National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

War Tax Resistance Gathering • Cleveland, Ohio

Saturday morning, November 7, 2009

See pictures from the gathering and Dave Gross’s blog report Nov. 7 and Nov. 8

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Making Connections/Working Together
Friday night poetry program report

Reports on Local WTR activity and NWTRCC Programs

Bill Ramsey reported on the future of the War Tax Boycott campaign. We’ll update and maintain the website as another entry point for people interesting in WTR. We’ll leave signers on the list unless they opt out. It still attracts a good percentage of new people.

David, Birmingham, Ala. – We don’t have a group but we do have a network of people that can be pulled together as needed. We did the program with NWTRCC meeting and Boycott press conference with a few people. So you don’t need a group for things to happen — it doesn’t take that much.

Pam, Portland, Ore. – Have a small group also with potlucks every month and that keeps them together. Trying to align themselves more with faith groups and IVAW. Have a GI coffeehouse there. Keep on keeping on. Need to address some problems with cohesiveness. Mostly organize around tax day with burma shave signs on bridges. Brian Willson is in Portland now and hope to get him to speak.

Erica, Seattle – NACC mostly does the fund. Tabled at anarchist bookfairs and found all kinds of WTRs she didn’t know about. Met one person there that might help begin a group so am more motivated to get a group started. One person doing something like tabling can get things going.

Jim, Asheville Fools of Conscience, N.C. – Meets about once a year. Tax day actions in Asheville. Last year met at P.O. and marched to city hall and met the tea party folks. One area resister received a frivolous penalty warning and is worried about an assessment so have been talking with her. S.E. Regional gathering happening this winter.

Juanita, Pioneer Valley WTR, Greenfield, Mass. – New England gathering just happened in Vermont. 25th anniversary of gatherings next year. PVWTR meet about every other month. Not too active but still does tax day actions.

Bill, St. Louis Covenant Community of WTRs – group doesn’t meet but they see each other frequently and do stuff together. Have been working to straighten out problems with our alternative fund, which got passed on as banks merged and somehow turned over to group on environmental fund. They took the money market funds and invest them in treasury bonds! Working on moving to socially responsible investing. Rules with bank accounts have changed over the years since 9/11. A few years ago they did the 1040 form with the war pictures – ghost images in red. Put them back in the piles where forms are given. Should we do such a thing across the country and see if it causes a stir? Some frivolous filing warnings received locally, and a proessor might do a press conference if his salary is levied.

Penny, Cleveland – Has been the district contact for the peace tax fund and also works on health care efforts.

Maria, Cleveland – Group of WTRs has been evolving over the years. There are a small number of folks resisting and all are active with many groups through the Cleveland Nonviolence Network. We do an April 15 witness in Public Square. For a Christmas present she gave Charlie her pledge to pass out palm cards. Try to roll it all in together. CNVN is promoting the study of nonviolence. What does it mean to make a commitment to nonviolence? She and Charlie have gotten a lot of press over the last few years as war tax resisters.

Rod, Amesville, Ohio – Active with area antiwar coalition. Probably ½ people in the group are WTRs. Do a penny poll every year for 20 years. Community knows about it. Newspapers cover it. Local postmaster changes but they are never supportive. Mayor comes by. He gets bulk NWTRCC newsletters and gives all of them away each time.

Ginny, New Hampshire – Quite a few tax resisters in N.H. so it’s harder to organize WTR. Free state movement – 20,000 people to move to N.H. to take over government. Gun issue is problematic with them. Browns arrested in N.H. over tax issues. They were heavily armed so people get it mixed up. She decided to focus on tabling and outreach in one-on-one way and currently tables at Concord High School with literature about truth in recruitment and WTR. Sticks with legal ways to resist so principal doesn’t kick her out. Has been able to table this fall while the schools gives the ASVAB test; amazing to see how militarism is infused in the school system. She is hearing from others about WTR so the info is getting around. The youth component is important.

Daniel, Tupper Lake, N.Y. – Active with Conscience and Peace International (CPTI). Keeping people around the world in contact is hard but it’s happening. Naomi Paz Greenberg is U.N. rep for CPTI, and much work is done by Skype meetings. Working on the website to help facilitate info-sharing. CPTI Bulletins are going out to share info worldwide. Derek Brett is active in Geneva on CO work, mostly forced participation in war making and human rights; CO to paying for war is part of it. CPTI is set up under Belgian law which has some narrowness as they try to broaden the membership. NWTRCC might consider being a member of CPTI; sends reps to conferences but could also be a member.

Mary, Ithaca (N.Y.) War Tax Resisters – About 5 of them, but they usually do a tax day action at P.O.; a couple years ago did “Drawing the war to a close” with chalk pictures on sidewalk. One local person was garnished recently so doing support for her.

Garland, Austin (Tex.) Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation and in Mennonite Church – Have created a National Assembly to Honor People of Conscience to affirm honor and encourage people to refuse authorized violence each October. It’s a way to bring out CO as a service to the national rather than “evaders” and engage young people as a way to invest energy and passion – sponsored by Mennonite church. War tax is part of that. Susan van Haitsma represented WTR at the last program.

