by Susan Miller
When we’ve inquired about remodeling our apartment in Manhattan, contractors ask, “Is it pre-war?”
That’s hard to answer. Pre- which war? For the past century, the U.S. has been complicitly or directly at war with countries around the world, with perhaps only a few years during President Jimmy Carter’s administration in which the world was spared from U.S. aggression and so much military aid to influence political and economic decisions.
What has the world gained from the unconscionable numbers of civilians and soldiers killed in war, the money U.S. taxpayers lose to the preparation, payment, and resulting debt to our budget, the destruction of our planet, the crises of homelessness, suicide, gun violence at home, and reduction of health care for the poor and diminishing middle class?
I do have compassion for the men and women who felt duty-bound to express their patriotism or made the less-glamorous choice to enter the military to get a job. Many of those not buried under white crosses with flags planted on their graves today, are buried under PTSD and other spiritual and physical suffering brought on by obeying the call to participate in war.
The people I would like to honor today, however, have and do disobey the call to lend their bodies, money and minds to perpetuate war.
They include Conscientious Objectors who were imprisoned in military camps and penitentiaries during World War I who refused to pick up a gun or wear a military uniform. Of these, 29 died during the war as a direct result of saying, “no” to war.
Other honor goes to the church leaders who worked with the law to provide a way for Conscientious Objectors to do alternative service in hospitals and facilities for the mentally ill; and in soil conservation and firefighting camps. The drafted men and volunteer women and men who entered these kinds of service made the world better, notably in helping reform how people with mental illnesses are treated.
Other Conscientious Objectors broke the law. They refused to sign up when drafted or burned their draft cards. Some went to prison, others went to Canada or into hiding away from home awaiting the end of the time when they were subject to the military draft.
In the Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom and her family, went to a concentration camp for disobeying the Nazi law by sheltering Jewish people in their home. She was the only family member who survived.
In the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories, Rachel Corrie stood up to a bulldozer in her effort to shield a Palestinian family’s home from destruction. The soldier followed orders and kept driving, killing her.
Today the “poverty draft” is the only draft that calls for bodies to fight war. However, the draft of federal taxes to pay for war affects people of all ages. War cannot go on without money.
So on this Memorial Day, I especially want to honor Conscientious Objectors to Military Taxation. These are my friends who quietly or openly take steps to keep their tax money from paying for the 50% of the federal budget that pays for past, present and future wars, while leaving a national debt to our grandchildren that is unbearable.
Some live legally below taxable income. Others openly report all their income but refuse to pay all, the military percentage or a token amount in taxes. The subject themselves to fines, interest and often pay out more than double the amount they resisted since they often give or redirect the amount of money of their tax liability to people who need help. They donate money for education, food, housing, health care, clean water and so many other worthwhile things that create life, not death.
Today, thank a Conscientious Objector. Become a Peace Maker.