“Yes, Please”

Sometimes you read something you wrote years ago and think “hey, that’s a pretty good article.” Back in 2005, Ed and I wrote an article for The Catholic Worker covering some reasons for maintaining our war tax resistance (WTR) over the years. At the time we had a combined total of 51 years of refusing to voluntarily pay federal income taxes for war and military spending — with only small amounts seized and nary a day in jail for WTR.

That article came to mind after a conversation during a NWTRCC outreach committee meeting. We were talking about surges in interest in war tax resistance in the last couple decades and why some of us can’t seem to stop tax refusal while others come and go.

March 2003 demonstration, NYC. Photo by Ed Hedemann.

One of the more recent surges in war tax resistance was the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Millions around the world poured into the streets to try to stop the attack, and the surge in the peace movement gave a surge to war tax resistance. An article about WTR got posted on Yahoo (at the time a widespread news source), and the phone rang off the hook. Although we don’t have stats, we know that many of those resisters are still actively refusing to pay for militarism today. The fact that the Iraq invasion launched an era of endless war was surely a motivation for longer-term resistance.

The election in 2016 that brought blatant hate speech into the highest office in this country — along with an unstable person’s finger on the nuclear button — also inspired a spike in WTR interest. On the one hand, many declared, “I won’t pay taxes until Trump does,” but NWTRCC saw a surge of interest from those who wanted to protest the policies of a Trump administration. It’s less clear how many of those folks became resisters or stuck with it after he lost the next election. (Yes, he did!)

Being part of a group or network of resisters might be one factor in maintaining tax refusal. Having personal support or even the challenge of knowing others who have found a way to carry on this form of protest, can help get you past the difficult moments or fear that arises along the way. And for those of us who can get discouraged by WTR being a marginal part of the antiwar movement, reaching out personally can also be encouraging.

Photo by Ed Hedemann, NYC, 2/22/24.

Yesterday I was out at a rally and march sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace against the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), whose success at buying elected officials into blind support of Israel at a horrendous cost to Palestinians is shockingly obvious today. In NYC the senators, including majority leader Chuck Schumer, and Brooklyn rep and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries are in the spotlight for their refusal to call for a permanent ceasefire.

A few of us handed out a little flyer to lead people to more info on war tax resistance. It’s about the easiest leafleting ever as people say “yes, please” when you say it’s about war tax resistance or refusing taxes. Some took extras to give to their friends.

In a time when the world looks pretty bleak, it’s heartening to get such a positive response to tax refusal. Time will tell if the current wave of interest grows into more visible campaigns, new faces in the network, or a surge in tax refusal in the year to come, but get out and ride the wave while you can.

— Post by Ruth Benn

One thought on ““Yes, Please””

  1. MIKE LEVINSON says:

    Bravo! I was planning to join Ruth and Ed at the protest against AIPAC and the war against Gaza, but another sudden illness left me sick in bed. I had a new home-made sign ready to bring with me, it said, I WILL NOT PAY FOR THE WAR AGAINST GAZA! I AM A WAR TAX RESISTER! I will use the sign at future protests, and on Aoril 15 !!!

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