War Tax Resister Wally Nelson’s 100th Birthday

is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Wallace Floyd “Wally” Nelson.

Ten years ago, when he received the “Challenge and Change Award” from the Men’s Resource Center of Western Massachusetts, he reflected back on fifty years of tax resistance — which was just one facet of his life of integrity and activism:

He served time in federal prison as a conscientious objector during World War Ⅱ, and has refused to pay federal income taxes since . “I decided it was ridiculous to pay for what I was in prison protesting.” Nelson maintains that the U.S. government uses taxpayers’ money to fund “premeditated killing” around the world, as well as “rape, mayhem, and mass destruction.” “I said no to all those things,” he once said, but typically disavowed lofty motives, focusing instead on the personal choice involved. “I do not expect to save the world. I do expect to save Wally Nelson from doing some very stupid things.”

For the past 25 years, Wally and Juanita have lived on Woolman Hill in Deerfield, engaged in subsistence farming and living without electricity, a telephone, or running water. In they joined with four other area farmers to form Community Supported Agriculture, a farming cooperative in which customers subscribe in advance to buy produce each growing season. The Nelsons’ simple lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with their tax resistance and other principles.

“It helps us reflect on consumption,” explains Juanita, “and [makes] us feel we want to live more and more simply. Tax refusal is part of a process. It can lead you on to do other things.”

“[Resisting war taxes] is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Wally. “It gave me the freedom to open my mind to anything. Because once you face this tax question, you know then you’re living on the brink. If you can develop that skill, you’ve got it made.”

On another occasion, he said: “I guess a long time ago I got it out of my head I was going to save the world. So I act to save Wally and his integrity. Sometimes it’s in a situation that’s dangerous and sometimes not so dangerous. But I would hope that other people would be inspired to do what they ought to do.”

Which reminds me of what Thoreau wrote in his journal 61 years before Nelson’s birth day:

“If you would convince a man that he does wrong, do right. But do not care to convince him. Men will believe what they see. Let them see.” — Henry David Thoreau,

Those of you in the Greenfield, Massachusetts area can attend a centenary celebration of the life of Wally Nelson .