Allen Ginsberg on His Vietnam-Era Tax Resistance

In , Allen Ginsberg wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury David Kennedy to tell him why Ginsberg would not be paying his taxes. The Allen Ginsberg Trust has put this letter on-line. Excerpts:

I am not able to pay this money into our Treasury to be expended in the continuing illegal and immoral effort to kill or subdue more Vietnamese people.

…I am physically, mentally and morally unable to earn moneys to pay for the Vietnam war. The basic, traditional ethics of my profession as Poet prohibit me from assigning money earned incidental to the publication of literary compositions pronouncing the inhumanity, ungodliness and contra-patriotic nature of this war toward funding the very same war.

…I can’t live in peace with myself and pay taxes into a fund which goes directly into the Vietnam War. This prospect has made me physically ill. Thus if our tax system is so inequitable that it cannot find a reasonable alternative, such as payment of these taxes into a fund which is not used in this war, then I will be relieved to go to jail rather than pay money to the war.

I give my fellow San Franciscans a hard time for their usually symbolic and weak anti-war gestures — such as the non-binding resolutions they righteously vote on at every election.

So I should compensate by giving credit where credit is due, and in this case it’s due to the San Francisco Board of Education, which kicked the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps out of the San Francisco public schools , and also due to the groups that pushed the Board to do this. It was particularly bold to do it now, when “San Francisco Values” are in the gunsights of the Fox News set and the Republican talking points generators.

The JROTC has been doing its thing in San Francisco’s public schools for now. “It’s basically a branding program, or a recruiting program for the military,” said Board member Dan Kelly. Students get school credit for participating in the program, which is funded 50/50 by the school district and the military.

The program prides itself on improving discipline in its students, but it does so by instilling an authoritarian mindset. Its training materials are full of evil crap of this sort:

  • “When troops react to command rather than thought, the result is more than just a good-looking ceremony or parade. Drill has been and will continue to be the backbone of military discipline.”
  • “Respect for authority and discipline go hand in hand, but the first one to be acquired must be discipline. Self-discipline involves voluntary acceptance of authority.”
  • “Among the traits of a good follower, loyalty is at the top of the list. This means loyalty to those above us on the chain of command, whether or not we agree with them.”

That sort of discipline we don’t need. JROTC infects children with the uniform-wearing, regimental, rank-worshipping, responsibility-dodging, order-following pathology that has caused (and is causing) so much trouble. Congratulations to the determined San Francisco activists who finally kicked them out!