Attack of The All American Optimist


Did you hear the one about the one-hour millionaires?
It goes something like this: a couple in Pueblo, Colorado checked their lottery numbers in the newspaper and discovered that they had won $4 million dollars. Then they checked the numbers on the internet and discovered that the numbers in the newspaper were mis-printed and that they hadn’t won at all. (The Lookout: Millionaires)
Do you know what they did next? They gracefully accepted this as a human mistake.

Did you hear the one about the GE tax refund hoax?
It goes something like this: a group called the Yes Men created a phony press release stating that this pillar of American industry was also planning to become a pillar of American ethical standards by donating their massive federal tax return back to our floundering federal government. (The Lookout: GE Hoax)
Do you know what GE did next? Not much. I mean, seriously, this is reality after all.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about money and why it seems to make morons out of all of us. It is tax season, after all. It doesn’t seem to matter how much we love our burger eating, flag waving, all-American United States, none of us like to pay taxes. I wondered why. Why should we hate contributing to our own well-being? Why are we so resistant to relinquishing our money to the very society that we embody? Why aren’t we proud to pay taxes because they are proof of our own success? Probably because in our common era of irony and cynicism we know that the most graceful and admirable of Americans will see none of it and the most inscrutable megaliths of industry only behave with class when being punk’d by a hoax.

I believe without a shadow of a doubt that I will never see a Social Security check. I believe that 90% of the money that I pay in taxes is wasted and goes to causes that I don’t agree with run by people that I don’t like. I believe that the more successful I am in my life the more I will be subsidizing people who are wasteful, foolish, selfish, entitled and lazy. And I don’t believe this is the government’s fault. At some point in our collective past we chose to ignore the fact that we must simply live with disappointment because sometimes our lives are not all about us. This is a very basic tenet of heroism: sacrificing something of oneself for the benefit of the greater good and in those rare instances when we do encounter it: in the one-hour millionaires from Colorado, in the fleeting belief that GE would do the right thing, or in the dignified concession speech of an unelected Presidential candidate we cannot help but be strangely moved. This is the kind of everyday heroism that should be defining us as Americans. And we know it.

I want to be proud to pay taxes. I realize this is asking for a lot, but I want to know that I am contributing to something worthwhile and I believe that being a citizen of America is a worthwhile thing to contribute to. It’s about more than money, too. Life will always be beset by waste and foolhardiness, by laziness and entitlement and poor management and self interest. The best that I can do is to live a life that is not counted among these burdening qualities. The best that I can do is to try to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. If I want to see more homespun heroism among Americans then I should hold myself to the same standards that I expect of others.

In the meantime, my tax bill is in the mail.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 15, 2011.

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