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How Can You Have a Tea Party If You Won't Share the Pie?

"You know what's really dragging our country down? The Tea Party's selfish, misanthropic mindset."

I'm sorry, but I just can't sit idly by and let the Tea Party stain the reputation of a beverage beloved by cultures the world over for centuries. How did a delightful afternoon ritual steeped in civility and gentility become a synonym for angry mobs of Fox populi with holsters on their hips and foam on their lips? Give me clotted scones, not sotted clones.

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Don't get me wrong; I feel the Tea Party's pain. Hey, I'm angry, too. There's a lot to be angry about. As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert noted recently, "People are upset because they are mired in economic distress and are losing faith that their elected representatives are looking out for their best interests."

So it's no wonder that populist rage is all the rage; pundits and politicians have brought the Tea Party to a boil. Sadly, much of their anger is a toxic brew of bigotry, ignorance, and fear. And many tea partiers suffer from what Barbara Ehreinreich has aptly dubbed "an empathy deficit," a belief in the notion that if you're poor, or sick, or otherwise challenged, you must have brought your misfortunes upon yourself and are therefore to be despised and mocked.

The Tea Party ridicules the notion that government could be--or should be--a force for good. It also maintains that the media (with the exception of Fox News, of course) cannot be trusted.

How ironic, then, when one of Glenn Beck's sponsors turned out to be a con artist who'd been fined $400,000 by the FTC back in 2005 for making false and unsubstantiated claims for the "Himalayan Diet Breakthrough," a dietary supplement containing Nepalese Mineral Pitch, “a paste-like material” that “oozes out of the cliff face cracks in the summer season” in the Himalayas.

This miraculous product supposedly enabled you to achieve rapid and substantial weight loss without dieting or exercise, while still consuming unlimited amounts of food. I asked:

Who could possibly buy the notion that you could sit on your ass all day eating crap and still lose weight by ingesting some mysterious substance harvested in the Himalayas?

Maybe the same folks who think that slashing taxes and shredding regulations is a dandy way to shore up our crumbling bridges and highways, boost our children's flagging academic performance, clean up our environment, guarantee affordable health care, protect consumers from makers of defective products (like, say, cars that accelerate unexpectedly, or a diabetes drug that's known to cause heart attacks); and prevent financial institutions from ripping people off through fraudulent, predatory practices.

An indignant tea bagger named 'Richard' responded:

Look at the list of things you expect from your government. Wouldn’t you feel better if you would take it upon yourself to make sure that you 1-quit worrying about the 1 in 3 million chance that you will have a bridge collapse beneath you; 2-realize that parents are mostly responsible for our flagging academic performance and throwing more money at it wont fix it; 3-where is all of this nasty environment you guys are always complaining about…it is beautiful where I live; 4-find a way to pay for your own healthcare so I don’t have to..if it is that important to you, drop your cell phone or your cable TV to afford it and try shopping around…do it yourself; 5 – I can’t go on, I have to get back to work since we are rapidly approaching a situation in America where there are more people riding in the cart than those of us pushing it. Good luck man, with your attitude, you will need it.

And there you have the Tea Party philosophy in a wingnutshell:

  1. I should stop worrying about our decaying, woefully neglected infrastructure, because the odds of a bridge falling on me are slim to none;
  1. I shouldn't care that our kids are lagging behind the children of other industrialized nations, because the fault lies primarily with their parents;
  1. I shouldn't be concerned about, say, the disastrous oil spill off the Gulf Coast, or the fact that an unprecedented 33 retired US military generals and admirals declared yesterday that "Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place" and "threatening America's security," because 'Richard' lives in a lovely place untainted by environmental degradation.
  1. If I just gave up my cell phone and cable TV, it would free up the $600 a month I need to be able to afford a decent heath insurance plan;
  1. Richard is sick of having to work so hard to support all the freeloaders who are dragging our country down.

Hey, Richard, you know what's really dragging our country down? The Tea Party's selfish, misanthropic mindset.

You know what would lift our country up? A groundswell of support for Drinking Liberally, the social network that has led to 353 Living Liberally chapters, giving progressive-minded folks in all fifty states a place to hang out and chat in a convivial environment.

Living Liberally is the antidote to the Tea Party; as my mentor and super hero Justin Krebs, co-founder of Drinking Liberally, says in his soon-to-be-published 538 Ways to Live, Work, and Play Like a Liberal:

Liberals believe that we are better off when we’re out for each other than when we’re out only for ourselves...

...It all comes down to an approach to life that acknowledges that we’re sharing this planet, sharing our cities and roads, sharing our fortunes (and even our misfortunes), sharing our resources and our surpluses, our creative impulses and pleasures, even sharing our weather, with those around us. We truly are all in it – in all of it – together.

Another one of my Liberally colleagues, Baratunde Thurston, the self-proclaimed 'vigilante pundit' and tweet-happy stand-up who's also Web & Politics editor at The Onion and author of the forthcoming book How To Be Black, (see preview from SWSX), wrote a post yesterday to spread the word about Living Liberally's 4th Annual Spring Celebration & Fundraiser and why Living Liberally merits your support:

Around the country, people need this type of liberal network more than ever. As we hear about the Tea Baggers in the news, many of us ask, "Where is OUR Tea Party?"

Well, the fact is there are liberals in over 300 cities that are drinking something stiffer than weak tea. Drinking Liberally chapters are often the first stop for candidates trying to reach progressive audiences and for local advocates looking to recruit for their campaigns.

In some cities, it's the only event that welcomes "liberals," providing a necessary destination for those who want to create a more progressive future for our country.

Baratunde adds that:

The Living Liberally team is only able to create this network with your support. Each year, the Annual Celebration gathers allies, honors partners and pulls in the necessary resources for the work ahead.

This year, Living Liberally is honoring SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, "for promoting a progressive America and being a great ally to the netroots," and my beloved mentor Dr. Marion Nestle, for her "fearless championing of the grassroots good food movement."

In keeping with Eating Liberally tradition, the menu will pay tribute to our honorees. Here's a partial list:

César Chávez Salad
Working Class Heroes
Un-Feta'd Capital-lini
Won't Take No More Shitake-Bean Salad
Faux Populist Popovers (full of hot air)
Bananny State Cupcakes
Hands Off My Entitle-Mint Pie (small slices only! there might not be enough!!!)

Laura Flanders of GritTV is our special guest host, and you can bet that a fine time will be had by all. If you're leery, or weary, of the Tea Party and its enraged citizens, come join Living Liberally and raise a toast to the engaged citizens!

Kerry Trueman is the co-founder of EatingLiberally.org. You can follow her on Twitter.