In Israel, a crazy thing happened this week... Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day). The day starts the night before, that's Jewish for you, with a siren, one minute in length, that sounds across the whole country and everyone stops to listen and reflect. Even those driving on the highway stop, get out of their cars, listen and reflect. Given the way Israelis drive, this is no small feat. The next morning, another siren sounds, two minutes in length, which has the same effect. Yom HaZikaron is a day of remembering the dead. First and foremost, the soldiers who died in service for their country, but also the victims of terror are remembered. The music on the radio is sad. On television; sad, depressing movies are aired repeatedly; documentary type films, seemingly made by family or friends, about the lost lives of mostly young people who died to make this country possible. It is a tremendously sad day. The whole country mourns until the next day... Independence Day, a celebration with music and dancing that lasts late into the night. Kids run through the streets spraying shaving cream on everything and smashing each other on the head with air-filled, toy hammers. (Don't ask.)
The two vastly different days, back to back, makes it impossible to miss the connection, as we perhaps do in this country. These people died so that we may live, period.
That's what I wanted to write about. But... I didn't.
I really wasn't sure I would be able to get through what the creative team at Circumcise Me had planned for me. But I did it. I stood outside the Main Post Office on 34th Street and 8th Avenue with a sign that said "Cut your taxes with Circumcise Me." It was a publicity stunt pure and simple. But for me, it wasn't a stunt to get people to see the show. No... I did it to say to the universe that I'll do anything that I can to get people to support this show. It's a good piece of theatre and people should support it. That's why I did it.
But once I was there, standing in front of the post office... wow, the people I saw! It was like a live action Dr. Seuss. Not many were actually paying their taxes. This whole internet thing is really catching on. Clearly, people are paying their taxes cause we are one really rich country. (Side Note: Why weren't the Tea Baggers angry when W. spent all that government money on bullshit wars? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for foreign aid, as I live in Israel. I get it that an extra $4,000,000,000 can stretch a monthly budget a long way. I just prefer it in a way that doesn't get hundreds of thousand's of civilians killed.) But back to the Dr Seuss parade that this country is filled with. I don't have to tell you that there are oppressed people from all over the world that come here to live in freedom unbowed by tyranny. But we do more than that, unfortunately. We seem to teach them, first and foremost, that it is their inalienable right to get overweight and unhealthy as quickly as possible.
The craziest thing I saw at the post office wasn't the Tea Baggers who so clearly don't mind big government as long as it's a white president using the money to kill brown guys. But they go crazy when it's a man of color trying to save lives. But even that Republican racism is to be expected.
The thing that caught my eyes and my heart was "SOS" (Save our Schools), a rather large group of high school students, who were out screaming and yelling not to make cuts to the education budget. How different would my reaction have been to school cuts in my day? I would have been the first to volunteer to stay home in order to help out the budget deficit. They were perhaps missing class in order to protest class cuts but nobody is perfect.
What a powerful sight, especially of all the groups hocking their wares (myself included). These kids made me want to march behind them and scream with them. It left me with one thought: Where were the Tea Baggers?
The easy answer is Israel is young and still so close to it's birth that it understands the intimate connection between youth, war and freedom. While the scene at the Post Office was more of a case of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, we can take a reminder from our Israeli friends of the solemn and awesome nature of the sacrifice that our young men and women are making in defense of our country. But perhaps there is also a lesson for the Israelis to learn in our joyous, almost frivolous nature that we pay our taxes. We're not saying that our taxes don't matter; we're saying that our government does matter and that we chose them, trust them and we support their work. While Bush was president we paid his bills because we elected him and then we decided to elect someone else. Maybe the Tea Baggers could learn this lesson too.
Yisrael Campbell is currently starring in Circumcise Me, at Off Broadway's Bleecker Street Theater.
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