Daily Archives: April 9, 2018

democracy and burying one’s head in the sand

We owe 25K in taxes this year.  I don’t mean that we owe 25K in total.  (Obviously, we pay a lot more than that.)  I mean we will be writing a check for 25K in a few days.  Typically, it’s been between 10 and 20, so this is a new high.  No interest, no penalties.  H pays estimated tax three or four times a year (whatever you’re supposed to; he deals with this all on his own.  I’m not sure I appreciate him as much as I should).  Anyway, I’m just curious if my friends write huge checks in April, or if you have your withholdings set such that you break even or get a refund, or at least pay a lot less.  I kind of like the annual reminder that I pay the federal government a hell of a lot in taxes.

I’ve had three days of short, slow runs in a row.  Hopefully I can keep the streak going.  To get in my planned 4 mile run tomorrow, I’ll need to get up at around 5:30.  I am not morning person, but if you want to be a parent and a running person, there aren’t a lot of options.  At least it’s been beautifully light recently.  I love the spring and summer so much in Seattle.

I enjoyed this article from the NYT about a man who’s chosen to bow out of awareness.  The thing is, as a society, participating in our democracy is so critical.  Writing letters, discussing things with your friends, participating in demonstrations, donating to groups that represent your interests; I believe in all these things.  However, as an individual, the impact you can have is negligible and unlikely to impact your life.  The most liked comment said the following:

I’m jealous of Mr Hagerman because he can afford to ignore the news. It seems that he has accumulated enough wealth and does not have an immediate family to care for where any of the current decisions directly affect him. On the other hand I have to continue to work at my right to work (fire you for any reason) workplace, pray my 401k won’t take another 2008 hit because of regulation roll back, and hope I don’t die in an emergency room of a totally treatable disease because of American healthcare or af an AR-15 wound from an at school parent teacher meeting because of the NRA-GOP party policies.

The thing is, this one man’s choice to read the news, write letters, donate money, demonstrate, whatever, probably has zero impact on his 401K, healthcare, and gun rights.  He would probably be happier if he buried his head in the sand.  If EVERYONE did this, it would be catastrophic.  But for an individual, participating in the national “conversation” provides virtually zero benefit and for those of us who care, lots of tooth-gnashing.

I personally made a choice when our esteemed president was elected not to open articles with “Trump” in the title.  I’ve probably read fewer than ten articles since Trump was elected.  I’m not bragging.  I feel vaguely guilty, but not too much.  As someone who’s been struggling with anxiety, I view it as my prerogative to make choices that help me get through the day without panic attacks, and not thinking about what Trump has done today definitely helps.  The guy in the article takes it to an unreasonable extreme, but I think I can safely say that I’m happier not knowing what Mr. T is up to.   I think a lot of other people would probably happier if they spent less time reading the news, but I guess we’d be worse off as a democracy as a result.

I just finished reading (well, listening) to a fascinating book: Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets.  It’s all about the fall of the Soviet Union, with a significant secondary focus also on living under Stalin, or living having lived under Stalin.  I loved the way it made me reflect on the pros and cons of democracy and socialism and of course, communism.  It’s easy for us to be a bit laissez faire about the incredible gift we have to live in a free country, and I like to be reminded of that from time to time.  On the flip side, the chaos that occurred when the USSR fell was horrible for minority groups – Russians living outside Russia, Belarussians living in Russia, Chechens, etc.  When people took on national identities instead of Soviet identities, everything went to hell.  Reading about this made the appeal of Putin obvious.  I would want Putin in charge, too.  Trump or no, I feel we, as US citizens, are incredibly blessed to live where we do with the opportunities we have.