Preview of “Death and Taxes” and Discussion

NWTRCC has been working on a new introductory WTR film, which had been a priority out of the 2005 Strategy Conference. We are finally at the very final stages. The group viewed the near-to-final rough cut and made comments. The Video Committee met over lunch and agreed to ask film editor Carlos to insert a pie chart early on or info on how half of tax dollars go to war, plus a screen later in consequences that indicates how few people go to jail, plus some technical corrections related to sound, sync problems here and there, and such. We will try to add extras to the DVD at some point. We are advertising in our November mailing to have it done in December and ready for tax season. Should be a good intro for presentations and workshops.

Distribution suggestions include — getting it onto cable access TV; Snippets or full version on YouTube; look into other web channels; get out with the new technology;

“Making Connections/Working Together
WTR and the wider peace movement”

Phil Althouse, attorney and election observer in El Salvador, spoke about U.S. influence over Latin America issues in general and El Salvador in particular. The US has concerns about trade consequences. During the January and March 15, 2009 elections FMLN won by a couple percentage points. The vote tally was done by a company based in U.S., but Phil has not seen any verification as to who the company was — not a well-known company in this field which is odd. The El Salvador government is facing monumental challenges, economic and social, and does not have control of some key institutions that could help lead change. El Salvador uses the U.S. dollar for its currency now. It’s hard for countries to tell the U.S. to get lost because of the control the U.S. has over so many countries. There is an opportunity with the new government to join with progressives in other Latin American countries to develop democratic systems.

Mike Ferner, President, Veterans for Peace, spoke about getting radicalized by his experience as a medic, seeing the injured come back. Thinking hard about what we are doing as peace activists and how it seems we do the same thing over and over again. A lot of our activism is fine with the authorities because it gives an appearance of democratic existences but we’re only allowed to nibble around the edges. There’s a difference between activism and organizing – we’re good activists but not so good at organizing. Organizing means going to others, understanding your own values and interests and then going to them and leaning about them and their concerns. What is common among people is wanting a better life. If we had more of a democracy where people would have more power then we would have a chance of building a better life. By talking about a better life and what it would look like, we have a better chance of reaching a wider group of people. As far as war tax resistance, it drove him crazy when he was getting out of the military as a CO, knowing that he might end up paying taxes for war; now he’s able to be a fulltime activist so it’s made a big impact on lowering his family’s taxes.

The populist network – book – mike recommends
Getting disabused of the myths is painful
If he uy.s. does something in the world it has to be for good

Maria spoke about a belief in nonviolence as being the way to get you where you want as opposed to a focus on nonviolence. In addition, creating or pointing to models for alternative economies and making more publicity for that. We do have a stronger movement than we used to – people have changed – but it’s more of a transformation rather than revolution.

Robert – Not convinced that democracy is the answer either — like in Maine “democracy” just overturned a good ruling. WRL and FOR are two groups that have been around for decades. Both are committed to nonviolence – is that what sustains them? Historic peace churches have been against war. To me an underlying value commitment to nonviolence is the answer to sustaining our efforts.

Bill — democracy often equates to election results, but there are other forms of democracy that are more participatory. In the U.S. democracy is so much more about individual choice and not other models.

Phil A. — Democratic elections can be a starting point, but democracy is a process. He also spoke about the U.S. Social Forum 2010 is taking place in Detroit June 22–26 (http://www.ussf2010.org/save-the-date) [at least I think that’s what he was referring to —Ruth]. People in Latin America talk about the same things we are talking about here, and we need to keep making these connections and meeting each other.

Juanita — I can only do what I can do. We can always do something ourselves. We don’t need to wait for others to act first.

Mike F. — Hedges’ book, War: A Force That Gives Us Meaning. For the antiwar movement, is “antiwar” a force that gives us meaning and what does that mean in the long run as far as building the world we want? We could talk about “empire” more, because war is what an empire does. Finds empire draws more people into the conversation than “imperialsim.”

Pam said that we should abolish the qualifier “the” in front of “war”. That compartmentalizes people’s thinking, rather than looking at the bigger picture of war.

Friday night program

Maria Smith talked about the time she and Charlie lived in Latin America and introduced Sr. Diane Pinchot, OSU, artist and School of Americas Watch defendant, who spoke about the interconnections of her art and promoting peace.

Phil Metres presented poetry and a poetry exercise to draw out ideas about violence and peace and what motivates us to do what we do. He read two poems, “The Story So Far” by Shara McCallum, and “Jerusalem” by Naomi Shihab Nye. Both can be found in a book he co-edited, Come Together: Imagine Peace (anthology of peace poems, 2008). He gave the group a question about violence and asked everyone to write a short statement about an experience with violence, and then likewise about peace. In each case he started off the group poem and others in the room added their lines. Here’s a copy of our poem. It was an excellent evening.

Along with the book above, Phil is the author of Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (criticism, 2007), and Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein (2004). His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. He teaches literature and creative writing at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

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