On the road in Virginia

The Friday Photo
A weekly photo inspired by art, community, and spontaneity
October 26, 2012

This week’s Friday photo and post are used with permission from Robert Gluck.

photo courtesy of Robert Gluck, taken in northern Virginia

I took this photo on my way home from work today. In case you can’t read the bumper stickers, they say:

Anything you GET
from the GOVERNMENT
was TAKEN from someone else.

THIS IS AMERICA
We Don’t Redistribute Wealth
YOU EARN IT!

Let’s parse this, shall we?

The first three lines are basically true. Assuming this person (we’ll call her Jane) paid taxes, at least part of what Jane GETS from the government came from her own pocket, but that is pretty negligible in the big picture.

The next line is also indisputable; this is, indeed, America.

The fifth line is the problem, because, actually, we DO redistribute wealth and always have. You’ll notice that Jane is driving on a road. I happen to know that this road was built with money gathered from millions of Virginia taxpayers with, no doubt, some thrown in from taxpayers around the country via federal transportation dollars. That money was REDISTRIBUTED to the Virginia Department of Transportation which in turn paid to have the road built (and repaved several times since then) for the benefit of everyone, including me and Jane.

The last line, taken on its own with the understanding that it is referring to “wealth,” is also true. You EARN wealth, except, of course, for the money that is passed down to you from parents and relatives (though we could argue that THEY earned it — or at least someone up the family tree earned it), by working for a living.

However, if we consider the six lines as a single sentiment, as I believe they were intended to be understood, it is clear that Jane has not thought her statement out carefully enough.

America DOES redistribute wealth. This was not a decision imposed on us by a hostile outside force, rather, it was a decision made by Americans back in the good old days that I’m sure Jane wishes we would return to (but, alas, Jane, they never existed). It is a decision that has been reaffirmed and expanded upon by liberals, moderates, and conservatives for decades and decades.

And Jane, when America chose to collect a share of wealth from those who could afford it and to then spend it in ways we agreed it should be spent (because America is, after all, the greatest democracy on earth), we understood that we were GIVING something to our beloved country in RETURN for roads, schools (Jane, by the way, also had a bumper sticker for a public elementary school which, presumably, Jane Jr. attends), and our national defense (and we ALL honor those who serve our country).

So Jane, this is America, and we SHARE our wealth because we love our country, our children, and our freedom.

About Katherine Helms Cummings

During the day I am a social and environmental activist whose professional work has been in the nonprofit world for the last 12 years. Most nights and weekends I am an artisan making accessories with upcycled cashmere and woven textiles. My handmade items are available at The Sassy Gal http://thesassygal.org
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