21 Years and Still Hanging In There

| Profiles

By Liz Scranton

I began my journey with war tax resistance in 1989 and now, over twenty years later, I am still hanging in there with every bit as much resolve. My conviction that it is wrong for my tax dollars to fund wars to “keep us secure” remains strong.

When I started doing WTR my life was simpler than it is today, and it was easier for me at the beginning. In 1989 my partner and I were renting a small cabin and I was working doing small boat-painting jobs. I was also young and naive and ready to change the world. Today I am a bit wiser, and more jaded, about how the world works and what
it takes to change the status quo. I have settled on an island where I do what I can to make my beliefs consistent with a life living close to the land in a close-knit community and a fragile environment.

My priorities are different than they were in 1989. I have my own business and now I own a home with my partner; thus being a war tax resister is more complicated. At times I have struggled with being a WTR and with the complex issues that have arisen as a result of my beliefs, including harassment from the IRS and financial complexities. I have come close to giving up on war tax resistance a number of times, but in the end I have always stuck with it, and I am happy about that commitment. It seems that with every new war, my convictions are reinforced-even as WTR has created tensions with my partner and family. Owning a home has made my tax resistance stressful, and recent inheritance issues have added another layer of complication. It is not always an easy choice, especially since I lack support from a local WTR group.

If I can’t change the way our country spends our tax dollars, I can make a difference in how I spend my own income. I feel sustained, also, by conscious choices about how I spend my time and live my life. When I began as a resister I was very active in the peace and justice movement. I spent years volunteering with a community land trust and building affordable housing. I served with a community action agency, and I have been a mentor to a number of young children. Today my passion is food security issues and organics. My partner and I have educated ourselves about where our food comes from and ways it is produced. Our industrial farming complex that is destroying our land, polluting our water, and making animals and people sick was born out of a need to use up all the chemicals left over after WWII. In a way you could say that the organic food revolution is also an antiwar revolution.

Over the last ten years we have gone from eating just a small amount of local food to eating approximately 80 percent food that is produced within 100 miles of us. At least 60 percent of that food is from our own community,
including honey from our beehives. Our latest project is planting a fruit orchard. We have finished the deer fencing on three quarters of an acre, and we will be planting 20 fruit trees and a variety of berries this month. This past winter I planted a native plant hedgerow along the orchard fence line to encourage birds and beneficial insects. This spring we joined a grain Community Supported Agriculture project and will receive beans and grain next fall!

We have changed our diet drastically, including becoming omnivores (we had been vegetarians for 17 years). I milk two cows and we use the milk and cream to make butter, yogurt, and a variety of delicious cheeses. Last year we began raising chickens for consumption, and we also eat wild game that I hunt locally. It seems strange, sometimes, that a hard-core peace activist and WTR like me now owns and regularly uses a gun. If you told me 20 years that this would be the case, I would have laughed.

Being a WTR is an ongoing struggle and many things continue to challenge me. These include a number of IRS bank seizures, threatening letters, and family pressures as a result of joint inheritance of property. The latest bank seizure left me with an empty business account. This was a first, and now it is difficult for me to pay employees and business expenses as I can no longer keep much money in the account. When I called my small local bank after the seizure, the person at the bank told me that IRS collections are on the rise and that I should not keep money in the account.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother with the hassle of being a war tax resister. As I age (I am in my early fifties) I look back on the original reasons that I became a WTR, and although my passions and priorities have changed, my original ideals hold true today. It comes down to the basics: do I want to pay for death, environmental degradation, and destruction of communities, or do I want to support health care, education, environmental programs, and the development of renewable resources? The answer is obvious since I am writing this article-my “money” is on life-giving programs. In the long run, despite the ups and downs, the war tax resistance journey
is one still worth living.

Liz Scranton has a custom wood-finishing business on Lopez Island in Washington State. She is a native plant fanatic, environmentalist, beekeeper, gardener, orchardist, hunter, and war tax resister. She would be happy to
hear from you about your own journey.