America's Least Angry Man
I just mailed in my family's income taxes, and I'm not — I repeat, not — hopping mad.
I don't own an assault rifle or a crossbow.
A week of downpours just wiped out my early garden crops — the peas, beets, and the rest — and I'm already over it. I'll replant.
I can't think of a single ethnic group that makes my blood boil — unless you count my own Fighting Irish, those gridiron delinquents.
I just sent in the census form without giving it a second paranoid thought.
Every time there's an election — local, national, or statewide — I vote.
About now, some of you may be wondering if I'm a real American.
You heard right: I don't mind paying taxes. This year, my wife and I sent Uncle Sam almost 15 percent of our adjusted gross income. It sounds like a lot, but our income is relatively gross no matter how you slice it, especially when compared with that of 99 percent of the Earth's population.
We eat regularly, own three cars outright (OK, two of them are clunkers), have an upstanding grown son who isn't living in the basement (he's in the Army), a house, a dog, and a satellite dish. What's to whine about?
We also paid nearly 5 percent of our income to the great state of Connecticut, 3 percent to our hometown of East Haddam, and some sales tax, too. Then, like a couple of saps, we went and gave money to various charities, about 4 percent of our income — not in tithing territory, but better than nothing.
Sure, it adds up, but we are paying our bills — and, to repeat, eating well (too well in my case). I find it hard to wax wroth on a full stomach.
So what do we get for our money? Does it all go into a black hole, or some Trilateral Commission slush fund?
Some of it comes right back. I was laid off in 2008 and remained unemployed for almost a year. The weekly checks were most welcome, and, in aggregate, such benefits cushioned the economic and psychic shock of unemployment for millions of Americans, while keeping the recession from being even worse than it was.
Social Security provides the primary income of many Americans in retirement. Medicare has done for the elderly what health-care reform is beginning to do for the rest of us. At one point in our history, seniors were among our most impoverished citizens. Not any more, thanks in part to Uncle Sam.
When these two "socialist" government programs came into being — 75 and 45 years ago, respectively — they were called every name in the book by the opposition.
Just up the road from us is a wonderful state park, and the federal, state, and local governments have all worked with private groups to preserve the environment around here. My son went to the local public school and got a pretty fair education. The roads are eminently drivable and promptly plowed during winter storms.
My late father served on the town board in Stamford, Conn., and later in Huntington, N.Y. Some of the people doing or hoping to do business with the town sent him booze, fruit, and turkeys at Christmas, and he sent them back. He helped establish a town plan for Huntington that included a much-needed expansion of its park system. He did all this at night, after coming home from work; in Connecticut, he did it for free.
I am not naive. I know government is not perfect. It wastes money, makes mistakes, and can be dishonest on occasion. I don't always like what it spends my money on.
But I don't think the government is the font of all evil; quite the contrary. For example, without the actions of two administrations over the past two years, one Republican and one Democratic, we all might be grocery shopping in the woods, courtesy of those libertarian miscreants on Wall Street.
Paradoxically, we Americans are getting more and more critical of our government even as more of us studiously avoid participating in it. It is easier to whine or seethe than it is to get involved, study the issues with an open mind, and be part of constructive solutions.
Our politics, I fear, is becoming more rigid and extreme. Like pouty children, we prefer knocking down the sand castle to building it up.
So stop whining and pay up Thursday. Take in a local town meeting, where the hard work gets done, at night, often by volunteers. Listen for a change. If, in the end, you just can't stand it, there's always Somalia.