April 10, 2004
To the editor:
After watching the million-strong nuclear disarmament demonstration in New York City on June 12, 1982, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig reportedly told a journalist, "Let them protest all they want, as long as they pay their taxes!" Haig made an important point-while governments can ignore simple protest, nonviolent direct action has much greater potential to stop them in their tracks.
Like tens of millions of other people in our nation, I have protested and organized in opposition to the US war of aggression against Iraq. I have spoken out about the US-supported coup in Haiti and other bullying actions by George W. Bush and his cronies. I have also taken Haig's comments to heart.
This month I am again redirecting my federal income taxes away from the military (which will receive nearly 50% of federal income tax dollars sent to the IRS this year). Instead, my "tax" dollars will go to grassroots organizations providing housing, food, care for people with AIDS, legal assistance to poor people and other needed services, as well as to groups working for peace and social justice here and elsewhere. My meager salary means that I provide only small donations to these groups. More importantly, my act can serve as a reminder of the power of conscientious individuals to reclaim power over our lives.
I seek to act in the best U.S. tradition of dissent-the Boston Tea Party, Henry David Thoreau's refusal to support the Mexican-American War, suffragettes who picketed the White House, workers striking for decent pay and working conditions, civil rights protesters and the myriads of others who have recognized that democracy means so much more than voting.
As people feel increasingly desperate about the policies enacted by the unelected regime in Washington, it becomes even more important to find ways to act on our own deeply-held beliefs. As a conscientious objector to war, how can I pay for the government to kill in my name when I won't do it for them?