Thursday, April 15, 2010

Paying Taxes

I do not mind paying taxes. I am so grateful that so many people can collectively support each other in a peaceful, productive way. We have agreed to support on a massive scale the ability of many to travel within our communities, to collect and recycle our waste, to educate our young, to maintain the safety of our work environments, to protect ourselves from oppressive or violent external or criminal forces, to maintain an ever-evolving judicial system, to earnestly approach equity in our civil behaviors, to support those vulnerable and elderly and the very young to ensure nutritious food and health care, and so many other aspects of our common life here on this particular part of planet earth. It is not so in many places.

So many people seem to equate taxes with something bad. Perhaps the "government" is taking something away from its citizens in order to do destructive and terrible things. Maybe the taxes paid because of income earned on investments, and properties, on wages and winnings all came out of singular causes and conditions totally as a result of the efforts of one individual person. We know this is not so. Without each other's help and support none of us would be productive in the ways that we are now.

Certainly people take advantage of conditions and situations, and there are many who are unscrupulous and self centered in their greed. There are those who will sell a bad bill of goods, or not follow through on what they have been paid to do. There are those who take advantage of others in a state of need, and there are some who have no moral compass to help steer them away from harming themselves and others.

I like to imagine that these are the exceptions rather than the rule. I do not think of myself as so unique. The vast majority of people I have known throughout my life are people who, though they may have wrestled with indecision or moral confusion at times in their lives, are generally willing to put their hands in towards the common good or the good of someone else. It is this that I choose to hold when my heart sinks at the news of terrible human behaviors and irresponsible harm towards others.

This is how I conceive of taxes until they are used to pay for a military or industrial or environmental or educational strategy that oppresses others or causes irreparable harm. It is for that reason that I believe a fully functioning democracy is vital to sustain my belief that we can live in the principle of "Do no harm." I do my part to support a civil culture and structure that accommodates various belief systems and respects the individual among the many. Paying my taxes is part of this. I carry the weight on my own shoulders and I share that responsibility when I pay my taxes. A longer view helps me get through the times when I see the government take action that is harmful to others. I put more energy towards opening my ways of understanding, releasing my judgmental mind and being compassionate towards the fears and pain that are the underpinnings of these acts. This is not easy, but helps get me through my own anger and sorrow. I understand that others do not share my views and may feel despair at some of the actions I would perpetrate. Underneath everything, though, I hope we can learn to stop wishing others harm as a solution to our problems.

I hope our existence outlasts our separateness.

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