Today as I left work I noticed that my colleagues were futzing around with a bag of plastic poppies. I’ve always been peripherally aware of the poppy thingies, and I know that they appear once or twice a year. However, if asked at any other time I wouldn’t be able to tell what the poppy thingies are for. Well, on my way out the door of the firehouse this morning (to begin my furlough, no less), the captain asked me to kick in a few dollars. Not being one to do something without knowing why I’m doing it, I asked what the money and the poppies were for. He told me it was all for the veteran’s hospital. Having just awakened from my bunkroom slumber, and with my mind already speed-walking up Leavitt Avenue, my first response was that I had no money, which, I think, was actually the truth. When he said he’d loan me the cash to throw in, my brain began to sync itself with the present moment, and my moral objection meter started going off. “The veteran’s hospital: isn’t that a government thing?” I asked, to which the captain responded with a curt, dark “Go on.” I continued out the door, believing, in my own self-righteous way, that I had just done the right thing.
See, my thinking at the time was that the VA hospitals, which my father (being a veteran and all) uses, are taxpayer-funded (as well they should be). So that means that my tax dollars are supposed to pay for veterans’ medical needs, as well they should. So, my question, the one which was implied but not clearly stated to the captain, is Why the hell are you collecting pennies to donate to something your tax dollars should already have covered? Furthermore, if there isn’t enough money being allocated to the veterans’ hospitals, why? Where is the money going, and who is responsible for diverting it from where it ought to be going?
I guess I have serious negative issues with little diversionary rituals like the poppy thingie. It just seems to me that it doesn’t make any practical or moral sense to put a few dollars in a baggie and pin a plastic poppy on my shirt while my tax dollars, which should be used to care for all of the veterans’ medical needs, are being squandered on “missile defense” research and imperialistic invasions of third-world countries. I want to re-animate General Smedley Butler and let him argue my case for me, but that isn’t possible, so I guess I’ll just have to continue offending people by questioning– and refusing to participate in– their precious diversionary rituals.