As Erica mentioned in her post last week, I’ve been clearing out old war tax resistance files and sorting those that will go to the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. Along with many other peace groups — War Resisters League, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom — NWTRCC sends our newsletters, audio-visual materials, literature, and other organizing papers to the archive. The Peace Collection also saves our website periodically, so that online information will be available to researchers.
Going through the files is quite a project, and you have to be very disciplined to press along and not read every note, every flyer, and every letter sent to the IRS or elected officials with a copy to NWTRCC. The queries are deeply moving as people struggle with their anxiety about their money being used to kill.
The letters to the IRS make me so proud to be part of this community of resistance and refusal. In a 1992 letter to the IRS with the family’s 1040, Minnesota resister Hanno Klassen (1920-2004) writes: “…since Vietnam we have frequently refused to finance the U.S. aggressive killing machine. This money is now not only killing the human race, but also our planet and the creation on earth.” That year Hanno sent two checks to the IRS; one was made out to the IRS for part of the taxes due, and the other was made out to the Civilian Casualty Fund for victims of the first Gulf War. He wanted to prove to the IRS that they paid their taxes in full, but asked the IRS to forward the second check to the Fund. Instead the IRS stamped “INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE” over the Casualty Fund name, and Hanno’s bank put the check through. He protested the processing of a counterfeit check to no avail.
Poking into the files means being reminded of so many people who are now gone. I was happy to see again a letter from another longtime resister Lou Waronker (1942-2014). He had included a quote by Wendel Bull from the newsletter of Peacemakers — the quote that inspired Lou to become a war tax resister in the 1960s:
“Talk is cheap. I find no fault with officers of government, who brush off the pleadings of peace advocates, so long as collections from that same source are steady. Money talks. It is the individual taxpayer’s carte blanche to his duly elected and appointed officials. This I must not give.”
I had created a few files dedicated to notable individuals, and one of them was for the South African poet Dennis Brutus (1924 -2009). When he contacted NWTRCC in 2004, Dennis was a professor emeritus in the Departments of Africana Studies and English at the University of Pittsburgh, and the IRS was after him for refused taxes. He sent his Statement of Tax Resistance to them and others:
I am prepared to pay taxes where these are due but have decided not to pay taxes that will be used to purchase arms for immoral and unjust actions such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq, among many other actions. I am prepared to become a Tax Resister to protest the use of taxes for unjust and immoral military action. I am willing to pay legitimate taxes, if this can be agreed upon, and have asked to know what percentage of my taxes will be used for military purposes and have not yet received information.
It was especially exciting when his notes came with a handwritten poem. This was a favorite.
I could get quite melancholy, but then some other tidbit will perk me up, like what former NWTRCC Coordinator Karen Marysdaughter wrote in her memorial service tribute to Marion Bromley (1912-1996):
When I think about life after death, I tend to think it probably needs organizing, too. So I’m glad to know Marion has gone on ahead to get things going there, just as she did here. It’s so much nicer not to have to start from scratch!
And that is what archiving is about too: Reminding those who come after that they don’t have to start from scratch.
— Post by Ruth Benn
6 thoughts on “Laugh, Cry, Carry On! Mining NWTRCC’s Archives”
Thanks to Ruth and Lincoln for what must have been a very tedious but rewarding delve into the archives !
I love this reflective looking back and thinking of the long run look at NWTRCC in the work that we are doing. This organization began in 1982 and was built on prior work. And it will likely go on for many years into the future. So it is important that we take a large and long view Because the problem we are struggling with will not go away anytime soon.
I wonder if it might be possible to route some of the old newsletters (Peacemakers, CMTC, pre-digitalization NWTRCC newsletters) through the Internet Archive before they go to Swarthmore so that they can be scanned in and added to their free, online digital library.
I’m currently in a project of going back through 150 years’ or so worth of old Mennonite periodicals that have all been scanned in & made somewhat searchable through optical-character-recognition via the Internet Archive and it’s been a real boon to my research. (https://archive.org/)
I worry that if they go straight to Swarthmore they’ll just end up sitting in a box somewhere and won’t really be useful to anyone who doesn’t have the time and resources to go on-site and sift through them by hand.
Dave has a point. I admit that I find it a little hard to let go of the boxes and files. On the other hand I know that doing more with these would end up on my already long “I’ll get to that” list. If only I was a focused as Dave! Anyway I will certainly look at the link and try to figure out what is possible….
Today I took time to read several newspapers at the Bethel College library in North Newton, KS. This proved to be helpful to me because I learned that Kansas has had difficulties with election results simply because
“four counties, including Sedgwick” have had had commissioners “who are paid out of county money — not state money.” These commissioners have one job instead of county clerks in the other 101 counties, who conduct elections along with other duties. (The Wichita Eagle, August 15, 2018, Page 11 A).
This prompted me to reflect on the comments of a man from Taiwan who said that he has no desire to vote in USA elections because of the “Electoral College.” Why is it that this requirement refutes the possibility of many low population states being penalized against the rule which maintains that every person “has only one vote”? In other words the majority rules!
Wonderful stories and tidbits! And this is just a tiny fraction of NWTRCC’s fascinating history.
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