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Michael Li @mcpli
, 13 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
245 years ago today, colonists dressed as members of the Mohawk tribe dumped the equivalent of $1 million of tea into Boston Harbor.

A seminal event, well-known to American schoolchildren - but a lot worth unpacking and thinking about. 1/
To start, of course, is the eye roll fact that white people dressed up like non-white people to engage in destructive behavior. 2/
But, just as importantly, the Boston Tea Party has a lot of warnings for us today - not only about the politics of our age but about what might be to come. 3/
After all, one of the key events in the lead up to the Revolution was a relatively minor 3 pence tax on tea (which combined with other tax cuts meant the price of British tea would actually decrease). 4/
Of course, the colonists of the time said their outrage wasn’t so much over the tax as it was over the principle at stake - the idea that the British parliament had any taxing authority over the colonies at all. 5/
And that was a principled debate that was playing out not only in the American colonies but concurrently in places like Ireland (which at the time had its own parliament). 6/
But, just as important as any principled debate was the stoked up fear that the colonies were somehow at risk of becoming autocracies - which was a pretty ludicrous assertion. 7/
But it was one fueled by anonymous pamphlets that made outrageous claims about colonial officials like Thomas Hutchison, the governor of Massachusetts - claims that nonetheless were widely believed. 8/
If the anonymous pamphlets were the internet rumors of the day - and helped fuel division and polarization - the response didn’t help. 9/
Indeed, the lead up to the Revolution in a lot of ways is the perfect example of both sides managing to goad each other on toward a result that nobody (at least very few people) wanted. 10/
And looking back, the idea that there would be a decisive break is hard to fathom in a lot of ways. After all, colonies were prosperous and enjoyed an almost unprecedented level of self-government and autonomy. 11/
And yet, a break came. Powered by rising polarization (and the fake news of the day) and two sides that couldn’t see how not to push each other into ever more and more extreme acts - with the help of self-interested people on both sides who took advantage of the situation. 12/
The potential for stumbling into disaster is something I think a lot about today in own age of hyper-polarized politics. I thought about it with Merrick Garland, with the Kavanaugh hearings, with the culture of outrage and sanctimony that seems to pervade our politics. 13/
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