Every once in a while my kid's elementary school does Hat Day. On this august day my children are permitted to wear a hat in school for a meager fee of twenty-five cents. The last one occurred a few months ago, and they (Will, and Ali -- ages 10 and 7) were quite excited about the hat-enabled event. But I was a bit more, well, skeptical about the whole scheme.
"When did the students vote on having a hat tax?" I innocently asked the children over breakfast.
"Never," Will offered.
"Well, it seems to me that they are taxing you for wearing a hat when there was never a proper procedure. You are being taxed without having had proper representation. That's one of the reasons why America stopped being a colony of England -- there was taxation without representation and that was unfair," I said.
We chatted a bit more on the topic and the children went off on the bus with their school sanctioned head wear on as well as a quarter in each of their pockets. After they returned from school I asked them if they paid their hat tax. They both said yes.
Flash forward to this morning right after breakfast, and Ali walked into the kitchen while I was reading though the first Walking Dead graphic novel (yesterday was comic book day in my house). Will was studying his spelling list.
She had a bright pink baseball cap on.
"No taxation without representation!" she cried.
I looked at her and weighed out my options -- a discussion was in order. We had a short and age appropriate talk about the reasons why, when and how a person should express their opinion(s) concerning unjust conditions.
The Wife walked into the room. We are both atheists, and when we got married we shared a similar social-libertarian philosophy. Over the years, however, she has become a bit more conservative while I have become a bit more of a person who errs on the side of freedom.
"No taxation without representation!" Ali repeated her anthem.
The Wife gave me the look. Obviously, I wasn't going to complete the Walking Dead at this particular sitting.
I decided being forthright was the best policy. "Ali, is wearing a hat today, because she doesn't feel it's right for the school to charge her money on Hat Day."
"Really? Ali, why do you think that paying to wear your hat is wrong?" the Wife asked.
"We never voted on it," Ali replied.
The Wife looked at me.
"Look, Ali plans to wear her hat to school. When, and if, she is told by her teacher to take it off the plan is that Ali will say it's wrong to charge twenty-five cents just for wearing a hat on certain days since the kids never voted on it. Ali will take that hat off, but say it is still wrong."
Really, this is what it's like living with me.
The Wife walked over to the change jar and said, "Here is a quarter."
Ali didn't want to take the quarter.
"Ali, you can take the money, but you don't need to spend it for wearing a hat if you don't want to," I offered.
Ali smiled, took the money, placed it in her pocket and scampered out of the kitchen.
"What are you doing?" the Wife asked.
"Teaching the virtues of passive resistance and the questioning of authority?" I answered.
"You know there is a school board where there is a vote on the dress code for the school."
"I don't think the student body had any voice in that decision, and that choice directly affects them. Hey, I don't think the school will come crumbling down if kids wear hats without paying a quarter. Whenever someone tell you do to something, they need to have a good reason," I said.
"The school uses that money."
"OK, is that a reason why they should extort money out of us for the privilege of our kids wearing hats? I'm sure there are a variety of ways that the school system can be run more efficiently. For example, take the Khan Academy..."
And that's when the Wife left the kitchen.
Now before you judge me too harsh, gentle reader, allow me plea my case directly to you. I've never been a person who accepted because as a good reason for why things are the way they are. Why are blacks inferior to whites? Because. (I grew up in a racist household.) Why can't I do so-and-so? Because. And this dislike for because eventually brought me to the point of understanding that those who don't believe in the Little Baby Jesus are going to burn for eternity because God said so is an immoral idea.
I don't want my children to accept because I said so as a valid reason for doing something (except in emergency situations where there isn't time for an explanation). I want them to be skeptics. I want them to question the answers given to them. To carry in their hearts a sense of their own power.
There will always be someone trying to shake you down for quarter, whether it's a church or your local school.
This is Purgatory.