By Jodie Evans
There is a great tradition of war tax resistance in the United States. When our political leaders have not listened to the will of the people, individuals have engaged in civil disobedience. By refusing to cooperate, we take away the legitimacy from a reckless state.
Like most Americans, I am opposed to President Bush’s illegal and unjust war. I have appealed to my elected officials in Congress. I have marched and raised my voice in song in the public square. I have cheered the courageous witness of the 3,000 active duty U.S. soldiers that have signed the Appeal to Redress and taken the risk to speak out against the war.
Former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, once quipped, “Let them march all they want, as long as they pay their taxes.” And he was right. We can march all we want, but if we cooperate with the funding of the war, we are culpable. That is why I have joined up with hundreds of initial signers of the 2008 Boston Tea Party campaign who have pledged to resist payment of the portion of our taxes that pay for war. Our pledge states, “When I am joined by 100,000 other U.S. taxpayers, I will join in an act of mass civil disobedience and refuse to the portion of my taxes that pays the U.S. military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
There is a history of prominent Americans taking such action. During the Mexican-American War that began in 1846, Henry David Thoreau refused payment of war taxes and called on others to join him in resistance. “If a thousand people were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.” When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited the author of Walden in jail, he asked Thoreau, “Henry, what are doing in there?” Thoreau responded, “Ralph, what are you doing out there?”
I am not opposed to taxation or government. I will continue to pay a portion of my taxes that support the vital functions of government. But I will redirect the portion of my war taxes to humanitarian aid projects in the Middle East and projects providing relief to survivors of Hurricane Katrina and to the needs of the Iraqi Refugees because of this disastrous war.
But I no longer have a good answer when my friends around the world ask: Why do you tolerate your government’s actions and why do you pay for them?
For me, this is more than a symbolic action. Civil disobedience involves breaking a law in favor of a higher law. I want to join others to purposely put a cog in the machine of war tax collection. An action on this scale has never been attempted in the history of the U.S. But the time is right.
I am mindful that my action is a small sacrifice compared to the incredible suffering faced by those who live in Iraq and the Middle East as this war potentially escalates into a regional conflict. The world and history will judge us by how vigorously we resist the illegal and immoral war tactics of the Bush administration. And one way to start is to stop paying for Bush’s war.
Evans is the co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace which has launched the 2008 Boston Tea Party Campaign.