A bold and dangerous refusal (Don’t wanna pay for war no more, Part 1)

[Note from Kathie Malley-Morrison: We have shared the stories of a number of controversial figures on our site—e.g., Howard Zinn, Rachel CorrieDalit Yassour-Borochowitz, Dahlia Wasfi, and Ross Caputi. We recently invited a guest author to submit an essay on Golda Meir, which generated considerable valuable controversy.

Today we introduce another long-time peace activist, Ed Agro, who describes his anti-war activism. To learn more about Ed, read his autobiographical statement, as published in Forbes Magazine.]

Dollars

Image in public domain

Long ago, America’s war of the moment (Vietnam) was so flagrantly wrong, criminal, and inexcusable to anyone with a moral sensibility this side of Satan’s that a good part of the population was in an uproar. What with all the protesting and resisting, no one could get on with a normal life.

More in a fit of righteous pique than anything else, I totaled up the hours I was spending on various attempts to overthrow the State, assigned myself 10 bucks an hour, and on the year’s tax return claimed a business expense for the aggravation. That year my tax liability was respectable, and at the time the refusal seemed bold and dangerous. (Not so neither, it’s turned out.)

Maybe that particular act of war tax refusal was the one that brought a functionary to my door asking why I was not in compliance, so I told him. That’s how it went in those days. (When I mentioned to him that he may as well throw phone-tax refusal into the liabilities he was complaining about, he was mystified, but a levy notice awhile later indicated that I’d encouraged him to do his homework.)

That war finally ended, in part because of suchlike exertions of the community of war tax refusers. Since I had conceived of WTR as a tactic to end that war, I abandoned refusal with the coming of the more-or-less peace.

Worries over legal repercussions and disapprobation by my neighbors lessened as the functionaries lost interest in me and my neighbors lost interest in wars that became less burdensome.

But abstinence didn’t last long as new enemies were invented and war has followed war.

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7 Responses to A bold and dangerous refusal (Don’t wanna pay for war no more, Part 1)

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    I admire Ed Agro for his mode of protesting yet another trumped up war and being willing to face the inevitable hassle from a tax department’s functionary.

  2. Dahlia Wasfi says:

    War tax resistance IS a bold refusal–and courageous and full of honor. Much respect and gratitude for the author and the post.
    P.S. I’m controversial? :)

  3. Mark Twain was jailed for refusing to pay taxes during the Mexican-American war. Very long and admirable history to your work, Mr. Agro.

  4. Ed Agro says:

    Um, that was Hank Thoreau, not Mark Twain, and he was only in the slammer overnight. Twain started out as a pretty standard-issue patriotic American, but saw the light during the Spanish American War. He wrote “The War Prayer” but was reluctant to publish it; it didn’t see the light of day until well after Twain’s death in 1911. It’s worth looking up on the web.

    The point of my piece is that it doesn’t necessarily take heroism to refuse war taxes; I’m not sure that sentiment will get through, as the article had to be cut for upload here. When the second part is up, we’ll see if the point has been made. Best to all, ed

    • Jessica says:

      Ed, I respect you for refusing to pay taxes in protest of the Vietnam war. I feel that Americans have lost the courage to preserve peace and prevent destruction. Although opting to cut off a small piece of the government’s revenue stream may not immediately end a war, enough instances of this, and other kinds of civil disobedience can really bring about change.

      The bottom line is that wars are waged by government, or, if there lacks a government, whoever has a monopoly of force and power in a region. Government is the epitome of violence and coercion. In reading “Fighting Torture and Psychologist Complicity” by Soldz (2011), I was horrified to learn that psychologists belonging to the American Psychological Association were in cahoots with the Bush administration in the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and several other locations.

      Due to the longstanding, mutually-beneficial relationship between the two parties, both sides fought to twist the moral principles at the foundation of the practice of psychology and medicine to serve the advancement of their own interests, which were to have the unrestricted authority to abuse the bodies and minds of their so-called prisoners. The conflicts of interest were too large, and gains too beneficial, for such a horrific outcome not to happen.

      • Ed Agro says:

        Thanks, Jessica, for your thoughtful comments. I’m not sure I agree that “wars are waged by government” is always a helpful place to start from; wars are often enough waged by the people, willingly enough, at the behest of their governments. Maybe it’s a small point; the rub is, as you say, “enough instances of [civil disobedience] can really bring about change.” I’m beginning to wonder how much is enough, exactly? Too long a discussion for here, I think. Speaking of which, the first part of my article wasn’t meant to celebrate my shenanigans in the sixties, but to set the stage to show how I’ve kept up my bad habits even though I’m not a pacifist absolutist and the support networks for resisters has rather fallen apart over the years. You can get the whole story, was some practical suggestions for those actually resisting, at http://boston.indymedia.org/newswire/display/214646/index.php

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