By Lauren Tepper
“I believe that we must consciously develop a greater sense of Universal Responsibility. We must learn to work not just for our own individual self, family, or nation, but for the benefit of all humankind.”
—H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
When I first began war tax resistance, it was not something I wanted to do. It felt like, as Julia Butterfly Hill has called it, a “choiceless choice.” Given my abhorrence of war, I could not justify paying for it with my tax dollars. I had felt this way for years, but it seemed futile for me alone to take a stand. I dreamed of organizing a movement, a group of people who would resist paying taxes in solidarity. When I learned several years ago that there actually was such a group (and had been all along, unbeknownst to me!) I joined up right away. But it still felt more like a moral obligation than something I was eager to do.
It took a lot of soul searching for me to take the plunge. My carefully amassed (though relatively meager) life savings and my up until now perfect credit rating gave me the illusion of security, and I was reluctant to let it go.
Since then, war tax resistance has become part of my spiritual practice and has helped me strengthen my character as well as being able to live more in alignment with my ideals. Letting go has been one of the big spiritual lessons of war tax resistance for me. I think about how being a war tax resister will impact my life as I age, in the event that I want to own things like a home or a car which I presently do not. But, life being as uncertain as it is, war tax resistance is a great reminder to stay in the moment as much as I can. It seems that things unfold in a miraculous way when I let go of my controlling nature and let them flow.
Another spiritual benefit of war tax resistance for me is that it helps me cultivate the courage and selflessness to stand up to authority and do what I feel is right, regardless of the personal consequences for me. Since I am relatively new at this and have taken steps to consciously reduce my income, I have not had to face any consequences as of yet, other than the intimidating warning letters from the IRS. Rather than dreading and fearing this process as I did in the beginning, I am now beginning to welcome it as an important part of my spiritual growth.
As a freelance yoga instructor, personal trainer, and writer, things I do to reduce my income include working on exchange instead of for money, and simply taking on less work when I can afford it. This gives me the added benefit of more free time to enjoy life’s simple and inexpensive pleasures!
War tax resistance has also connected me with a wonderful assortment of colorful and courageous individuals through NWTRCC. Although the NYC contingent, from my limited experience, seems to be a group of radical individualists (which I love!) with busy schedules so we don’t get together all too frequently, it is always a breath of fresh air to connect with this community. I am inspired by everyone who does this along with me, and especially motivated to continue by the presence of longstanding resisters in my community, who practice with endless patience, tirelessness, selflessness, and good humor.
I pay my state taxes (not that I care to support state corruption either, but I don’t find it as abhorrent as the U.S. military machine, and as they say sometimes we have to ‘choose our battles’). Since I am self-employed, I file my federal taxes as usual but withhold 50% of what I owe, as this is approximately the amount that goes to the military. I send my return with a letter explaining why I am not paying the full amount. I redirect the money as I feel our tax dollars should be used: to support environmental protection; social services like libraries, educational services, food banks; and organizations that work to obtain basic human rights for all.
I realize that life is too short to cower to power, and that we all have a source of strength within that is way beyond the power others may have over us. Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” As a war tax resister I feel able to take steps toward bringing about this day when the world will know peace, which seems to me like an effective form of activism. The more I take personal responsibility for the world I live in and see everything as connected, the more I am able to live what feels true to me. I hope to see the day when a more just government structure will eliminate the need for war tax resistance, but until then I am thankful for this community of people and this opportunity to live what I believe.