“Kids play T-ball, then baseball; they play games and have practice every week and, if they’re serious about it, pre-season and post-season too. We never think, “Let’s have kids play baseball for eight weeks in seventh grade,” and then expect that in five years they can join the majors or even be on a college team. But for some reason we do this with civics. We say, “We’re going to have you do a penny harvest in fifth grade and a service learning project in tenth grade, and then we’ll teach you abstractly about government for a semester in twelfth grade.” Then our students enter the major leagues of citizenship, and we give them the vote and expect them to keep our country going. And that’s just crazy!”—
I implore you, fellow North Carolinians - please do not take away the rights of our fellow citizens. Regardless of your views on gay marriage, voting for an amendment that strips away basic rights that thousands of NC citizens hold today is not loving our neighbors. It is not protecting the weak, the minority, “the least of these”. It is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that will impact future generations - potentially your children and mine. I hope that love will lead you at the polls today.
Today is my birthday, and I was hit hard by how lonely I’ve become in the the age of Facebook. I got like 57 birthday wishes on FB - many from people I barely know. These messages depressed me because they were so meaningless. Meanwhile, I got a record low number of phone calls - or even personal emails - from friends. Part of this was because, hey, they could just post “Happy Birthday! Have a great day!” on FB. Many of my real friendships have faded away in the Internet age.
…We used to just pick up the phone and, you know, talk. Before caller ID and cell phones, you never knew who’d be on the other end of the line, and it was usually a pleasant surprise. Now, we just email, and we’ve lost our connection.
Interestingly, with one exception, the only phone calls I got today were from relatives and from friends I made three decades ago, back in school. The more recent friendships I’ve developed have not withstood the FB/email era. On my birthday, my phone used to ring off the hook. Today, even my sister emailed me. Though at least she didn’t post “Happy Birthday! Have a great day!!!” on Facebook.
“I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.
What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry. […]
I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.
This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It’s a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.