Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Lines in the Sand

I confess it is with some amount of personal shame that I filled out my 1040 this year. Every year during tax season, I have to sit and wonder what exactly would happen if I didn’t pay. When do the letters start? When is action taken through my employer? When do they knock on my door?

Even though I’m sure many people think paying federal tax is patriotic, without a doubt millions more file their taxes out of fear. I certainly fall into the latter category. Wasn’t that Jefferson’s definition of tyranny?

Moreover, it begs the question of where people will draw the line. What would it take for people to openly defy their government and adopt the ‘Come and take it’ attitude? What would it take for you to refuse to comply? With anything. This is an interesting question. I offer you the personal challenge of answering it.

As for me, there are two clear answers. One is the draft. I remember in 2003 when the war started. “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” it was delightfully termed. Remember that? Ah, those were the good old days, back when Saddam not only was minutes away from pressing the button to wipe out the United States’ eastern seaboard, but was somehow responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Remember Bush and the 107th Congress? That madcap bunch of rascals!

I had heard the word “draft” thrown around on TV from time to time. I was 23 and within the drafting age. A lot of people opposed the war, so I was curious as to whether the draft was even politically feasible. But I told myself at the time that if the bugle called, I would resist. You’d see me on YouTube burning my draft card- hopefully, joined by my senior students. I would never let myself be drafted off to war on the government’s word. I opposed it so much that I was hoping they would try it, just so I could see what would happen. I’d rather rot in an American prison than come back in a casket with a flag draped over it. The people are not a tool for the government’s use. As I understand it, the government is a tool for the use of the people.

I find it absolutely horrifying that any parent would willingly submit to having her son sent off to fight a war in which they didn’t believe. It’s almost inconceivable that so many people would just lay down for something like that and let it happen. I guess it was different in the early 70s. But I just can’t imagine people buying into it now. Then again, most people I meet are pretty content to accept things the way they are. Most are happier complaining than taking action.

The other line I decided to draw was with Obamacare. There was a part of me that wanted Coakley to win in Massachusetts. It’s been a blue state and many people expected it to go that way anyway. But if Coakley won and Obamacare passed, I would drop my insurance and refuse to pay whatever fee they arbitrarily decided on. I resolved to join the ranks of the uninsured. And I’d hope that all those picketing tea party people would step up and do the same- along with anybody else who opposed the bill. Come to think of it, it kinds of saddens me to know that everybody really thought so much was actually riding on that election. They can only take from you what you’re willing to give. Was I the only one in the country who was determined to not go along with the healthcare scheme regardless of the election’s outcome? Guess we’ll never know.

Yet, I pay the federal tax. Though it pains me to think of it as an excuse, I suppose it’s not as much of a violation to me because I was born into it. It’s the way things always just…were. Maybe the key to passing legislation like that is to scare everyone into compliance just long enough so that it survives the current generation without revolt. Then they flick the sweat from their brow secure in the fact that the seed has been planted. Your grandkids will be born into it and won’t even think to ask questions until the big bill of their time tumbles down from Capitol Hill. How will they handle it when it’s their turn? Hopefully, better than our ancestry handled the 16th amendment.

But, the question remains. How far could the government push the envelope before you drew a line in the sand and took a personal stand against such tyranny? In light of the American revolution, this is something everybody should think about. What’s your tipping point? When would you put your foot down?

What would you risk to be free?

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