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A Stone's throw: After the holidays


Betty Stone



The tumult and the shouting have died. The three kings have departed. The holidays are over. Even epiphany. And I am let down. 


I have had to face the fact that I am a celebratory person. Take away my reason to celebrate, and all is blah. 


The next universal event is, I guess, Valentine's Day; but since I don't have a valentine any more, that is hardly a big deal. 


So, as we continue to welcome 2014, what lies on the horizon? I have written my thank-you notes and put my decorations away. I want to look forward to something. What can it be? 


Income tax. Drat! Holidays may be a hurdle, but the next hurdle is not a fun one. The deadline is not imminent, of course; yet it takes me a long time to do anything. (I start thinking about Christmas in August, but that is a lot more enjoyable.) Pretty soon I need to start organizing financial data and see where I stand. When you don't get a set salary -- and sometimes even when you do -- the big chore of getting ready for taxes looms early in the new year. It seems especially onerous, since it usually means you have to pay for something you did not really want to buy. 


I sometimes wonder if we are doing a remotely adequate job. Sure, we have to pay for a very expensive government. Our representatives vote themselves many perks. We sorely need military protection against our enemies. Part of our money goes to help the nation's needy -- the unemployed and poverty stricken. However, judging from all the requests I got for money during the holiday season, there are hordes of still-clamoring needy. I like to think of myself as a generous person, but I found myself drowning in a sea of paper, requests for donations to everything under the sun. If you donate to something, you get, instead of thanks, another request by return mail. Sometimes I suspect my whole donation goes for postage. 


When I anticipate my income taxes, I have to question the efficiency of those taxes, as well as the use of my donations. Now I know my portion of both is a small representation, but it does set me to wondering. How about you? 


I guess that is what the post-Christmas letdown does to you. Maybe I need to give myself a good talking to. Maybe I need to hark back to the Thanksgiving frame of mind. For all its flaws, the government we pay so much for is still, I think, the world's best; but its flaws are very real. Oscar Wilde said, "Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people." 


George Bernard Shaw said our political experiment of democracy is "the last refuge of cheap misgovernment." 


One is tempted to nod in enthusiastic agreement with these cynical wits; but I think democracy still holds the most promise for mankind. Bad government can, at least, still be voted out without fighting a bloody revolution. Democracy is the best government man has been able to come us with or to sustain, so I am glad we have it. 


When I read about people struggling in war-torn countries, or women subjected to abhorrent practices even in so-called civilized countries, or children dying of curable diseases or malnutrition because of corrupt leaders, I am very thankful to be an American. There may be some other countries in which I could be happy, but there surely are a lot in which I would be miserable. 


So maybe I can get myself to feeling a little bit celebratory again even though I must start contemplating, not only my taxes, but also my life. Maybe I should keep telling myself that I am grateful to be able to do what I must. Now where did I put those envelopes from the charities I have checked out and trust?


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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