When I first started off in the newspaper business, I lived across the street from the Greenville Zoo. At night as I slept on a half-inflated air mattress, breathing in the ashes of the overflowing ashtrays in my bedroom, I was often awoken by the cries of the caged monkeys.
At first, I was startled by their howls and cursed them for waking me up. But eventually, I learned to appreciate those moments when I was shaken out of my slumber.
I imagined them shaking their cages, jumping frantically from branch to branch, and throwing feces at the shadowy beasts that lurked just beyond the outer edges of their cages, looking at the primates with hungry eyes. For the monkeys at the Greenville Zoo, the sky was falling, and it fell every night, usually between two and four.
Protest rallies have always reminded me of those nights listening to the monkeys howl, warning their simian brothers and sisters about the opening of the seventh seal, an error in the Mayan calendar which concealed the fact that the end of the world was not in 2012 but today, a message from God himself that the time had come to send the planet Earth — and all who lived on it — into syndication on the Lifetime network.
It doesn't matter if the rally was a particularly incoherent anti-war protest in Greenville that veered from rants about the evils of Israel to the need to protect Mother Earth to a loony-bin tirade about the New World Order and the Antichrist. It doesn't matter if it was a protest against a protest by members of Westboro Baptist against a gay-friendly event at a Boston high school. It doesn't matter if it was a half-hearted attempt to storm the steps of Iolani Palace, the site where a group of U.S. citizens overthrew Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani while Uncle Sam's troops stood nearby with guns drawn. It was always the same: a bunch of feverish howling and teeth-gnashing and spittle-spewing and poo slinging. And all of that's why I'm a protest junkie. I crave that particular brand of controlled chaos.
But these Tea Parties, these things have been pretty tame, that is if the past two Tax Day Tea Party protests at the U.S. Custom House are any indication. Heck, they've been downright snoozers. Of course, that's not really a surprise. The vast majority of the crowd at both protests looked as if they had stopped by the Custom House on the way home from eating the early bird special at the Mega Buffet in route to their favorite recliners for an after-dinner nap.
Honestly, I don't know what's happening with Tea Parties everywhere else, but these things are boring around here. Even the protest signs — which Arianna Huffington so desperately wants me to be offended by — elicit yawns; I've seen more offensive sandwich boards advertising frikkin' sandwiches. A hot tuna melt? That's revolting.
It seems that all the Tea Party folks want to talk about are taxes, healthcare, the 10th amendment, and out-of-control government spending. I heard nary a racial or sexually oriented slur, something I can about damn guarantee you would hear on any given night in a Charleston bar.
And judging by the most recent Tax Day Tea Party, things are getting to be even more of a snore. Whereas last year boasted appearances by Gov. Mark Sanford, who was riding a career-high wave of popularity, and Sen. Jim DeMint, who was just about to make a leap to the top of the U.S. Senate pop charts, this year, things were different. Instead of speeches by superstars like Sanford and DeMint, we got campaign signs from Tim Scott and Nikki Haley and a big ole bus featuring Andre Bauer's elfin face.
When it comes to the Tea Party, the thrill is gone. The romance is over. I won't be going back. Not at least until you guys are on your baddest behavior. Give me a howl when you're ready.