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Commentary: Hey, Tea Party. Give us our words back

There will also be Tax Day Tea Party rallies across the country. In Charlotte, a rally begins at 3 o'clock Uptown in front of the old city hall building. It was a year ago when similar rallies helped propel the Tea Party into the national political debate. Along the way, there have been some controversial incidents that have given the movement unwanted attention and controversy. Those incidents haven't occurred in our area, but for commentator Martha Catt, the damage is done. There was a time when the words 'Tea Party' evoked the image of genteel ladies under the wide brims of picture hats and men wearing seersucker suits in a garden on a lazy Sunday afternoon as the scent of freshly brewed Earl Grey mingled with that of delectable cakes. But no longer - the tea was thrown out with china pot when a self-proclaimed taxpayer rights group adopted the name "Tea Party" to describe their protest of, well, pretty much every thing. Apparently, the "tea" in "Tea Party" works two ways, by standing for an abbreviation: Taxed Enough Already, and by evoking the image of American colonists who protested King George III's Stamp Act by dumping all the tea that would bear that stamp into Boston Harbor. So far, I can't figure out what today's Tea Party is for. However, the list of what they are against can pretty much be summed up in one word - civility. Isn't it ironic that words that once described a ritual that was the height of civility now conjures an image of the exact opposite? If there is one thing this country does not need, it is more rancor. There may be thoughtful Tea Party members, but they need to do something about the ones who shout racial epithets and slurs at passing Congressman. Reason doesn't have a chance when crowds are whipped into fury chanting "Kill the Bill" outside the Capitol Building as Congress tries to hammer out a bill to provide 40 million Americans with access to affordable health insurance. It's worth noting that the Boston Tea participants were protesting taxation without representation. As colonists, they had no voice in Parliament. Today's Tea Party protestors can vote, and have a voice. Now, I know that the Boston Tea Party participants donned Indian costumes, but at a recent Tea Party rally, a man dressed as Darth Vader. Can one have a serious political discussion with someone dressed as Darth Vader? I think not. Since the tea party protesters are so passionate and fired up, perhaps they can call themselves the Mad Tea Party, or the Mad-as-hell-and-we're-not-going-to-take-it-anymore Party? Anything but the Tea Party, because those of us who care about civility, want our words back. Commentator Martha Catt is a financial advisor, and a community columnist for the Charlotte Observer.