Taxation was the theme as me and my good friend, Herb, hoisted a few
at the neighborhood pub the other night. It was his civic duty, he
noted, to suck up the suds. Did not our federal government benefit
from a healthy tax on alcohol - at the brewery. And did not the state
squeeze another 8% out of the transaction in the form of sales tax?
Furthermore, the state and the federal government, in joyful harmony,
taxed the wages of the ladies with aching calves and sore feet who
brought our ambrosia to us.
A cascade of largess, for the state, all because of our thirst.
“I had a great year, taxwise,” said Herb. “Took a salary cut. Then I
managed to find a couple of stocks that went so far South they only
traded on the Antarctic Stock Exchange. And to top off the good news,
a huge Oak fell on the house - a great casualty loss. Mashed the roof
and then squashed our very rare and expensive Calico cat. It’s gonna
cost me a fortune to replace that cat. If only Hilda had dumped me
and hit me up for alimony - it’s deductible, ya know. Hey, I’m off
the hook this year.”
He ranted on. Then as he slowed down, since he couldn’t drink and
talk at the same time, I pointed out that we peasants had been
suffering this plunder of our earnings since the first historian with
a tax liability and a chisel had carved out his lament on a big rock.
The pharaohs, of course, were big taxers and spenders. You don’t
build pyramids stuffed with luxury goods for the next life by letting
your constituents buy untaxed corn. Even Solomon the Wise squeezed
his subjects like the vintners squeezed grapes. A thousand wives
means a thousand wedding rings, and a thousand peek-a-boo nighties,
and a thousand honeymoon cottages. His administration rarely ran a
surplus. “And he did evil in the sight of the Lord,” says that big
black book found in hotels and courtrooms. They mean his tax policy,
A couple thousand years later as feudalism held sway in Western
civilization, rulers continued to wring riches out of their subjects.
All of this set us to pining for the reincarnation of Lady Godiva,
right here in Alabama. Remember her? Remember the fable about her
parading around the square like she was Cameron Diaz and Coventry
England was Hollywood, California and it was Oscar night? Well, it’s
no fable - it’s absolutely true. The history books tell us that she
bared her bod in an era when gowns went from crown to toenails.
Nudity, along with bathing, was not fashionable in courtly circles. A
woman who bathed twice a month by paddling around the moat was
Madam Godiva had a mission. She yearned to elevate the artistic
tastes of the masses. But hubby Leofric, the Earl of Mercia and Lord
of Coventry, had no cultural aspirations and he positively adored
taxation. A 1040, circa eleventh century, instead of the Magna
Carta, sat on his bedside table. Leofric the Looter he was called by
his friends. His victims called him worse.
Lady G noticed that the locals spent a lot of time pushing grindstones
to generate taxes for her husband. Art Appreciation courses at
Coventry U were unattended. But classes in millstone propulsion,
yoked oxen plowing and timber chopping were oversubscribed. All wage-
paying, taxable professions.
One night Lady Godiva, dressed in her 11th Century equivalent of a
Saranwrap gown, called upon her avaricious hubby. She told him that
the cultural level of Coventry was declining like a barrel of beer on
Saturday night. He must chop that onerous tax rate! He laughed. “Hah.”
The good wife cried a moatful of tears. It did no good. She pulled
her gown tightly about her pudgy, pink, michealangelesque body. That
did no good, either. Then she laid on her back and kicked and
screamed. Somehow, a bargain was struck. Lady G offered to swim once
around the moat as bare as a newborn babe if Leofric would abstain
from his favorite vice - taxation. “Nope,” said the Liege Lord.
“Only if you do three laps. Backstroke, too!!”
She countered with an offer to bolt through the marketplace at
midnight as naked as a jay bird, on Nanosecond Nell, the fastest filly
in Mercer County. “A done deal,” shouted the Plunderer. History
doesn't tell us whether Leofric advertised the Midnight Madness
burlesque show. More importantly, it doesn’t tell us if Leofric the
Looter honored his bargain. But even if he did, his moratorium didn’t
survive a millennium and the 5,000 miles that separate Coventry,
England and Alabama, USA. I just know that his ancestors emigrated to
the New World sometime in the 18th Century. And I know they reported
for work every morning to IRS Headquarters in Tax Central, District of
Columbia, USA. I mourn this historical fact with a black arm band
every year on April 15.
The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the U.S., on National Public Radio in Huntsville, Alabama and numerous web sites.