Doing the Right Thing is Never Futile

| History, Media

Last month, war tax resister Randy Kehler was interviewed on Local Bias, a public access TV show in Massachusetts, by guest host Marian Kelner.

Some highlights:

“In 1969, I was giving a talk at an international conference of war resisters from around the world. And I had turned in my draft card, I had refused to cooperate with the Vietnam draft, and I knew I’d be heading to prison soon, and I said that in the talk. And unbeknownst to me, this guy named Daniel Ellsberg [was there], who was a combat marine officer who’d been in Vietnam, and he’d been fighting in the trenches in Vietnam and worked for the Pentagon and the Rand Corporation and high up in all this stuff. I didn’t know he was listening. And when I said to everyone in the audience – very soon I expect to be in prison because I won’t cooperate in this war, he cracked up… he burst out crying… because he had been trying to think, what can I do to stop this war? …[Daniel Ellsberg said,] the question I’d never asked myself until I’d heard [Randy Kehler] speak, was what would I be willing to do or to risk if I, like Randy or other men like him, were willing to go to prison for doing that?”

Of course, Randy Kehler had no idea that his speaking at this conference would inspire Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers. Randy says, “Never feel like doing the right thing is futile. It’s never futile. You just don’t know what the repercussions will be.”

Randy also speaks of his long-time war tax resistance:

“Paying taxes for war, for example, knowing that the tax money will buy bombs that will kill families and children and grandparents and destroy hospitals and homes and the environment… I reached a point, back during the Vietnam War, where I thought, not only can I not lend my body to the war machine, and that’s what it is, a war machine, the biggest, most gigantic war machine the world has ever known, but I can’t lend my money to support it either…

“All I can say is, my conscience doesn’t let me do certain things. And I’m not perfect and I do a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t do, believe me, but there are certain places where I draw the line. I always remember that wonderful line, I think it was by E.E. Cummings, who said, ‘there is some shit that I will not eat.’

Marian Kelner also asks, “Where do you find joy in your life?”

“I find joy in little things. Right now in my life, my two little grandchildren, and my friends. And I find inspiration from people who often times have been a lot more courageous than I’ve ever been, who speak out, who risk arrest, who go to prison for what is right. And I’m inspired by them. That keeps me going… There is joy in doing what you think is right.”

Read more about Randy Kehler’s life of resistance here.

3 thoughts on “Doing the Right Thing is Never Futile”

  1. Chris Nelson says:

    Can I get Randy’s email? I’d like to invite him on the Peace and Justice Radio show on KZFR Community Radio. Thanks, Chris Nelson co-host and WTR since 1980.

    1. Erica says:

      Hi Chris, please contact our office at I don’t have Randy’s info but Ruth should be able to get you connected. -Erica

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