God and Death and Taxes
Tax Day, Passover, 4/20, Earth Day and Easter, all in one week! Enslaved Jews to the risen Christ in exactly seven days, with two hippie holidays between those Judeo-Christian bookends and Tax Day to kick it all off. It’s almost too much to fathom, but fathom we must. According to several billboards around the Bay Area, Judgement Day is fast approaching. The billboards do not specify whether this will be a local, national or global event, but regardless, we cannot go blindly into the rapture. We must carefully consider the things we worship and the stories we tell.
Monday was Tax Day, always a joyous time in our family. For accountants such as my father, Tax Day is akin to the harvest. The two months leading up to Tax Day were known as Tax Season, when my dad would work Saturdays. As he slogged through returns both individual and corporate he would speak of “the fifteenth” with great anticipation. Eventually it would come, and he would take respite from his labors and recline, the family solvent for another fiscal year.
Now Tax Day makes me very grumpy, because on this day we send money to the United States government, a good half of which they will use to kill people or attempt to kill people, many of them innocent civilians and many of those civilians innocent children. Though many of the soldiers enlisted to do this killing are barely more than innocent children themselves–innocent children somehow incited through a cocktail of video games, speed, testosterone and fear to kill other people’s innocent children with our guilty tax dollars, while not being sufficiently outfitted with those tax dollars to even do this effectively, or so they often complain. I know the government also uses some of the money they collect to build roads and continue boring the youth of our nation with oversimplified lies about its origins, but overall, I don’t like the look of that pie chart, no matter how you slice the proverbial pie. I get so very angry when I think about who is deciding how that money will be spent, and how they are 1) not good-looking (except for Obama, who is very good-looking) 2) not very intelligent (except for Obama, who seems very intelligent, but not in a way that would help him to actually do anything useful or brave) and 3) all of them gangster criminal whores, blown, bribed and paid off by those other gangster criminal whores, the corporate ones, probably while playing golf. Also, I get enraged when I think about how my father, who is far more law-abiding than any elected official, spends hours and hours making sure everyone’s taxes add up just right, and following all the laws quite scrupulously, and then all the richest people and the oil companies and defense contractors and banks end up paying no tax at all, in fact getting huge sums of money back, even if they have stolen everyone’s pathetic retirement funds or dumped oil into the ocean or done any number of horrible things, because the whole thing is a giant charade, or an absurdist play. An absurdist play that helped pay for me to go to college, where I wrote not one but several papers about “the absurd.” So Tax Day is complicated for me, inciting very mixed feelings of filial virtue and capitalist filth, though overall it is good because my dad gets to chill out after he sends his last FedEx.
The night of Tax Day was the beginning of Passover, a very violent holiday that celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from their enslavement in Egypt, so that they could one day have white-collar jobs in Long Island. When I first heard about it, I was excited. A liberation story! But closer examination revealed that this so-called liberation story offered as cause for celebration the senseless slaughter of children just because they happened to belong to another tribe, and thus ended another of my invariably failed attempts to practice Judaism in any way whatsoever. No god I would worship would slaughter some children and spare others, and no people I’d choose would celebrate it.
My understanding of Passover is gleaned from the super-liberal Haggadah my aunt and uncle have at their house and the Charlton Heston film. Moses, a Jew, was sent down the river to spare his life. He was adopted by an Egyptian princess and secretly wet-nursed by his biological mother. The Pharaoh was making the Jews build the pyramids, and when Moses finally realized his origins and came out to his adoptive father and was like, “I’m a Jew, too! Let my people go,” the Pharaoh was like, “And give up this free labor? Hell, no!” so Moses got God to bring plagues upon the Egyptians, but bugs and cattle disease didn’t sway the Pharaoh, so God sent the Angel of Death to kill all the Egyptian firstborn sons, but the Jews sacrificed some lambs and smeared their blood on their doors and the Angel of Death passed over them, and then they were finally able to escape because everyone in Egypt was so upset about their dead children. Then just as the Jews were escaping the Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army after the Jews, but Moses parted the Red Sea so the Jews could escape and then the Red Sea came back and swallowed up the Pharaoh’s army. Then the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years before God finally let them into Israel. Milk and honey for everyone, except the lactose-intolerant and diabetic. THE END.
