Tax Day Tea Parties, Unite

We were merry, in an undertone, at the idea of making so large a cup of tea for the fishes but we used not more words than absolutely necessary. I never worked harder in my life. While we were unloading, the people collected in great numbers about the wharf to see what was going on. They crowded around us. Our sentries were not armed, and could not stop any who insisted on passing.”

— Joshua Wyeth, 16-year-old participant on Dec. 16, 1773

Time to cock the ol’ tricorn hat and grab a flag!  Fling your tea bags and hoist your principles on the mast.

Right now, you’re on the hook for $42,000 — to pay off the monetary experiments of your federal government.

(If you voted Ron Paul for president and you’re not living in Texas, you may say you live in a state of taxation without representation.)

And maybe, just maybe, you were one of the thousands that gathered in various towns and cities around America to protest this hefty bill on Tax Day, April 15…in a little tradition we call “the Tea Party.”

Some say it’s not so much a tradition as it is a neo-con, Fox News-phenomena of faux-populism…Others cry from the blogosphere: Here’s the crowning demonstration of a new era of McCarthyism from a bunch of malcontents, “malcontent” being a fancy word for ne’er-do-wells leveling less dignified terms at those they see as other ne’er-do-wells: those embracing the welfare state.  When the mud starts flying, everyone comes out looking awful foolish.   But it is good to see a bonafide non-hippy-liberal-green contingent take to the streets for something.

Couldn’t make it? Here’s the Whiskey Room’s front-rail barstool view.

Southbound Go Your Sons and Daughters of Liberty

Gary Gibson and I got on the Baltimore Light Rail at 10:30 am, southbound to Glen Burnie, MD. That rendezvous point joined us with one of the four organizers of the state capital’s Tea Party, Pat.

Imagine, in the face of such nasty weather, signs streaming South to the Annapolis Harbor all the way from Route 50.  Crowds poured from church parking lots and garages.  (We noted bitterly not being able to park in Annapolis’ newest and fanciest garage: roped off ‘specially for employees of the state.)

Some 2,000 souls, we were told from the podium’s speakers, gathered on the waterfront and blocked the wooden docks of this colonially-quaint little capital.  Our count exceeded 700 for sure.

Commerce-wise, we succeeded only in blocking a few tourists from finding their way to the Starbucks — a breech clearly mended by the protestors who were cold in the pourin’ friggin’ rain and needed caffeinated reinforcement.

The protest was a little “every man for himself” – each sign was its own platform.  One man might protest the creation of the Federal Reserve.  His sign: a parade of historic personages — in yellow and red — ending with Obama’s face, writ underneath: Proudly Bailing Out Since 1913.  Another man, in camoflague poncho, simply holds up a piece of cardboard: “Global What?”

So each man and woman and child foisted up his or her own complaint, there was no overwhelming unity.  Only a couple hundred voiced the cries: “Throw the bums out!” “Cut our taxes!”

This is always encouraging…I like my demonstrations and parades a little disunited, otherwise I start to worry about Czech marches…beer hall putsches…and other sundry ugliness of humans meet ideals meet the streets.

Cut to a man in white gaiters and a kilt: “Bring back the Brits — They taxed us less!”

On the way to the harbor, the local oyster house hoisted a sign: “Somalia has nasty pirates, we have LEGISLATORS!”

Best of all were the protesting babes in arms of mothers.  Little girl of 16 months in Ma’s arms, the sign: “My Children Don’t Want to Pay for Your Toys.”

Most eloquent protestor prize: A man pulled his private historic schooner into the harbor with the help of friends.  Left on the ship, in full view of the assembled multitude, were wooden crates stenciled “TEA” — and a few more were scattered on the docks.

Another fine touch that only Annapolis could offer: a patriot in his Revolutionary garb shirking duty from state capital tours to take a stand.  His trusty mount: a Segway.  Poised high and proud, he held a flag aloft.  (We drank our morning espresso with him in the coffeeshop nearby before penetrating the dense brush of demonstration…he was delightful, and said, in parting: “See you on the other side of the breech!”)

No one voiced this aloud, but stickers wrapped round stems of umbrellas proclaimed: “Impeach Obama.”  We already wowed Europe with our stupidity in the impeachment process of Clinton…now shall we use the right as a prophylactic measure?

After braving two hours of wind and torrential rain, your hardy Whiskey & Gunpowder headed for the bar, warm Irish coffees and carried on a heated political discussion with our fine barkeep who gave Gary a free beer.

Sons of Liberty: Then and Now

For a dose of reality, let’s check back with our forefathers…the first Sons of Liberty.

Basic scenario: you had this giant trade monopoly called the British East India Company hit the American shores with cheap product that undersold all competitors: an addictive substance called tea, upon whose back the Age of Enlightenment had been borne.

The Brits assumed that no man would give up his tea, and therefore, that they’d pay the import duty…and therefore sanction the royal taxations sans representation.

Three ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver hit Boston harbor on Dec. 8.  Eight days later, 60 Sons of Liberty split into three groups and mounted the boats waiting to unload their cargo.  These fellas were surrounded by British armed ships, but carried on splitting up crates with axes and tomahawks for three straight hours — broke up 342 crates — some 10,000 lbs. of tea.

Just think about it.  Your fledgling patriots ducked into the local blacksmith, smeared their faces in coal dust, pretended to be Mohawk Indians, and got away with it!

When they passed the house of the British Admiral, he yelled out: “Well boys, you have had a fine, pleasant evening for your Indian caper, haven’t you? But mind, you have got to pay the fiddler yet!”

Will we pay the fiddler…or just keep paying our taxes with much grumble and bah?  Frankly, this wasn’t a bona fide protest, so much as a bitchfest.  In fact, many protests incorporated the 1976 mantra: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Those words, of course, spew from apartments all over Manhattan in the film Network. A film as notable today for its zeitgeist (and the lovely actions of Ms. Faye Dunaway) as it was when my parents saw it before me.  In that movie, the “prophet” is assassinated — we hope our bourbon-gravel voice won’t be stifled the same way.

Samantha Buker

April 20, 2009