Time once again to offer thanks to Century 21 Goldfire Realty for the flags lining Garrettsville’s principal thoroughfares on the Fourth of July–Independence Day. Whether or not the passer-by is a citizen of the village, it’s more than likely to give a little lift of the heart and spirit to see the waving of the red, white and blue on either side of the roadways in and out of town.
This was not a “government project”. The funds and the folks to deploy those patriotic little ensigns came from the local office of this company and it’s been happening for several years now, rain or shine. What a great footnote to the positive things we all like to say about our own communities. What an expression of hometown values.
Which, for no good, specific reason puts me in mind of something that I read the other day about a change in attitude in far too many (in my humble opinion…meaning I don’t mean to be humble at all) people in this country, and probably many others. To wit : We tend to think of ourselves not as citizens–having a stake in the welfare of the nation as a whole and considerate of varying viewpoints toward achieving our highest goals, but merely as taxpayers–reluctant footers-of-bills for programs with which we do not agree down to the last jot-and-tittle. Unfortunate!
There is so much more to citizenship than simply paying taxes. One of the country’s great jurists, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, said in 1904 that, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society”. Indeed. “Taxes are how we pool our money for public health and safety, infrastructure, research and service–from the development of vaccines and the Internet to public schools and universities, transportation, courts, police, parks and safe drinking water (Holly Sklar, Common Dreams, 4/17/06). Which of the above are you in favor of abandoning? Actually it’s hard to pick and choose; they’re mostly all what we take for granted as part of “civilization” in these times (We won’t get into how “civilized” some of the particulars might be. I got an email message the other day that started out : Marry Me Sugar Daddy…some civilization!). Will Rogers opined that, ”People want just taxes more than they want lower taxes. They want to know that every man is paying his proportionate share according to his wealth.” And from the on-line news center Common Dreams (Joyce Martel, 3/23/06) I found something close to how I feel about paying taxes : “For patriots like me, paying taxes gives a feeling of responsibility, of being a part of the fabric of the country, of contributing to the common good.”
Citizens contribute. Taxes are among the least of the important contributions (Arthur Godfrey–remember him?–said, “I’m proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is–I could be just as proud for half the money”) that citizens make every day…or every holiday…doing their jobs, helping their neighbors, educating themselves on issues, voting, serving in public offices, serving in the nation’s armed forces, raising the next generation, making sacrifices. It’s a high calling, citizenship. Justice Louis D. Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court once said, “The only title in our democracy superior to that of President is the title of citizen.”
Finally, this comment from former Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop, about wraps it up. “The American ideal is not that we all agree with each other, or even like each other, every minute of the day. It is rather that we respect each other’s right to be different, and that at the end of the day, we will understand that we are one people, one country, and one community and that we are inextricably bound up with the well-being of each and every one of our fellow citizens.”