Wednesday, October 19, 2011

cemeteries and taxes

I had an odd dream in the early hours this morning.  I was in a cemetery, and I was distressed that my parents were, for some reason, buried there in separate graves, some definite distance from each other.  I pictured their spirits looking for each other, but sadly not being able to find each other.  It was quite disturbing.

I woke up to remind myself that, indeed, they are buried side-by-side, in a little cemetery on the other side of the country.  My father joined the crowd there a long time ago, my mother arriving a couple of years ago, having survived without him for over 25 years.

They are surrounded by their own parents and contemporaries - the folks that comprised my little Upstate New York home town. The people who paid their taxes to educate and protect me, back in the 50's and 60's, before I, like so many of my schoolmates, moved away.

They paid for the public library where I spent countless hours exploring, discovering everything from H.G. Wells to the Tao Teh Ching.  The library where I was so well-known that the librarian gave me free-range in the stacks, and let me poke around in boxes of unfiled books in the back, since there was not enough shelf-space for them.

In my public school, there was an abundance of music classes - singing, band, music theory, choir. I gravitated to all of them. Most remarkable of all, my town paid the salary (how much could it have been?) for a wonderful, curious woman named Miss Ewing (this is long before 'Ms.'), who arrived in our classrooms regularly, wheeling in her record-player, for a class called 'Music Appreciation'.

She made sure we knew our 'Nutcracker', 'Hall of the Mountain King', 'William Tell Overture', and other obvious classical kid-pleasers, but she also made sure we could identify each statement of the main figure in the Bach 'Fugue in G Minor'. Can you imagine, in today's world, a school deeming this to be an important, essential part of 'education'?

I'm not going to assert that the folks of my parent's generation happily paid their taxes, fervently believing that our little town would be a better place if all the kids knew how to spell Tchaikovsky (I didn't have to look that up) or that the Lone Ranger theme was actually written by an Italian guy named Rossini.

And that's the point of taxes.  It's a simple notion, to pool our resources for the Common Good without knowing exactly what the long-term benefits will be, but trusting that investing in the future is better than starving it.

And, make no mistake, we are starving the future by continuing a system where obscene amounts of money are devoted to shallow politics, coming from shallow Military, Petroleum, and Financial interests whose only concern is to buy shallow people to promote their narrow, short-sighted, highly profitable goals, while the bridges and roads are crumbling, the public-school education of my generation is passe, and the media fog is determined that serious questions about who we are as a society are pepper-sprayed into silence.

If today's Republicans had been active in Elmira, New York in 1955, perhaps the title of this blog would be 'just an aging slob'.

Instead, I am humming Bach as I remember public-school heroes like Miss Ewing, Mrs. Ripley, Mr. Holmes, Mrs. Chatfield, Mr. Bentley, and Mr. Thayer (who, I see, is still at it, 43 years after I tried to understand why so many of his choral choices mentioned Jesus).


Liz Schwartz said...

I thought you didn't like classical music...seems like every time I try to interest you in the symphony you shrug and say it's not your thing...I think your Miss Ewing didn't do as good a job as perhaps you remember. :-)

Barry in Portland said...

With a couple of notable exceptions, I can only listen to classical music written before 1820.