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A Measure of Tea



It's a sunny but blustery April 15 in Humboldt County. Somewhere between 200-300 protesters have gathered in front of the Eureka Courthouse to join in the Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party. Today, the Board of Directors of the Humboldt Taxpayers League has invited people in our community to come out on Tax Day ’09 and let elected representatives know that folks are "tired of being used as ... personal Automatic Transaction Machines."

The protest is one of hundreds taking place across the nation. Our Eureka version is quite tame, however, compared to reports of people hurling suspiciously packaged tea bags at the White House back in Washington, D.C. No, our gathering is a family affair, with the make-up of the crowd leaning more toward retirees than violent young revolutionaries. The elderly crowd gathers on the lawn and sidewalk along Fifth Street waving American flags and homemade signs just demanding some financial security, for goodness sake.

The crowd's enthusiasm is high, and the response from passers-by in vehicles is quite noisy. Every few minutes, the bass of a semi truck's horn reverberates through the group, accompanied by more high-pitched horns of passenger vehicles tooting their support. A matronly woman with an American flag apron hands out cupcakes, shouting, "We wake up early and bake cupcakes! That's what conservatives do. And we pick up after ourselves and pay for our own stuff too!"

A janky sound system is set up for people to get on the mic and rally the crowd. No one really steps up though, save for an older fella talking about putting tea bags on his head and another guy giving shout-outs to Roger Rodoni and Thomas Jefferson. The sound system is predominately used to pump out some country music and classic patriotic jams. Who needs a crowd leader, anyway, when you've got a bunch of people pissed off about their finances?

Most of the older looking folk are quite riled up about the current state of the economy. Riled up enough to get out here on this street corner and tell the town what's up. Mary Ruth Rheinschild, who traveled down from Crescent City to join the tea party, declares, "People who think this is ridiculous and that we shouldn't be doing this should pay my taxes." She's bummed about the state of her retirement and the fact her money is still being taken away by those blasted govies.

Melissa O'Hanen, a very pleasant Republican mother of five with a youngster in tow, is there to "stand against the nation's deficit." She proudly shares that one of the four teens dressed up in colonial attire standing at the corner is one of her sons. The youths are part of a constitutional law class conducted through their private high school. According to her son, a.k.a. Alexander Hamilton, everyone in the class is a Republican, and they are all bummed about the state of our economy.

Another person in the retirement zone, Judy Billingsly, is pissed because, according to her, when it comes to retirement, "you plan on what you see in front of you, and then someone just takes it away." Kathleen Duncan, yet another retiree, asks, in reference to her and her elderly husband, "Who's gonna give us a job? We're in our 80s."

A young man clad in a "911 Was an Inside Job" shirt peruses the patriotic showing. When questioned about his political affiliation, Andrew Thompson says, "I am not a Republican, but I agree with 99 percent of the signs." Andrew thinks that the blame game is a real drawback in the politically charged war on our devastated economy. In other words, don't blame the liberals for the shitstorm we're in right now. He is the only non-Republican this reporter manages to find in the crowd.

Yes, there are young professionals, little kids and blue-collar people to be found at the protest. Copies of the Declaration of Independence, Republic Magazine and John Birch Society handouts are up for grabs. All in all, it is a good turn out for the supposedly lefty-leaning Humboldt County.

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