Or not. Moses is supposed to be so awesome because he got the Jews out of slavery, but if you keep reading after where we would leave off in the Haggadah to move on to the gefilte fish course, you find out that Moses did some rather questionable things. For example, did you know that right after he got the ten commandments, he incited a massacre resulting in the deaths of 3,000 people? Here’s what happened: while Moses was waiting up on Mount Sinai for God to give him some stone tablets and tell him what to do, the people raged in his absence. They made a gold-plated calf and had a wild party. Because maybe Moses wasn’t such a great leader, but actually a dictator who kept telling everyone what to do? And maybe rather than be told what to do, everyone really just wants to rage? And so in the absence of this bossy egotist, they raged? When Moses came down and found them raging, he got so mad he broke the tablets with the ten commandments on them, and had to go back up the mountain to get new ones, but not before he incited a mass killing of all the partygoers. What the fuck, Moses? Was not the first of the ten commandments “Thou Shalt Not Kill?” The makers and enforcers of all laws are always the first to break them, and Moses was no exception.
Then came April 20, a special day for my one true people, the people I chose, not the Chosen people I didn’t. It fell on a Wednesday. I had to work and could not properly celebrate at 4:20 on 4/20, a convergence of numbers that would have pleased my internal ancestral accountant, another of my true peoples. Then, late at night, on the phone with my best buddy in New York, I became despondent.
“I forgot to make any plans for the one holiday this week that actually means anything to me,” I complained, “and now I am all alone on 4/20!”
“It’s hard to be alone on a holiday,” she sympathized.
“Would you please celebrate this holiday with me over Skype?”
“I would,” she said, “but I just got over a sinus infection. And in New York it’s already 4/21.”
I had to settle for making a 4/20-related post on Facebook. By the time the likes rolled in I had begun my solitary celebration and was in a much better mood. Having eschewed the bitter herbs of the genocide holiday in favor of the gentler herbs of this more unofficial holiday, I began pondering what made this, my favorite herb, different from all other herbs.
The government does not want us to have this herb, I concluded, because it causes distrust of the government. But this is no chemical-induced paranoia, this is the undeniable truth. This herb causes a person to see a lot of undeniable truths. But it also causes a person to live in half-dreamworld of his or her own creation. It is my preferred state, distrusting all authority from within a half-dreamworld of my own creation. It suits me. It always has. Have I enjoyed this herb because it amplifies my already pre-existing state? Or have I come to distrust to government and live in a dreamworld of my own creation because I have enjoyed this herb? I have never been able to answer this question.
I felt less lonely, alone on 4/20, because I knew my brethren and sistren were out there, and we were one, and we would make many burnt offerings the whole year through, and that for us, this day was really no different than any other day, and the party for us would never end, because among our people, when bearded men came down from mountains they did so not to harangue us about stone tablets or to destroy our golden calves and kill us all, but to bring us the means by which to continue our celebrations.
Then came Earth Day, an almost quaint holiday at this point. This Earth Day, I felt guilter than Earth Days of yore, for I now own and drive a car. Even worse, the type of car I own has been recently advertised in a politically charged and horrible way that links directly back to Passover. Apparently a Subaru dealership in Israel is trying to sell Subarus to Zionist settlers by insinuating via a horrific photograph that a Subaru is good, tough car with which to run over Palestinean children. The Subaru corporation itself insists that it had nothing to do with this horrific ad.
Various religions have been insisting for millenia that it is okay for them to kill the children of other people who do not practice that religion. Various religions have been trying for millenia to get humanity to recognize their particular gods above all others, in the process ignoring the one real entity worthy of worship: nature. Everyone argues over who made the world and how long it took and when it will end, but that doesn’t stop people from destroying it while we’re actually here. The tax dollars are being used to destroy it and the Subarus are destroying it, and many of the people and companies who are most actively destroying it are being given exemptions from laws that might protect it from destruction, or being given more money with which to keep destroying it. What a mess, what a shame. Sorry, Earth. Sorry, nature. The planet needs a savior, but as the story goes, when it had one, he, too was destroyed.
The whole unofficial festival culminated, of course, with Easter Sunday. I don’t really understand this holiday. I know this is when Jesus got crucified, and then busted out of his tomb and ascended to Heaven, that it is the story of how a pacifist was wrongly persecuted and executed, that this persecution and execution is wrongly attributed to the Jews when in fact it was done by the Romans, and that millions if not billions of people have since died in numerous wars fought in the name of this pacifist, that soldiers who are sent to kill and die for various countries are told beforehand that this pacifist is on their side, when it could be argued that if he ever stood or lived or preached or died for anything, it would be anything but that.
But the more I tried to think seriously about Jesus and who he really might have been and how he really might have lived and died, the more I just kept thinking that I would have found Jesus incredibly attractive–that he was, in fact, the prototype of my type. I have first and foremost always had a major weakness for long hair. I was wondering aloud why exactly this was when Rebecca wisely pointed out that “it shows that they hate society and are probably stoners, which are your two biggest turn-ons.”
