Tuesday, April 17, 2007

(04.17.07) Recommends:

A Reflection on Taxation.

Today we will hear lots of noise regarding the tax debate. They’re too high and they stifle an efficient flow of labor and capital! They’re too low and they prevent an equitable and just society! The debate has been ongoing for decades, and will continue to rage on for decades to come. And really, at this point, the debate is by and large boring, because it’s not a really a debate. Rather, it's a series of rants supported by ostensible facts and wholly dismissive of the other side. And of course, we all know that the facts don’t matter if you don’t agree on the issue.

So today, on this Tax Day, I want to leave the traditional tax debate behind. Instead, I would like to share with you all something I came across recently. To me, this video demonstrates the value of taxes. Not only that, it demonstrates the awesome potential of this country of ours. It demonstrates that while we may be in the midst of fighting a War on Terror, no fucking terrorists can ever destroy the spirit of this country. It demonstrates that while we’re entering the beginning stages of a shitstorm of a Presidential campaign in which both sides will insist that this is the Most Important Election of Our Time, the winner ultimately does not matter, because it is the people of this country who gives this country of ours its awesome strength.

In April of 1973, Stevie Wonder appeared on Sesame Street. The following video is the blistering result. This video to me is such a beautiful and strong distillation of the power and potential of our country that watching it literally brings me to tears. Here is a blind, black man invited to be the musical guest on a show that features a reality where humans interact with all manner of strange puppets. It’s a show that features a monster who eats – but cannot swallow – cookies. It’s a show that features two puppets – one orange and a lover of duckies, one yellow and the wearer of a unibrow – who might be roommates, or who might be gay lovers, or who might just be puppets made out of cloth. It’s a show that features a monster who lives in a trash can and is generally angry, yet always shows patience and compassion for his pet worm. It’s a show that features a big bird (Big Bird), and a big dog (Barkley) and a big wholly mammoth thing (Snuffleupagus). I could go on and on about the wonderful and charming characters, but it’s what those characters have done that’s even more remarkable. They’ve taught generations of children about letters and numbers and spelling and friendship and emotions and that it's okay to be a little weird or odd or a freak or an outsider or disabled or to be from a different country or to be a different color. It's taught about having and dealing with imaginary friends (the type that aren’t physically there) and imaginary friends (the type who you think are nice to you, but really aren’t). They’ve taught about tolerance. They’ve taught about the incredible power of language.

Fact: I remember the first time that I saw the “Letter B” skit, where a band of puppets sings “Letter B” as a play on the Beatles’ “Let it Be.” I remember watching this at maybe age three or four. And I remember realizing that language could be taken, and tweaked, to humorous effect. I was three or fours years old and I've tried to use that lesson every day of my life since. Are we really willing to say that TV does nothing but rot the brain?

And my god, look at the kids dancing in this video! The show has also taught generations of kids to get down with their funky selves! Stevie Wonder, a black man born blind in Michigan in 1950. He shows up on Sesame Street and puts on a performance, at age 23, that can unit kids and adults, puppets and people. White sax players and black drummers. This is the kind of thing that changes the world.

All of this goodness from Sesame Street. And how does this show get funded? Well, it gets funded from many different sources, but – and here’s the point of today’s lecture – lots of the funding comes from the Federal Government, and the Federal Government gets lots of its money from our tax dollars. So today, I am happy to give my Hard Earned Dollars to the Government. Because I know there is waste in the government. And I know there is inefficiency. Do I care about this? I do care. But my god, I want to give because every time I give it allows for the possibility of the funding of something as beautiful as Stevie Wonder performing “Superstition” on Sesame Street in 1973 to happen. The tax system isn’t perfect, and the government isn’t perfect, and Stevie Wonder isn’t perfect, and Sesame Street isn’t perfect. But, let's all remember the goal of the Founding Fathers in the preamble of the Constitution (this will be convenient since I’m sure you people already have your Constitutions out in order to justify your belief in the necessity or illegitimacy of taxation): they wanted to create a more perfect Union. More perfect. Perfection might always be out of the reach of us mere humans, but Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street in 1973 made things more perfect.

1 comment:

DonnaFab said...

damn this is good. i love stevie so much.