My father, in one of his innumerable sallies mixed with slight sarcasm would always admonish me to become a plumber whenever he was finished paying the plumber that had just done some work for us. “It seems every time that I call him, I wind up at least $300 bucks lighter,” he would say as the plumber started up his truck and pulled away. And to me, it seemed like every time the plumber came, I would hear my father’s thinly veiled anguish at having to pay the man take the form of him describing to me the lucrative virtues of being a plumber.
Well, needless to say, I did not become a plumber. But recently I did require the services of one. I flipped through The Yellow Pages and picked the first one that I found. He said he could be there that day and that sounded pretty good to me. “One thing though, I only accept cash,” he said. “Ok,” I replied, not really having the desire or the will to think about why.
I was reading the paper on the back deck when I heard the cacophonous sound of a truck with no muffler. I assumed that he was idling in front of the house. He was not in front of the house but rather driving down the street, and the roar of the truck got louder and louder. However, it was not the ululation the truck was making that was most interesting but rather the huge American flag decal across the front of the windshield. It was hard for me to imagine that he was even able to see with the Old Glory waving, albeit in sticker form, on his car. When he pulled up I could see that there was a matching decal on his back windshield that was almost identical except for the fact that it said, “These colors don’t run.”
Let’s call the plumber Ray (Joe is the first name I thought of but I do not want to make that correlation.) Ray was one of the most gregarious people I have ever met. I instantly liked him. We talked for a while about the Mets and the Jets. He told me that he had two young daughters that go to the public school around the corner. I genuinely liked him. I remember thinking, “This is going to be the only plumber that I use for now on.”
Ray got to work and work he did. It took him a couple of hours but he fixed everything that needed to be fixed and he did a great job. After he was done I reached into my wallet, which was flush with cash due to a recent trip to the ATM in anticipation of Ray’s arrival, and I paid him. Since we had developed a friendly and casual rapport I asked him about why he only accepted cash. It seemed like to me like a lot to ask a customer to do: Go to the ATM and take out a bunch of cash to keep on hand for a yet to be disclosed figure when one could simply write a check for the exact amount. Ray explained to me that it made it easier for him to declare less income on his taxes. “There is a big difference between what I declare and what I make.”
We chatted for a little while longer and then he left. I watched out the window and could not help but read the “These colors don’t run” decal on the back of his car one more time as he pulled away.
With tax season winding down, I thought it appropriate to relay this anecdote. I want to be clear that Ray was a nice guy and a more than competent plumber, but for him to portray himself as a patriot is deceiving. Ray may not run, but he sure knows how to hide and he is not ashamed of it at all.
The disconnect between his windshield patriotism and him cheating on his taxes cannot be overlooked. If you cheat on your taxes you have given up your right to be patriotic; cut and dried, plain and simple, no doubt about it.
Why is Ray any different from the teacher at his daughter’s school? She has to pay taxes on her $35,000 dollar a year salary. The military personnel that Ray supports so fiercely with his decals pay taxes along with everyone else with any sense of dignity and respect for this country.
If Ray didn’t proclaim to love this country so much, I don’t think it would have upset me. If he was a conspiracy theorist who said he just wanted to save enough money to get his family out of this horrible country, then I could maybe understand a little more (though it is still wrong). But that was not the case. Ray is a parasitic patriot. His deficiency in contributing to the country that his windshield proclaims to love is inexcusable. This is a serious problem, the patriotic identities that some tax evaders put forth are just not there. If you love this country, act like it.