Tax Day and our religious freedoms
Each time I leave the Metro on the way to my office I read the following lines from The Wound Dresser, by Walt Whitman, which are incised on the station facade:
|Thus in silence in dreams’ projections,|
|Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,|
|The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,|
|I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young|
|Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad…|
It is a poignant reminder of why I travel to Washington each week from my home in Virginia.
The war is not over. Which war you ask? Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Germany and the list could go on and on. At times in Virginia it seems like the Civil War is still under way and as taxpayers, we are still paying bills from World War I.
Are you, like me, tired of war? Tired of paying for war while praying for peace! Each April 15th I feel like I am back in the Armed Forces Induction Center at Whitehall St in lower Manhattan and am being issued another Induction Order: “Take one step forward and join the finest fighting force the world has ever seen, the United States Army.” Once again, as I did in 1970, I decline, I refuse to participate in the organized violence of war and preparation for war. And yet, as if in the movie Groundhog Day, each year the scenario is repeated and the government asks me to participate in war by paying for it.
What if we could pay taxes for peace not war? This has been the goal of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund since our inception. The Peace Tax Fund bill—which would give you the same religious freedom to direct the fruits of your labor away from war as you now have to religiously refuse to carry a weapon in war—has wandered in the Legislative wilderness of Washington DC for more than 40 years. It is time to cross over to the other side and make our dream a reality. If passed, we would all still pay our full taxes, but we could choose that our taxes would not go to fund the military.
The words of John Lennon come to mind: “You say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.” I hope that you agree with me, that you also have compassion fatigue, that you also want the opportunity to pay your taxes with a clear conscience, to see your taxes working to build a new society “where all God’s children can live in peace and unafraid.” About half our income taxes now pay for war; don’t we deserve the freedom to pay all of our taxes toward peaceful pursuits?
In the 1960s during the Vietnam War I began my journey as a conscientious objector. Five decades later I have come full circle and am once again working to end war. Only now it is the children of Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran and Syria who “suffer so much” from war, as Whitman’s stone-carved words remind us. All are like the hibakusha, the atom bomb victims I first met in Japan while a junior year abroad student, literally children of the ashes. It is time. It is past time. We need to make the dream a reality.
Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer, did not end segregation in our nation when she refused to surrender her municipal bus seat to a white passenger. She did however end segregation in her own life on that day of Dec. 1, 1955. Won’t you join me in my desire to pay for peace, not war? Let’s move the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill forward in the 113th Congress.”
Jack Payden-Travers, Lynchburg, VA, is Executive Director of National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and writes for PeaceVoice.