“You’re scared, Pops. Admit it,” taunted my 20-something son as we sipped a Full Belly Toasted Pecan Brown Ale at Flytrap Brewing downtown. We were heading off to enjoy “The Comedy of Errors” (see review page 19), one of Wilmington’s many outstanding local theater productions and an apt description of the present administration.
“Nope,” I said.
“Then why pay taxes?” he said. “Aren’t you as ‘smart’ as our president?”
“Clever bullies are neither ‘smart’ nor morally grounded,” I countered. “I believe in some sort of social contract.”
My 20-something shook his head with disappointment. “I thought you really admired Thoreau. Apparently, you and your entire generation are all talk. You angry, old white guys elected a president that brags about not paying taxes, and you’re scared of going to jail for actually engaging in civil disobedience.”
“Who raised you?” I smiled.
“Mom.” He laughed.
“That explains a lot,” I said. We raised a glass to Mom, Henry, civil and uncivil disobedience, resistance to all forms of abused authority, Shakespeare, and all enemies to the Constitution—foreign and domestic alike.
I explained how the year was a hard one for this “tax-and-spend-liberal” to decide to pay federal income taxes. November’s election of Macbeth MacTrump seems to have shredded whatever was left of a lot of social contracts. Most proposed cuts to the federal budget are transparent ideological warfare. As many others have observed—including encore’s Gwenyfar Rohler a few weeks ago—our military budget is already obscene and growing toward truly pornographic proportions.
My son countered, “Principled opposition to US invasion of Mexico was all Thoreau needed to not pay his taxes and endure getting thrown in jail.”
“OK, you’re right.” I smiled. “I’m a little afraid of jail. But if my freedom is taken away, I want to make sure it’s for standing up like Thoreau, or crossing Pettus Bridge with Dr. King, or refusing to be drafted and sent to war like Muhammad Ali. I also want to make sure there are no better options. Jail aside, I’m paying this year because I want to set a good example.”
“I’ve got bigger fish to fry.” I sipped my ale.
“Macbeth MacTrump,” I said. “It’s important to set a good example of the responsibilities of citizenship for him. Sure, it’s a stretch that a 70-year-old that’s spent his entire life seeking power, evading the draft and government regulations, exploiting tax laws and fellow citizens would suddenly embrace the social contract—but who thought he’d get elected in the first place? I’m sure he can learn.”
“You shouldn’t even have one beer, Pops. You get even more annoyingly optimistic,” he said.
“At least for this year.”
We headed to the show. As we walked, I had second thoughts. I thought about the missile strikes in Syria, the sabre-rattling against Russia, sending USS Carl Vinson and an “armada” as a show of force to North Korea. Dropping the “mother of all bombs” in rural Afghanistan. Yep, we’re big boys, now. We have an armada and dropped the “mother of all bombs!”
Maybe my son, my wife and Henry David Thoreau are right. Perhaps next year or next quarter, as the case may be, as Thoreau wrote in “Civil Disobedience”:
“If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible.”
Resistance, “if any such is possible,” may come to exactly that.
If Macbeth MacTrump or my chickenhawk GOP friends expect the next war we start will be met with a grand rallying of a sort that happened in World War II or in the few years after September 11, they may be in for some civil shock and awe.
Don’t know about you, but I’ll support unilaterally starting another war only, as the Bard says, “When fowls have no feathers, and fish have no fin.”