Internal Revenue Service Center
Andover, MA 05501-0102
Dear Fellow Human Being,
Enclosed you will find my tax returns for the 2004 tax year, and my payment voucher. You will notice that I have not included payment.
I imagine that you are tired, that you have worked long hours. Perhaps your back hurts; you have been drinking a lot of coffee to keep going. Maybe you have a sick child at home, maybe a sick parent. I hope there is someone who loves you waiting to welcome you home when you walk in the door and kick off your shoes, finally, to let your feet breathe after all these hours in the office.
I think you have probably seen a lot of tax returns, and probably most people have just paid what this government tells them to. I used the “TurboTax” online tax service to guide me through what seemed like an incredibly obtuse, complicated, arbitrary, and unnecessarily vague tax calculation process. It seems like it should have been pretty simple: I made $12,000 last year, in cash, caring for elders in their homes. I do not fully understand why I owe the amount that I owe, but I will take it to accurately reflect what some people have deemed proper tax codes. I entered all information to the best of my ability and with honesty.
It is with trepidation and humility that I write this now to you, because I know you must want to go home, maybe you have lost patience with those of us who dare to question the legitimate authority of the Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America to demand any money from us. Maybe you have already stopped reading this, having impatiently stamped it for consideration by your superiors, but I hope you are still reading, because I want to tell you why I’m not paying my taxes this year. It was a really hard decision for me, and now I am going on faith that there is actually a person at the other end of this letter, someone who feels things, maybe felt the sun today, or noticed the grass getting steadily greener as the spring deepens. I watch these words appear on my own screen, and I will print them out and send them to you, out into the universe, with the faith that there are good people who work for our country’s government.
I have to believe that somewhere inside each of us, we want the same things: to love and be loved, to be a part of something, to feel at home, to be inspired, awed by something that feels Holy, to live well, to experience contentment, peace and happiness, to weather the hard times with grace and the help of friends and family, and to die without too much pain or fear. These are my dreams for you, and for all of humanity. If it was up to me, the people who make the big decisions that shape the future of our country and the world would ask whether their choices contribute to realizing these tender wishes, or instead dash them to bits against the concrete and rubble of the military industrial mess our country has become.
I am going on and on, and I know that by now you can tell where I’m going with this: in my heart, I cannot honor the demands of the Internal Revenue Service of the United States of America. Because, you see, at some point, I do actually believe that it IS up to me. It is up to all of us who have a conscience, who feel the tug of some Deeper Meaning for Being Here — to listen to the tender dreams and dare to question what is impersonal and impenetrable. So, rather than honor the demands of an institution whose authority I can no longer recognize, I will honor the call of my heart. I will honor the cry of the poor, the pleas of those we have bombed, the tears of children and mothers, the moans of the slaughtered men in Fallujah, the fear of the soldiers who return under cover of night to the U.S. because they are wounded and the media doesn’t report those stories. I will honor the future generations of the land we call Iraq, whose blood and bones and soil and water will be contaminated with Depleted Uranium from our weapons for more time than we can fathom. I will honor the ones from our country – usually poor — who were sent to fight by men – usually rich — who lie, and lie again, and lie again. These liars will not comfort the soldiers when they get sick because depleted uranium dust has wormed its way into their very cells. They will shout, louder and louder, “Support the Troops,” but then they will cut Veterans services, because they are too costly.
I will honor the trees, the soil, the water of our own land, so beleaguered, so under siege, because we U.S. citizens will go to great lengths to avoid the consequences of our vast over-consumption of energy resources in every area of our horrifically unsustainable “way of life.” The man who many call President, Mr. Bush, says we are fighting this war to preserve our “way of life” and “fight terror.” He is right in one way: we are killing, maiming, and stealing to preserve our inherently unsustainable, resource-guzzling way of life, but this way of life cannot be preserved. The people who call themselves the leaders of this country have chosen to point us down a path toward endless war for the dwindling oil resources of our shimmering, finite home planet, and the terror can only increase if we keep going.
We all know the consequences, in our hearts and our bodies. We can see, we can feel. According to the judgments of the Nuremberg tribunal, our pre-emptive, aggressive invasion of Iraq constituted the supreme international crime. Nobel Peace Prize winners from Poland, Argentina, Guatemala, and East Timor have called the U.S. invasion of Fallujah genocide. The abuses at Abu Ghraib are endemic of what war IS. Those soldiers were doing their JOBS: they were seeking to dehumanize other human beings, and in the process, dehumanizing themselves. Who are we? What have we become?
I recently spent one month in Australia with an amazing group of people from all over the world who are dedicating their lives to serving Life, ministering to the magical unfolding of Creation, its miracle and mystery. For thirty days, we gathered together to mourn for what we are losing every day: wetlands, the rainforests that are the lungs of our planet, unhurried childhood, the ozone layer, ocean plankton, meaningful, participatory democracy, to name just a few. We gathered also to celebrate the exquisite design that could craft opposable thumbs, humpback whales, breathable air, and water, out of just a few inorganic building materials. It is an astounding world that we share, you and I.
When I came back to the United States, the first newspaper I picked up in my town spoke of Congress approving billions of dollars for more funding for the war effort in Iraq. On the same front page, there was a picture of children from my town, with a headline declaring that childcare services would have to be cut at a federally funded childcare site. There just wasn’t enough money.
I know you know as well as I do: there is so much money. There just isn’t enough to pay for endless, illegitimate, illegal, unjust wars and care for our children, not to mention pay for education and healthcare. If our government can’t make what seems like the obvious choice here, then the IRS has lost its mandate to demand any money from me.
I will henceforth be solely responsible for where my money goes. I will voluntarily tithe myself, because I long to live in a society that cares for each other and I believe that starts with me. I will send half of what I tithe to the Social Security Administration, because I believe wholeheartedly in a culture that cares for those who cannot care for themselves, and social insurance is an evolutionary triumph for ordinary people here in the United States. The same people who lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (while developing new nuclear weapons here) are lying to us about Social Security. So I will gladly and joyfully stand in opposition to such a cold-hearted attempt to steal security from those who need it. Next, I will send annual donations to a Veterans hospital of my choosing, since the US government does not seem to care very much for its soldiers once they can no longer fight. Third, I will send money to both the Post Office and the Public Library in my town, because I believe the free exchange of information and ideas is of crucial importance. Fourth, I will continue to support the Ithaca Health Fund, which is a community fund of money for health care, since the U.S. government does not consider the health of its (non rich) citizens to be a top priority. Finally, I will strive every day of my life to live lightly and lovingly on this beautiful, bountiful Earth. I will share what I have been given, care for elders, and teach children to respect the mysterious unseen things that make our lives possible, like the ozone layer, ocean plankton, whatever it is inside seeds that makes them sprout and grow, and the microbes in good, clean soil. I will ride my bike, rather than own a car. I will support what is small and local. I will vote every minute with my body, my heart, my spirit, my money, my work, my play, my food, my smile, my tears, my life — for a country that has the courage to tell the truth.
May you be blessed, and may you get home soon,