The crowd was small and somewhat sedate, I thought. They were all seated around small tables with linen tablecloths and various types of fine China.
I sat down to sip a little tea with one of the other men there. He asked me why I was there and admitted that my shirt puzzled him. I told him I was reporting on the event for a local blog. He smiled and acted like he liked blogs.
Our table had some smallish, dainty European looking cup and saucer sets. Mine had some hot Earl Grey already in it. My new friend was drinking a blend of Orange Pekoe that the waiter said had ginseng in it. I lifted my cup with my right hand and used my left to turn the saucer over. Theodore Havilland. I had expected something British – perhaps Rathbone or Royal Doulton.
I asked my friend for his name, but he said that he didn’t really want his name to appear in the media in connection with the event. I told him I understood and we agreed that I could just call him Yankee Doodle. We talked for about 10 minutes, and the conversation progressed something as follows…
Me: Mr. Doodle, can you explain to me what’s going on here today?That seemed out of place to me in Abingdon, Virginia. But whatever…
Doodle: Please, call me Yankee…
Doodle continued: This is a grassroots demonstration - an uprising, if you will, against the unfair tax policies of the new socialistic Obama Administration in Washington.The logic was obviously well developed. I hoped I'd be able to keep up...
Me: But, hasn’t he just cut taxes?
Doodle: For some people. But just look at the way he’s spending. It’s clear he’ll eventually have to raise taxes to pay for it. And that’s not fair.
Me: So, you’re protesting over something the President hasn’t actually done yet?We sat in silence for a moment. A waiter came by and refilled my Earl Grey from a Johnson Brothers teapot painted in a Blue Willow pattern. So there was English china...
Doodle: Oh he’s already spent a lot!
Me: No. I mean the raising taxes part.
Doodle: Oh… He will. You wait and see.
Me: So, why a tea party…?At that point I decided that maybe it would be best to simply focus on the tea (which wasn’t that bad). I was afraid I’d be asked to join a militia if the conversation continued.
Doodle: We’re following in the footsteps of the early colonials. They threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest the British policy of taxation without representation.
Me: But, aren’t you represented in Washington?
Doodle: Not really.
Me: Where do you live?
Doodle: Just up the road a ways, near Rosedale.
Me: In Russell County?
Me: Have you tried contacting Rick Boucher? He’s got a pretty good reputation for at least listening to constituents…
Doodle: He doesn’t represent me.
Me: But you live in the Ninth District, in the Congressional District he serves.
Doodle: He may represent, well, people like you. But he’s not my representative.
Me: So, you're saying that you get taxed without representation because you don’t claim Boucher as your Congressman?
Doodle: That’s right.
Me: Have you tried contacting Mark Warner or Jim Webb?
Doodle: Don’t much like them either…
Me: So, you really think this is analogous to the Boston Tea Party? Even though you have a Congressman and two Senators in Washington? And even though no one’s raised your taxes yet?
Doodle: We’ve already said that it’s clear that taxes will be raised. And as long as they’re not my people in Washington, they don’t represent me.
Me: You know they were duly elected an’ all?
Doodle: Perhaps democracy needs an overhaul.
We drank politely for a few more moments and spoke of things like the weather and the preparation of our gardens for spring. I thanked my new friend for his time and left, thinking about the politics of it all.
Note: While the ideas of Mr. Doodle are authentic enough, if you really believe I wore my Obama shirt to a tea party on April 15 you vastly over-estimate my courage. You may want to brush up on the uses of political satire. Truth is, I spent much of the day playing Phase 10 (a card game) with my wife and inlaws in a small rural Appalachian town a good seven hours drive north from Abingdon. I did wear my Obama t-shirt, but only to a Wal-mart in Oakland, Maryland.