April 15, 2015
Dear Friends at the IRS,
I will not be paying the amount that my tax returns state that I “owe” for 2014, because over 50% of the money collected would go toward military spending. As a conscientious objector to all war I just cannot do it. I know it doesn’t make sense to many caring people, and I may be seen at best as foolishly idealistic, but I feel a strong resonance with these words that were spoken by the late Wally Nelson, “We don’t intend to cooperate with the IRS in its attempts to make us pay for killing. What would you do if I came into your office tomorrow with a cup in my hand, asking you for contributions to enable me to buy guns and kill a group of people I don’t like?” Wally’s widow, Juanita Nelson who died recently at age 91, once said, “It is, as far as I can see, an unpleasant fact that we cannot avoid decision-making. We are not absolved by following the dictates of a mentor or of a majority… [and] it still appears to me that, while the seat of government is in Washington, the seat of conscience is in me. It cannot be voted out of office by one or a million others.” Their words sum up my beliefs and the actions I must take based on my conscience.
The U.S. – the largest military spender in the world, is still spending more than the combined spending of all of the 15 next biggest military spenders in the world, and does so as our infrastructure continues to crumble, and more than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,550 a year for a family of four. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in his farewell address to the nation, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft for those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Even if I did believe that war was sometimes necessary as many caring people do, I just do not see this “hyper-spending” helping to make us any safer and I find myself agreeing with Tom Engelhardt, in a piece called “The Enemy-Industrial Complex: How to Turn a World Lacking in Enemies into the Most Threatening Place in the Universe,” in which he describes how we manufacture enemies to justify a bloated military budget.
Howard Zinn, a historian, and World War Ⅱ bombardier and originally an ardent supporter of that war – a war many people believe was a “just war,” states in his autobiography, “the atmosphere of war brutalizes everyone involved, begets a fanaticism in which the original moral factor (which certainly existed in World War Ⅱ-opposition to a ruthless tyranny, to brutal aggression) is buried at the bottom of a heap of atrocities committed by all sides. while there are certainly vicious enemies of liberty and human rights in the world war itself is the most vicious of enemies. And that while some societies can rightly claim to be more liberal, more democratic, more humane than others, the difference is not great enough to justify the massive, indiscriminate slaughter of modern warfare.”
I agree with Zinn, and believe it is important for all of us to be leery of the concept of “just warfare,” and further to see the connection between massive military spending and justifying that spending by sending troops and drones into conflicts all over the planet.
Does anyone feel any safer than they did before 9/11 with the trillions of dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? As President Eisenhower also said in his farewell address, “This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of it scientists, and the hopes of its children.”
I know we can think of better ways to spend our sweat, genius and hopes, and look forward to a day when the U.S. budget no longer sends a message to the world that our nation’s top priority is war. In the words of John Lennon, “Imagine all the people living life in peace. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man, imagine all the people sharing all the world.” Thankfully, I know I am not the only one, and that so many of us are working for peace in so many different ways! And to quote President Eisenhower one last time, “I think that people want peace SO much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.”
Because I cannot separate out the money that will not be spent on the military, I will be redirecting all of my refused tax dollars toward victims of war at home and abroad.