, I had previously worked as a logistics coordinator, and planning events is not out of my skillset. I had some help promoting from other folks who thought it was a great idea, and local improv groups started showing interest. I pulled the permits with the City of Boston, I set up a website, and we were good to go. We had to make some ground rules, of course, like fashion and demure behavior:
-There’s no point in having a counterprotest if you can’t look good doing it. Everyone should attempt to dress to the nines, or, if you can’t do that, at LEAST to the four-and-a-halves. Of course, TECHNICALLY, one shouldn’t go to a tea party in evening dress, but, since so many people don’t have proper morning coats these days, I think that it would be wise to let this slide.
-Inoffensiveness. This, I suspect, may be the most controversial proposal. I think that we should attempt to have the world’s mildest, most inoffensive, polite counterprotest ever held. My ideal would be for the press to come up to interview people about their opinions on tax policies and health care, and have responses such as, “Oh, dear, isn’t that a rather personal question?” and, “Really, I prefer not to discuss politics over tea. Would you care for a cup?”
It turned out to be an absolute blast, and pretty successful – we had more than a hundred people sitting with us at one point near lunchtime, although people filtered in and out all day. And aside from a few assholes saying jerk things under their breaths, most people didn’t have the guts to be mean to us, and a lot of people thought it was a great idea. Sure, there were more “Tea Party Patriots”, but we had better-decorated signs, and better-decorated people. Also, we had a couple who dressed as Latex Betsy Ross & Paul Revere (not even kidding), a well-executed Red Queen, plus some shoeless hippies that wandered through and stayed a few hours. For everyone not in the area for Palin’s shrill voice screeching across the common like a hyena, we were a welcome distraction from the kind of grotesque displays of ignorance they were subjected to. Like uh, these dudes:
It ended up getting a small amount of local and blog press, I got on Wonkette and Laughing Squid, and I even got to sit down with the chair of Yale’s American History department to tape an interview about it. It was awesome.
There was some butthurt, obviously. Turns out, a lot of these “We The People” small government types don’t particularly like other people exercising their first-amendment rights. Michele McPhee, for one, both called the City of Boston to make sure I had pulled the adequate permit (while then calling me names on-air for refusing to appear on her WTKK radio show later that day like I was the asshole). Some local republicans even reported me to Inspectional Services because it was a potluck. Yes, that’s right, the party of “less government” tried to use ridiculous bureaucracy to shut down a farcical group meetup that might have cookies.
Some of the backlash did take me aback, and it’s pretty hard to rattle me usually. I was doxxed by a MA-based Law Enforcement forum (it has since been removed) who also posted the resume, with personal contact info, of a friend of mine. They called my children dogs, and me a useless layabout living off the government dole (most of the press grabbed on to the “unemployed” part, and glossed over the “laid off, mom of toddler” part). It was an eye-opening and terrifying experience, but five years later, a decidedly unsurprising response from a section of law enforcement who enjoy being shitty to other people. We’ve seen more of that these days, but that’s another post for another day.
I’m not sure I’ll pull together anything like that again. It was worth it, of course. I mean, someone had to highlight the absurdity.