But Jesus was so much more than a longhaired hippie. He was a longhaired tragic figure marked for death, who lived fast and died young–Jesus! A carpenter, also very sexy. To me the idea that he walked on water says that he is a surfer; surfing, of course, is also very hot. And Jesus liked to travel. I also like to travel. Intrepidness is another quality I value very highly. Charismatic, natural leader–I do like ’em alpha, never loved me a follower. He could also turn water into wine, a great trait unto itself, which also probably means that he could also open a beer with any object, another ability I find very sexy. Jesus sounds like he was very driven, motivated, on a mission. It’s very important to me that a guy have his own passion, his own thing. (Small-p passion, though, not capital-P passion, as in “dragging the crossbar of one’s own cross on which one is to be executed around Jerusalem while wearing a crown of thorns” sort of Passion.) It sounds like Jesus was very verbal and had a lot to say, which is also very important to me–never knew quite how to handle the quiet ones. And he said it well, and quotably, by all accounts, and yet was unassuming and soft-spoken, a huge plus–there is, after all, a very fine balance between confidence and conceit.
Jesus–now there was a man. Not like Moses, waiting for someone to tell him what to do all the time, and then unquestionably doing it, even if that meant killing a whole bunch of people just for having a party. Jesus never killed anyone, or if he did it was not in the Wikipedia entries I read about him. Jesus never asked God to kill a whole bunch of innocent children. Jesus would have found a better way to rise up and revolt. Hardly being a Jew, it would seem impossible for me to become a Jew for Jesus. Still, I wondered, What would Jesus do?, but more importantly, Who would Jesus do, and might that ever include me?
I would, however, have a few concerns about dating Jesus. First of all, the fact that he was marked for death at such a young age would be a bummer. I’m thinking he also might have some major issues with both of his parents. How does a man relate to his father when his father is God, and then forsakes him? Being forsaken by your father and left to die on a cross for the sins of all humanity is not a trauma you just get over, even if you are later resurrected. Then, even worse, we got the mommy issues. All men would prefer to believe that they were conceived immaculately and are not the product of sexual intercourse between their father and their mother. In Jesus’s case, this is actually true–or has been accepted as truth by billions of followers over thousands of years. Unless, more likely, as many have pointed out, Mary was an unwed pregnant teenager with a preternatural ability to spin. Regardless, that was her story and she stuck to it. Between Mother Mary the Blessed Virgin and Mary Magdalene the hooker with the heart of gold I’m thinking that Jesus had quite literally the mother of all Madonna-whore complexes, and this for me would be an unequivocal dealbreaker. Also, after the crucifixion and everything, he might be into some seriously weird shit, sexually speaking. But then again, he might not.
I guess we’d really just have to spend some time together and see how it went. I think I could be open to him, that’s all I’m saying. Who knows what might happen in the future? I mean, I’m in a really transitional place in my life right now, and most of all I need to focus on my work, and I need to be with someone who understands that. Apparently Jesus understood everything, so perhaps he could understand even me. Perhaps we could support each other in our distinct but related goals. Perhaps, even if it didn’t work out, dating Jesus would enable me to work out some of my issues with men. But I can’t date Jesus, because he was crucified 2,000 years ago, and is now a Holy Ghost existing in the collective imagination of several billion people, and it really does sound like he has insurmountable issues with his mother.
As Tax Day gives way to Erev Pesach to 4/20 to Earth Day and now to Easter, as time marches on and governments are paid and wine drunk and commandments handed down and questions asked and answered and bitter herbs nibbled and sweeter herbs burnt and planets destroyed and innocents slaughtered and crucified, as we celebrate these things, often without even knowing why, as we fund these things, often without even knowing why, as we mourn these unfathomable compounded losses, piling up over time, as we play out the Passion and re-enact the re-enactments of horrible things ancient people did to one another–ancient people to whom we are not even really related and from whom we are not really even descended, as Judaism was spread through mass conversions, and my ancestors were likely not Israelites but villagers in some cold contested middle-European region (and their blue-eyed, red-haired rapists), so the traumas we commemorate aren’t even the traumas that made us, as it is all just a story, many stories, stories as hazy in their recollection and haphazard in their collection and questionable in their accuracy as the stories of our very own desert wanderings, I am forced to conclude that it is all quite absurd, this week, these holidays, these wars, these slayings, these tales of parted seas and empty tombs, though the one thing I do not doubt, the one thing no Biblical scholar need confirm and no sacrilegious skeptic could possibly contest, the one thing common to all of these stories in every time and place is the anguish with which the mothers wailed when they found their children dead.