Double Header

Tax Day

For April 15, the traditional tax filing deadline, organizers in Seattle and across the country planned marches demanding that President Trump make good on his statement that he would release his tax returns. Hard to resist, since the weather was nice here and another march was planned for later in the day, also close to home. I ambled down to the Federal Building.

It’s clear that an assembly such as this was unlikely to have a direct effect on the President’s thinking. For one thing, no matter how many people march, he can always say that the numbers are inflated by the media, or that the demonstrators are paid. He has said that only reporters are interested, and Kellyanne Conway has claimed that nobody is interested at all, because the election results show that people don’t care. Apparently, winning an election now explictly means not having to keep campaign promises.

Even after people stop caring whether their elected officials will keep their promises, there is still the conflict-of-interest issue. Mr. Tump’s understanding of this subject seems limited to the idea that one person should not take on too much work, for fear that a responsibility may be neglected; but what the world at large means by this question is whether a position of responsibility will be used for profit rather than for service. An even more common concern is that a competing objective will lead to a decision that is not in the nation’s interest. We like to know if our officials are beholden to others besides ourselves.  I suspect that Mr. Trump’s notion is that such questions are not within the purview of the citizenry, but will be decided by the leader to his or her advantage.

Several speakers at the rally used the Tax Day theme to touch upon other issues. Washington State, with its reliance on sales taxes, business taxes and property taxes, is said to have one of the most regressive and least transparent systems in the country. Support was sought for a couple of alternate methods, but neither the old idea of an income tax, nor the new idea of a capital gains tax, has made much headway. This led to another speech about how taxes are spent, and the legislature’s inability to fund education at the required level.

Part of the crowd, mostly at its northern end, became restive as more speakers appeared, and in fact eventually marched off independently. Their initial route was not the planned one, but the two factions quickly joined. I marched with them all the way to the International Fountain, resisting the temptation to exit at Cedar Street.

What could we hope to accomplish? If the President himself will not hear us, then others may, ones who deal with him or who depend on votes themselves. Also, I think it’s good that other citizens see that people really do care about transparency, so that they are not persuaded by the lie that no one is interested.  It’s easy to imagine that repeatedly disproving the President’s statements about crowd size will eventually lead some people to a better understanding of facts.  At least, we may be reminding some people that disagreement is not isolated.

There was a Tax Day demonstration near Mar-a-Lago too, but the President’s motorcade took a longer, “alternate” route to avoid seeing it.

Black Lives Matter

The day’s second march required another trip downtown, but the timing did allow for a lunch break at home first. When I arrived at Westlake Center the promised dance party was still going strong, but I noticed a stream of people headed east along Pine Street, so I joined them. I was surprised when we turned right on Fifth — I was sure that the planned destination was the Federal Courthouse. Maybe they meant the Court of Appeals?  But no, we then marched east on Union. I realized halfway down Second, on the way to the Federal Building for the second time today, that a longer route was needed to get the crowd out on course before the leaders arrived at the finish. From there I could see the street full of marchers for three blocks in either direction, with the head and tail of the procession both out of sight around the corners.  All in all we marched about 22 blocks, with eight right-angle turns, backing up a whole lot of traffic. I think that we may have surprised a few tourists, too, if not actually radicalizing them.

This march seemed more of a piece than the catch-all Tax Day rally, though certainly a range of social justice issues were discussed.  In a nice bit of conceptualism, the relationship between police and people of color was on display.  I imagined as I first approached the crowd that there were fewer police motorcycles parked on the street than at other demonstrations; but of course this was likely because they were already spread out lining the route.  The officers that I spoke with didn’t seem threatened by our thousands.  Maybe we were all on our best behavior; but maybe, helped by the intercession of the Justice Department, our behavior is getting better overall.

Again, what can we hope to accomplish through an action of this kind?  We weren’t stopping any trains or slowing any pipelines. The traffic that we tied up was our own, and our demands could not be satisfied by production of a single document.  But I think it’s important to show that you’re ready to stand up and speak out.  In the time and place where I grew up, you’d risk derision for talking about racial equality.

One sign said, “All lives won’t matter, until Black lives matter.”