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Death and Taxes

By Grechen Wingerter, President of the Board of Trustees

“Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin

I wonder if Franklin knew how prophetic his words would come to be one day....

While our Founding Fathers may have believed our Constitution to be lasting, if we have learned nothing these past 3 1/2 years, it is that perhaps our Constitution is not as “durable” as they — and we — once thought. Could the American Experiment possibly be failing?

I’m normally a fairly optimistic person. I generally have a feeling things will work out. Maybe not how we initially intended, but, nevertheless, how they are meant to be. I prefer to hope. As such, I don’t want to be pessimistic and think our country is doomed, but I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t indeed faltering. Or, at the very least, floundering.

We seem to be on a precipice — teetering dangerously close to plunging into a great abyss. One more false step or a slip in the wrong direction could send us careening over the edge. And yet, I still believe — I have to believe — we can correct our missteps. We can pause, take time to breathe, and look at where we are collectively going before taking any more steps. We simply have to remember to breathe.

Just recently, this past Sunday in fact, I made the decision to do that very thing — to breathe. Feeling very overwhelmed by all that is happening in the world, in our country, and all the responsibilities of life as a parent, as a college professor, as a member of society, I needed a break. But what could I conceivably give up? I can’t quit parenting. I can’t quit my job. I can’t quit being a member of society and contributing to the world around me. Or could I?

I began to examine how I was contributing to that society. What energy am I putting out into the world? What energy am I receiving? I looked at all the things I am doing. Any one of those things could be a full-time job. And they are all things I don’t want to give up. But what else was consuming my time — my energy — that I could let go of? The easy answer: Social media. More specifically, Facebook. I’d been contemplating going on a Facebook hiatus for quite some time, but could never quite commit to the decision. I always found an excuse — it’s how I connect to friends and family far away, it’s how I know what’s going on in the world, it’s how I find funny memes, I run the PSCC Theatre Facebook page, etc, etc, etc. But really, did I need to do all of those things via Facebook? Did I need it my life?

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit me hard Friday night. It was like a punch in the gut. I was standing on the football field at Bearden High School listening to the marching band play, watching the game, chatting with some of the other parents when the news came. I felt like the wind had been knocked right out of me. I couldn’t breathe. I nearly burst into tears in the end zone. I felt an immense wave of hopelessness. I walked away to regain my composure, to catch my breath. But the feeling remained.

The collective — and my own personal sense of doom that came over the next 48 hours was crushing. How could our democracy — our democratic republic — our American Experiment — have hinged on the life of an 87 year old woman? A multiple cancer survivor, a champion of women’s rights, a fighter until her very last breath. Should it?

The answer for me is no. One person alone cannot do it all. It is up to us now — all of us — to fight. To pick up where RBG, John Lewis, and so many others left off, and prevent our country from falling over the cliff. To be the voice and champions of the rights for all. To be the hope we need.

So, I made my choice to quit Facebook — to not fall prey to the collective doom, to be less of a screen warrior fighting over things I cannot control. I would rather be a warrior in real life — and fight for the things I can control. I want to be part of the hope. I have to be. I need to be. Because for me, hope is more certain than death and taxes.

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