“The Throwaways”

I remember when I got my first (and so far, last), decently-paid job. It wasn’t (or I guess, shouldn’t have been) a mind-blowing salary, but it was enough that I opened up an RRSP and TFSA, had a savings account, and bought my first car. (Side note: all of these things are now essentially defunct, except for my car, which I sometimes live out of. #gradschool).

When I was promoted shortly after joining this company, I remember taking a look at my first pay stub and feeling a quick punch in my stomach when I saw how much money I was now paying in taxes. Later that night on the phone with my dad, I told him that I was shocked and kind of annoyed.

He replied, “it is a privilege to be able to give back to your community.”

In short, he told me to check myself. I was embarrassed, but appreciative of the reminder.

I come from a family who takes care of each other and the people around them. My parents generously donate to various organizations and charities, and volunteer much of their time and resources to the community they live in. My Nanna recently told me that our only job in life is to “make other people happy”; for as long as I can remember, my Grandad will pull the car over and hop out to pick up garbage while driving into the little slice of a conservation area that he pours himself into maintaining so that we all can enjoy being outside and in nature.

I came across Melissa Chadburn’s essay, The Throwaways, this morning, and was again reminded of how important it is to focus our efforts on systemic inequities and systems of oppression, rather than coming at everything from an individualistic perspective. I was led to this essay by her article Resilience is Futile, which you can read here.

I used to “teach” at a juvenile detention center and came to find very quickly that in order to learn a child needs four things 1) safety, 2) shelter, 3) food, 4) love. Don’t we want all children to have that?…

…One of my friends tells a story of being in daycare. All the kids had to learn how to take turns. They lined up to each take their turn on playing in a tire swing. Eager to make new friends she offered up her turn to another girl. The girl took it. My friend was denied hers because she gave it away. She remembers praying afterward, asking god why it hurts so bad to be nice?

Greed is taking all the turns and not sharing any. Greed is having all the money and not paying taxes to help deliver a safe system for abused and abandoned children in foster care. Or greed is having all the money and refusing to pay taxes that results in the separation of families who have plenty of love but no resources to stay together. Greed is what keeps Los Angeles (at 94,000 homeless people) the homeless capitol of the nation despite its residents that belong to the top 1% income bracket. 

Greed lies to people, fueling their fears that if oil companies like Chevron or Shell were charged an oil severance tax they would charge us more at the pump.

Greed is what convinces people that if you charge more taxes big corporations would leave your state.

Here’s a secret that the Haves are keeping from us: Taxes are revolutionary. Taxes are a medium to distribute wealth in a capitalist society. Today, I’m happy to be accountable in this way. Accountable to my community. I love my community. I want my community to thrive…

…If we are saying I value you when we pay our taxes, what is a corporation saying when they don’t pay taxes? Are they saying the opposite? Are they saying they don’t care about whether or not other people have healthcare? I think it’s not too much to ask for people to have healthcare…

…In 1980, CEO pay equaled only 42 times the average blue-collar worker’s pay. By 2010, CEO pay had grown to 343 times a worker’s median pay. This is the widest gap in the world…

…That’s how I feel when I vote. Like finally after all of it, all the standing in hungry lines, and marching on asphalt in dark negative degree mornings, all of the gripping of signs, all of the anguish of loving a mother and being terrified of a mother and leaving a mother, has led me to this one place; this one slip of paper. I take the paper and the tiny pencil, that looks like no big deal but is the biggest deal, and I think about all the mega-important times in my life that are marked with dinky little pencils and I put my mark on the paper and plop it in the box and think of it as the box of wishes and prayers for babies to have 1) safety, 2) shelter, 3) food, 4) love.

Read Melissa Chadburn’s full essay, The Throwaways, here.


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