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Alice at the Tea Party

Alice at the Tea Party
ink and watercolor
10 inches x 8 inches
26 cm x 21 cm

This is one of my recently finished pieces that I managed to finish just in time to display at last weekend’s Artdromeda show in Baltimore. I was inspired to create this piece by two phenomenons that have gotten attention in the media–the resurgence in popularity of Alice in Wonderland (fueled in large part by Tim Burton’s hit movie) and the rise of the Tea Party movement in the U.S.

I attempted to emulate the John Tenniel illustrations that were in the original Lewis Carroll books–Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass. (Even though there have been numerous Alice in Wonderland editions with illustrations done by other people, one can still find the editions with the Tenniel illustrations on sale in many book stores.) As I worked on it, my own style crept in so it’s not a one-hundred percent copy of John Tenniel’s illustration of the Wonderland tea party.

I did this political parody piece where Alice arrives at a tea party that made the original tea party depicted in Lewis Carroll’s novel seem tame and sane by comparison. The various tea party denizens are based upon the politicians and right wing talk show hosts who have expressed support for the Tea Party movement. The Cheshire Cat is based on Rush Limbaugh (complete with a cigar and the infamous quote where he hoped that Barack Obama fails in his presidency). The Queen of Hearts is based on Rep. Michele Bachmann. The Mad Hatter is based on Glenn Beck (complete with tears in his eyes). The woman who shot and killed the White Rabbit is Sarah Palin. The tiny person in front wearing a Texas state flag jacket and carrying a sign with a misspelled racial slur is based on an actual photograph of a Tea Party activist who actually worn such a jacket and carried such a sign with the misspelled racial slur. The chicken in front is a parody of Sue Lowden (who is running for office in Nevada in the hopes of unseating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), who has frequently said that the high costs of health care can be best achieved by returning to the days when the U.S. was primarily an agrarian society and people paid for doctors visits with a chicken.

There are also the hidden activists who are behind the main characters but are only seen as arms holding various signs. The signs are based on actual photos of real Tea Party rally signs that I’ve seen throughout the Internet. All I had to do was concentrate to make sure that the original misspellings and gramatical errors were left intact.

When my husband first saw this piece, he remarked that Alice seemed pissed. Well, there’s a reason for that pissed off expression on her face. If you were blundering through an unfamiliar place like Wonderland in pursuit of the White Rabbit only to discover that he had been shot to death and his body was being displayed at a mad tea party with far right wing political overtones you happened to stumble upon, you’d be pissed too.

Okay, you can correctly guess that I have a less than favorable impression of the Tea Party movement. If the Tea Party movement had been something that was not affiliated with any political party, not backed by any media company, discouraged the use of racial slurs and/or waving Confederate flags, reached out to diverse groups of people, and stated policies that expressed real reforms aimed at dismantling monopolies in health insurance and oil companies and encouraging well-paying blue collar jobs being moved back to the U.S. from overseas, I would have at least respected that movement. (Heck, it’s possible that I may have even signed on to the movement myself.)

But I’ve heard that many of the Tea Party rallies were organized by Freedom Works (a company founded by former Senate Majority Leader Dick Armey). They have been endorsed by many Republican poiticians. Their rallies have been not only favorably covered by Fox News but they have been actively promoted on that network in such a way as to encourage people to attend them. Individual Tea Party people have waived signs using racial slurs aimed at President Obama without facing any negative consequences from the Tea Party movement organizers. Many Tea Party activists have seemed to refuse to say anything bad about the increased power of corporations (including the creation of monopolies) and–in some cases–have sided with the corporations on such issues as Net Neutraility. On top of that, many rallies seemed to be all-whtie people affairs with little or no minorities. (If the U.S. was a nearly all-white nation, this wouldn’t be an issue. But with the rise in population of people of color in recent years, it’s pretty ludicrous to have all-white movements in this day and age.)

For all the Tea Party movement’s frequent cries of freedom from government oppression, that movement has been strangely silent on Arizona’s recent passage of SB 1070. (Which empowers police officers to ask anyone on the street to prove that he/she are legally in this country and if the person doesn’t have such evidence on him/her at that moment, the police can arrest that person. On top of that, the police can ask that of anyone even if he/she have not been accused of doing anything illegal.) This is the kind of thing that communist and fascist governments do on a regular basis–the kind of governments that the Tea Party movement claim that they are fighting against.

I think there should be a real independent movement consisting of people from diverse races, ethnic groups, religions, social classes, educational levels, and political beliefs coming together for a common cause and who eschews racism and uncivilized behavior in general. I believe that, based on that criteria, the Tea Party simply fails as a real independent movement.

