In America’s consumer age, which began shortly after World War II with the retooling of the entire culture around the consumption of oil, fueling the rise of suburbia and consumer credit, the self-perception of the American people shifted from a concept of the responsible citizen to one of the self-serving consumer.
The public has been induced to adopt the mentality and behavior of those who perceive their rights — not their right to freedom, justice and dignity, but their right to consume – being besieged by suspect government forces trying to take their access to the possession of things away from them in the form of taxes. Thus the concept of “citizen” has been corrupted in our society into notions of “consumers” and “taxpayers.”
With the economy mired in the deepest of recessions, and no clear pathway out of the mess in the near future, terrible and irreversible setbacks are being inflicted where ever the question of “How high are the taxes?” is allowed to trump the concern for “How great is the need?”
Even in the relatively prosperous Northern Virginia, governing bodies are more in fear of the perceived consequences of raising taxes too much than in fear of the real consequences of terrible cuts in education – as provided by public schools and libraries – and vital social services. The poorer and more vulnerable populations, of course, will take the biggest hits, but at the peril of those better heeled.
Who will suffer most, for example, when after-school athletic programs begin to require a payment for student participation? Clearly, those who can’t afford that payment. And what of those who enable schools to introduce such new policies by blithely promising to pick up the tab for the poorer students? Do you think that will really happen? How many of your neighbors would be willing to grovel and beg for a handout to allow their kids to play lacrosse?
No, thousands more young men and women in this region will simply be shut out of yet another recourse for healthy development. Almost all their recreational access around here has already been denied them with the expensive redevelopment of playing fields in the last decade that included with it “Keep Out!” signs for any unsanctioned activity. Gone are the soccer games that drew hundreds of players and fans on the weekends at the now-Larry Graves Fields or the George Mason High School athletic fields. Gone where?
Those who don’t see the connection between that development and the rise of gang activity in the region are blind. Now, even organized school sports will be deemed off limits to more and more of the poor, as well. The rich may not care. They just don’t want to pay taxes. But the rich don’t realize that, as a result, the games are apt to become more dangerous and may migrate into their own backyards, instead.