Thursday, April 16, 2009

In the Academy after Tax Day

It was raining in Washington, DC all day yesterday – and presumably, Mother Nature gave the Capital exactly what it deserved on April 15. Needless to say, lovers of liberty marched right through the murky weather without a second thought in defense of the America they saw quickly slipping from their hands. But of course, Americans have been marching steadily through the murky storms of Bush and now Obama – A little rain on the lawn of the White House was a piece of cake. And luckily for us, we had tea to go along with it during this grand (but certainly not old) party.

It was a party of people – I was almost shamefully shocked by the fact that this world is not, after all, made of bureaucrats, stealthy smiling Rahm Emanuels stuffing poor justifications into journalists’ eager pads, and the raging tales of new canine playmates at the President’s house. Surprise, surprise. There are individuals in this world who live their lives and love their families and absolutely hate fairy tales, especially because their own living room carpets are now school reading rugs and the man on top of the hill down PA Avenue is reading us deceptions. Unfortunately, most of the country hasn’t outgrown this kind of authority, and I think yesterday we saw two things: the beauty of individual checks on government (“STOP! STOP!” we cried at the White House. My bones shook from adrenaline) and the lurking danger of this executive branch. What did we get out of this beautifully democratic, murky, rainy, proud, scared, and excited protest?

We got a president who came out to the people with a joke about Bo the dog (why, why do I even know its name?) who ate his economics speech. Well, at least he recognized that there wasn’t a morsel of economic justification for his actions – I only wish I could get off as easily when I make mistakes in school. But once the ironically un-funny joke dissipated, he smiled his comfortable smile and told us that of course, we are tired of dealing with taxes. In fact, he has decided that there must be an overhaul of the system to ameliorate our cries. He would (drum roll….) hire his economic recovery team to make the tax form less complicated by next year! And as if that wasn’t comforting enough, he went on to praise himself on the largest tax cuts in American history – of course, the small business owners would now begin prospering, the students see the light of day, and the parents buy themselves that little extra something – all because the president had given us back the money we have earned. It sounds like a fairy tale on our TV, and America falls deeper in love with the man who’s got it all under control. He gave us the impression that our cries from the front lawn and the tea parties all over the country were now addressed. Wipe your hands, pack your signs, and go home. Everything is fixed.

But did he ever move the curtain in his office and see the flashes of signs outside? He broke America’s heart, really. But like a child in denial of a tragic death, he continued to hide and joke and talk about the stimulus, the tax cuts, the brilliant little business owners and real people out there struggling. “STOP!” we screamed on April 15. Because the brilliant little business owners and real people out there struggling were on the lawn trying to defend the scraps of their dignity – their wallets, their decisions about their future, their children. They were not crying because they needed help filling out a tax form (but surely, the president probably found it easier to assume we were angry simply because we’re a little stupid). They were crying because behind these grandiose tax cuts are seeds of greater collapse. What will happen when the trillions of dollars of spending drag our dollar down? What will happen to the brilliant little business owner when fiat currency loses its worth and the products on his shelf collect dust? What will happen when we the people lose our own self-worth in the midst of a smiling hero?

I am a student. I am always taught to be open-minded, to question my surroundings. I can’t help but notice an overpowering sense of helpless stagnation on campus. What if our authority figures tell us the wrong things? Where do we go when we’re easily tricked and manipulated into believing something grand will happen? What happens when an entire generation is swallowed by one man’s promise?

Yesterday was rainy and beautiful and I had never before felt the assurance and peace of these people. I had never felt more patriotic, not even when I took an oath at 13 to defend this nation when I became a citizen. And here I was defending it in every sense of the word. But it was ephemeral brilliance. What’s left? More cozy promises and avoidance tactics. I think our struggle over ideas – especially in my generation, especially on campus – is only just beginning. Our party is over now, and we need to work again. “Stop, stop, stop,” we’d like to say. And so, how do we get the adrenaline going in our universities?

1 comment:

A said...

It's "Rahm" Emmanuel, though I know that's inconsequential.