Taxes can define our country's 'rich character and noble national principles'
Despite the assumption of youngsters still in their middle years, age is not the ultimate source of wisdom or of insights into the mysteries of life. As a collection of memories, however, it can be a valuable source of information to help guide us through some of the puzzles and problems still to come.
I remember the shocking moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, although I had no idea where it was or what it meant. It was Sunday morning and I was on my way to meet my friends at the “Y” when news of the attack brought new drama and excitement into our lives—even if no understanding.
It was when the older guys there explained the likely consequences of the attack and let us know they were going to volunteer for service that some of the reality of the event began to sink in.
It was a bit later in the war when I learned that several of those heroes—those “older guys” who were in their twenties—had died in action.
And that, too, was when an understanding first took hold that the world, our world, was larger than our family and our friends and our school. It was much later—months after Pearl Harbor and a dozen years after the Depression—that I first began to understand the people’s place in the country and the country’s place in the world and that the trauma of the nation were more than headlines in the paper, but were real tragedies for many of its people.
In the later days of World War II, when our people began to find the dignity and security of a job for the first time after a dozen years of financial struggle and the debilitating humiliation of poverty, FDR made a speech asking for patience.
Seeking “heavier taxes,” he pleaded with everyone to wait a little longer, noting that ‘We cannot be content . . . if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure,” then quoted Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes in adding, "Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.”
And his plea was heeded. With the people’s contribution of time and dollars we were once again “one nation, indivisible.”
That subsequent period of growth vastly expanded our manufacturing capacity, improved the scope and magnitude of our education system and helped put us in the forefront of a new world of the internet and of space exploration and of the many other 21st Century sciences—making us the richest, strongest, most respected nation in the world.
By way of contrast, today’s military responsibilities are increasingly assigned to such mercenary providers as Blackwater - paid with funds borrowed from China. The pride that built our nation and inspired our people is being reduced to a collection of antagonistic phrases designed to embarrass the political opposition.
The aspiration to greatness that had defined our nation almost since its founding is being buried under vitriolic discussions of taxes—how much and who pays.
FDR’s plea was to maintain the rich character and noble national principles that had defined us from the beginning—and continues to be our model. Today, all these decades later, the virtues that inspired our founders continue to be our pride and our continuing goal and striving for that goal is the best legacy we could leave - for both our children and our nation.
Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He and his wife, Eunice, owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.