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I support this effort on behalf of my Mexican-American sister-in-law and her three children who live in Phoenix (and are all American citizens) not because I am a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. I found out about this on Twitter and here’s the original message.

@EileenLeft We’re starting a campaign for MLB to boycott 1 game in AZ due to new racist, hate mongering law! Hashtag is #AZMLBB JOIN US!

The bitch has signed that bill into law so the police in Arizona now have the right to harass anyone–both citizens and noncitizens–simply because they look Hispanic. My Mexican-American sister-in-law and her three children (two of them adolescent boys) are now sitting ducks for police harassment and it will all be legal.

When I first heard about this bill, I immediately began to remember the stories I heard about the Third Reich. When Hitler first issued his anti-Semetic laws, the authorities were empowered to harass anyone who was Jewish or who even looked remotely Jewish and it was all legal. Well, I was watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last night when I saw this story about the lawmaker who sponsored that bill is a Republican lawmaker who forwarded articles written by white supremacists to his supporters via e-mail then attended an anti-immigration rally where he was pictured with a J.T. Reddy, a noted white supremacist.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#36726296

So a Republican lawmaker with ties to white supremacists have sponsored the bill that empowered the police to do the same thing to Hispanics what the SS did to the Jews during the early days of the Third Reich–harass them.

Of course the Third Reich didn’t stop with just harassing Jews. They came up with concentration camps, where millions of them were slaughtered. If this bill is allowed to stand in Arizona, will that same Republican lawmaker with ties to white supremacists sponsor a bill authorizing the creation of concetration camps in the desert? After all, why stop with harassing Hispanics when the authorities can come up with a Final Solution and get rid of them once and for all?

I hope the Federal Government intervenes in this and overrules Arizona because this bill is totally draconian.

Not all people living in Arizona like that new bill that has just passed the state legislature giving police the right to ask for ID of anyone who looks Hispanic, regardless of whether he/she is a citizen or whether he/she has been accused of a crime.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mario-solismarich/az-students-arrested-for_b_545958.html?ref=twitter

I’m still worried about the future of my Mexican-American sister-in-law and her three half-Hispanic children–all of whom live in Phoenix. If that bill gets signed by the governor, all of them will be sitting ducks for police harassment.

Until her death last month, my mother-in-law spent the last several years of her life in Arizona. She grew up outside St. Louis, went to college in Ohio, and raised a family with her first husband in New York. Of all the places she lived, she seemed to like Phoenix the best. She would proudly point out the state’s highway beautification programs, talk about how low the unemployment rate is in Phoenix, and expressed gratitude that she has had to stop shoveling snow since she arrived in the state.

She would’ve been horrified by the lastest news in Arizona, where the legislature has just passed an new resolution (SB 1070) which gives police the right to ask anyone who they think are illegal immigrants for identification papers. They now have the right to ask this of both immigrants and citizens at will without having to prove justifiable search and seizure nor do they have to be suspected of committing any kind of crime. Since the vast majority of recent immigrants living in Arizona–both legal and illegal–are from Mexico, the police have been empowered to pull over anyone who looks Hispanic to demand legal identification on just little more than a whim. And if, for some reason, the person is a legal citizen who just happened to have left his/her legal papers at home, the cops have the right to arrest that person on the spot.

My husband has a step-sister who is a Mexican-American. She was born in the United States to a Mexican-American family and she was later adopted by my husband’s step-father and his first wife (both of them white caucasians of European descent). Thanks to the fact that she is a Mexican-American who currently lives in Phoenix, she is now at risk of being harrassed by the cops simply because she is a Latina. Her three half-Hispanic children are also at risk for such harrassment. Never mind the fact that her and her three children were all born in the United States and they are American citizens. They are now sitting targets for any cop who’s in the mood to cause trouble for someone who looks Latino and they won’t have any legal recourse unless some court decides to rule this new law unconstitutional.

What’s more, my mother-in-law was actively involved in the Civil Rights movement back in the 1960’s. (She and her first husband–my father-in-law–were actively involved in the local New York City area chapter of CORE until there was an internal dispute, some militant blacks took over the leadership, and asked all the white members to leave because they wanted to fight their own battles themselves without any help from other races/ethnic groups.) Given her civil rights background and her Mexican-American step-daughter and grandchildren, she would’ve been horrified by what happened in her own state.

I heard there are now calls for an economic boycott of that state if the governor decides to sign that bill. I feel torn because I want to make a statement about how I feel about Arizona’s boneheaded move by voting with my money but, on the other hand, my husband’s step-father and step-siblings still live in the state and I would love to visit them from time to time.

At this point, I wish they all live in New Mexico or California.

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