By Carol Dotterer
My 88-year-old mom, Ruth Kirk, was visiting me in South Carolina when we were asked to write a profile for this newsletter after we asked for some Zombie war tax resistance forms mentioned in the December 2011 issue.
Ruth: I sent every senator and representative a copy of the book Addicted to War. I sent them a questionnaire to answer about the book. Not one of them answered it. I followed up with a letter a year later saying you were not courteous enough to thank me for the book I sent. I received one reply. That senator said he never got the book. It seems to me that all our representatives benefit from war profiteering, therefore they want to continue having wars. I financially support many peace organizations.
Carol: It’s easy to see how I got involved in the peace movement. My mother has always been a woman of peace and an inspiration to me, as well as many others. Add to this the fact that both of us are birthright Quakers, a faith that subscribes and practices the testimony of peace, and you can see why our lives have taken this direction. Both of us grew up in Philadelphia, the “hotbed” of Quakerism as well as the home of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. We both like the quote they use: “It’ll be a great day when the Air Force has to have a bake sale to build a bomber!”
Ruth: We had a serendipitous moment when we met at a peace rally in Florida because neither of us knew we would be there. I came to the peace rally with a group of people from St. Petersburg where I was living at that time. My daughter was there with a group from Koinonia — an intended peace and justice community — in Americus, Georgia. Now I am active in the Granny Peace Brigade in Philadelphia. We give out flyers with phone numbers of senators and representatives in Washington and have petitions for people to sign to bring our troops home. Every week I call Washington to reduce our military budget and bring our troops home.
Carol: Currently in Charleston a small group of us, Charleston Peace, are planning on visiting our representatives when they’re on recess and asking them to cut the military budget. We’re also planning on doing a counter recruitment at a local high school’s career fair where, as in the past, we’ll hand out flyers, brochures, peace buttons giving students alternatives to joining the military and letting them know the facts and their rights. In the spring, we hope to continue our bi-monthly vigils for peace, handing out flyers here too on the cost of war. We are also planning on hosting the American Friends Service Committee’s exhibit of artwork from students in Afghanistan called “Windows and Mirrors.”
Ruth: One year I did not pay income tax. It only took them three months to contact me. I wrote back that I was not paying for war, and I know more than half my tax goes to the military. Naturally they did not accept my reason for not paying so they added penalties and interest to my tax, and they deducted it from my paycheck. When I realized they would get much more money this way, I paid the tax. For several years they have audited my taxes trying to get more, but I paid them in full so they could not penalize me.
Carol: About 5 years ago here in Charleston, we had a group of activists trying to get a Department of Peace established in Washing-ton, DC. The national group was the Peace Alliance and the bill they sponsored called for establishing nonviolence as an organizing principal of American society — a novel idea indeed! The bill would provide the U.S. President with an array of peace-building policy options for domestic and international use. We had a few fundraisers and some events to raise awareness, but unfortunately it was hard to gain much interest and support so it kind of fizzled out.
Ruth: When will we have a peace college comparable to West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy? If we are the number one country of the world, we should set an example and lead the world to peace. We must have people in United States who know how to work for peace if they were given the time and a good salary. We need a Department of Peace that has as much power as the other departments have. The Pentagon could become our Department of Peace so the government does not even have to build a new building.
Carol: Finally, since money talks, my mother and I have supported the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, which for the past 40+ years has been trying to get a bill allowing conscientious objector status for taxpayers passed in Congress. This bill would establish a fund in the federal treasury to receive the taxes of conscientious objectors, which would be allocated annually to any nonmilitary appropriation within the federal budget. Kudos go to Representative John Lewis from Georgia and Dennis Kucinich, who have been steadfast supporters of this. Needless to say, this bill still hasn’t passed!
Carol and Ruth: We realize that this is an uphill task; however with organizations like National War Tax Resistance, Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and Occupy, there is hope that we will have a peaceful world for our children and grandchildren.