War Tax Resisters in the Wendell Post

The following letters to the editor are from the April 1987 Wendell [Massachusetts] Post:

To the Wendell Post:

It is with great sadness that I am again forced by country’s military policies, to withhold payment of federal taxes. I cannot in good conscience help to pay for the probable destruction of our globe (nuclear weapons) or the mindless arming of other countries, even those dealing in blatant terrorism. I am ashamed of us!

This is the strongest protest I can think of and it is with full knowledge that it is our freedom and right as Americans that dictates our ability and responsibility to right what is wrong in government.

Now the world (including U.S.A.) is playing with micro-wave bombs which promise to alter people’s brains as well as doing other horrible physical damage. I cannot participate.

Susan Dunlany

Considering War Tax Refusal

To the “Post”

Could you imagine the Selectmen in Wendell saying, “OK, we are going to take 50% of the town’s tax money this year and use it to harass, maim, and kill people in Erving until they see this Rt. 2 thing our way?” We would, of course, find the very idea absurd and refuse to allow the selectmen to use our taxes in such a way.

Is it any different then, with federal income taxes from which 63% goes to the military for payment on past, present, and future wars?

If Washington doesn’t like a newly formed government, then in the name of democracy and freedom it asks us to finance torture, murder, and propaganda to overthrow that government. If the U.S. government does not particularly care for a certain dictator but that leader is sympathetic to U.S. military and economic concerns, it will finance military support for that dictator. Disrupted lives, violence, brutality, and killing purchased with personal income and phone taxes. It is just as real and unjustifiable regardless of whether it happens in a neighboring town or on a neighboring continent.

With high tech weaponry and paid mercenaries, it takes money more than soldiers to wage war. A case in point is that the drafting of young men into military (dis)service is currently inactive yet the federal government’s active draft of income and phone taxes is amply fueling a war in Nicaragua, and an unending nuclear and chemical weapons buildup.

Yet people continue to pay their federal income taxes. Why is it that we can allow cruel injustice to occur daily in one place while refusing to allow it in another? Are the lives of latin Americans or Philippinos [sic] less important to us than those of our neighbors in Erving? Or is it that with distance the truth of what is happening becomes less real to us; for we are not faced with the routine torture of our friends and family?

To question is to have the burden of finding the truth placed upon ourselves. It means introspection with a possible finding of complicity and guilt. It means change; changing the way we see things and how we act accordingly.

All of us are familiar with the old saying about how people don’t like change. More to the point, perhaps, is that people fear change, especially if it means one is deciding to refuse to pay their federal income taxes.

To refuse paying federal income taxes puts us at risk of losing those things which make us feel secure and free. In light of how vague the suffering of distant people is to us, we are not readily convinced to put ourselves at risk.

But by turning our backs on the truth we lose more than security, we lose a part of our humanity. And so, when we see for ourselves the wrongs done in our name and with our money, how do we refuse taking part in them?

In , members of Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance who live in Wendell held an evening potluck and discussion on the matter of war tax refusal. About 25 people attended to talk about the philosophy, history, methods, and consequences of war tax refusal. Throughout the evening we realized that we share many common values that, perhaps, lead us to tax refusal.

Supporting each other as we live according to these values makes the uncertainty about our futures easier to take. In the event that our home is on the IRS auction block, the fact that we have someplace else to stay may give us the strength to endure our loss. If we must leave our job because IRS takes our paycheck for its uses, then the monetary support of our friends helps to feed and clothe our family.

If we recognize and foster our interdependence based on faith in community and nonviolence, then we provide the security we need with each other to face squarely the possible consequences brought by living our beliefs.

Rosie Heidkamp
Eileen Sauvageau

For a more recent example of letters in this tradition, see this letter to the IRS from David and Jan Hartsough recently posted at the CODEPINK site.