This piece originally appeared in the December 2016 / January 2017 issue of NWTRCC’s bimonthly newsletter, More Than a Paycheck: Refusing to Pay for War. Subscribe to our e-list to receive this newsletter in your inbox!
Don’t Lament: Resist and Redirect
By Ruth Benn
Some months ago a review copy of a book by one of NWTRCC’s founders, Bill Durland, arrived in the office. Since it’s not about war tax resistance, I poked into it but hadn’t gotten to reading it for review. Then the book’s title caught my eye recently, The Demise of American Democracy: Explaining the Crisis and What To Do About It. It was published last spring during an election campaign that presumably only strengthened Durland’s premise: that the disintegration of representative government began between 1963 and 1980 and has turned the evolution of democracy away from justice.
The book draws together many factors that play into this disintegration and empower a conservative agenda with the “intention to relocate public governmental power to wealthy, private corporations and religious organizations.” Replacing voting and representation “will be an elite and much overpaid CEO and a Board of Directors.” Well, that’s rather prescient.
Maybe it makes me feel a fraction better to be reminded that this whole democracy thing is a process, and we’ve always been in it for the long haul. Still, there is no denying our work is cut out for us, and war tax resisters are well placed to help strengthen the movement for peace, justice, and something closer to true democracy.
- It seems we are about to have a President who does not pay taxes, so we should be able to explain the difference between conscientious tax refusal and gaming the system for personal benefit. Will many counseling calls be from people who just feel they shouldn’t have to pay if the president doesn’t pay? Maybe, but there is already new interest from people who are newly or re- activated after the election.
- Redirection of taxes is one way to differentiate ourselves. Those of us who do refuse to pay the IRS can emphasize what we do with the money instead. Those who live below taxable income can talk about all the ways they use their resources to work for peace and justice. NWTRCC’s meeting in Florida produced a call for a coordinated redirection effort in 2017. (Stay tuned for more details.)
- Love trumps hate. NWTRCC’s last gathering came just before election day, but as we talked about the deep divide in this country, many spoke about making more effort to reach out to people who seem to be “on the other side.” As Robert Randall said, “No group is monolithic. Trump people do agree that the system is fucked up. Some don’t think we should be in foreign military operations. I should try to find the people who don’t want to be in wars of aggression, who believe some of the things I do. They might want to join in not paying for that crap.”
- Work with as broad a coalition as possible, connecting issues and adding your expertise in war tax refusal and redirection to the tactics of others. Tell NWTRCC what you are doing, especially what successes you have in working with groups you haven’t connected with before.
Ruth Benn is NWTRCC’s Coordinator.
William Durland’s book, with a forward by Loring Wirbel, is published by The Edwin Mellen Press, PO Box 450, Lewiston, New York 14092, (716) 754-2788, mellenpress.com.