Where is the Mad Hatter? Tea Party Anyone?


A certain tea party is much in the air these days. You know the one I mean. The one that takes its name from the famous Boston Tea Party.

It turns out, though, that it isn’t the only tea party we might choose to reference at this moment in history.

But back to Boston. On December 16, 1773 (Beethoven’s third birthday, by the way) the good people of that good city dumped some imported tea into the harbor in protest of a tax that had been levied on it by the British government.

The problem was that Massachusetts was a colony and had no representation among the legislators who voted to create the tax back in the home country. This made the future Bay State’s residents angry. The colonists’ action was one of the signal undertakings leading to the Revolutionary War and US independence.

Thus, today we have a so-called libertarian political movement known as the Tea Party. That turn of phrase, of course, is a clever play on words, since it refers to both the Boston Tea Party and to the idea of a political party, which “The Tea Party” is.

Yet another “tea party” comes to mind. Those of you who have seen the Disney movie “Alice in Wonderland” or read the Lewis Carroll novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” might remember it. Having fallen down a rabbit hole, Alice finds herself in a fantasy world where not a lot makes sense. Indeed, Carroll’s novel is the first in what is called the “literary nonsense genre.”

Before too long, Alice is led to a tea party involving the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and a Dormouse. In the movie version, Alice never is actually allowed to drink any tea, although it is all around her being drunk by the other revelers at the festivities. A failure of “trickle down economics,” no doubt.

In addition to not being allowed any tea, Alice finds herself prevented from explaining how she arrived in Wonderland and is, in fact, told that she is rude.

The guests are in the midst of celebrating the 364 “unbirthdays” in any year (all the days other than one’s birthday). To the good, I suppose, Alice’s birth certificate is not requested. The “unbirthday” party simply continues on its own, indifferent to her attempts to explain where she came from, make sense, and get through to the party leaders.

The White Rabbit, the creature she followed down the rabbit hole, eventually adds his own craziness to the setting, preoccupied as he is with a watch that is “two days too slow.” Rabbits of color were not invited to the gathering, it seems.

Although not mentioned in the party scene itself, the Mad Hatter is being punished by “time.” The punishment consists of time standing still at precisely 6:00 PM, which, since it is tea time, means that the Mad Hatter must have a tea party all day long; stuck in the past, while all the rest of the world goes forward.

Finally, Alice leaves the tea party, declaring it “the stupidest tea party I’ve ever been to in all my life.”

All of which raises the following question: can a country fall down a rabbit hole?

The next thing you know, someone resembling the Queen of Hearts will be shouting “Off with his head!”

Party On?