Letter to My Family
"Again this year I have refused to pay Federal income taxes
because I will not voluntarily contribute to the mass annihilation
provided by the weapons these taxes buy. I do not want anyone
killed in my name. The State has chosen an enemy, but I
have no enemy. I do not accept the notion that the State
can choose an enemy for me and force me to help annihilate
the State's enemy...I must decide the degree of allegiance
I choose to offer the State. I offer no cooperation with
the State's assumption of its right to kill. I hope the
State will relinquish this evil death-power."
—Marion Coddington Bromley
April 8, 1990
Dear Friends and Family,
Last year on April 17th, Tax Day, I publicly declared my
war tax resistance for the first time. I have been a tax
resister my entire working life and now, having anonymously
declared my feelings to a group of strangers, I'm ready
to tell you, my relatives, friends and associates.
I know that each of you has spent some time thinking about
issues of peace and justice. I don't have any particular
desires concerning what you should do as a result of reading
this letter, except that you think a little more. If any
other inspirations come of it, they must be guided by your
own principles and style.
I don't have any cute stories about how I first noticed
injustice, or pitted myself against it in my small way;
I only know that somehow I was confused and scared by most
of the actions taken by the United States government in
its interactions with the world. The more I learned, the
more appalled I became. I concluded that as long as foreign
policy was indistinguishable in deed from military
policy, I could not believe that the government had the
security of humanity as one of its operative goals. I decided
I would refuse whatever support was being demanded of me.
In 1977, the first year I had a "real" job, I received a
full rebate on all tax withholdings. On tax day I thought—with
dread—about the day when I might earn enough to be legally
liable for income taxes. I decided that I would delay that
time as long as possible and, before it came, figure out
whatever way I could to continue my tax refusal.
In 1979, I spent more time scrutinizing U.S. policies than
any other year, before or since, because President Carter
was requiring men my age to register for military conscription.
I couldn't imagine killing to defend my country, or for
any other reason. Raised by philosophers, I instead tried
to imagine understanding killing to defend one's
country. I couldn't even do that very well. I had to make
my first risky choice: I became a public non-registrant.
I started attending candlelight peace vigils and speeches
and I decided that I am a pacifist. I went to meetings to
see what I could do. I helped a local group set up "nonviolence
trainings" and workshops to help people make more informed
decisions about draft registration. I gave talks and speeches
myself, mostly to youth groups at churches and eventually
even did a few radio interviews.
The work I was doing was a good context for
thinking about my values. I remembered and thought about,
at the age of seven, kicking someone in school and being
very upset at the pain the kid I kicked showed on his face.
I was upset when Eric [my stepfather] bought me boxing gloves
and tried to teach me ways to "defend" myself.
I decided I would rather be beat up than risk hurting someone.
I think I have been a pacfifist since that age. I recall
asking Joan [my mother] if she would visit me in Canada,
in the event that I had to run away from the draft when
I grew up.
Sometimes, especially in my work against the draft, I feel
I have actually seen some concrete accomplishments. My town
had a sign-up rate estimated at around 50% (even by the
government). Many of those who attended our workshops decided
to wage peace by refusing to register. And there have been
some successes in my more recent work.
Yet, after struggling with the issues of draft registration,
interventionism and nuclear annihilation, I find that tax
resistance holds the most consistent emotional charge. It
is not simply a symbolic act: it is active defiance. If
enough people were to refuse to pay, results would be automatic.
Just as ecological and nuclear proliferation concerns have
recently infused society, someday a rejection of the use
of force for conflict "resolution" will convert the economy
I have not filed a tax return in any year since that first,
and I always declare myself EXEMPT on W-4 forms for my employers.
This has made it simple for me, since I have had nothing
withheld from my pay. The IRS doesn't contact me, despite
the W-2 copies sent to them by my bank and my employer,
indicating my earnings. [The IRS did contact me, the next
year: there's a link to the transcripts of that contact
at the bottom of this letter.]
The War Resisters League publishes a handbook which outlines
numerous other methods for nonpayment of taxes, and I like
to imagine that, were it less simple for me, I would have
done (and also will do) what is necessary to keep my money
from being used for dishonest and destructive purposes.
I want to do whatever is in my power to change our violent
society, so that governments might focus on the important
functions of providing resources and standards which can't
be consistently achieved by small communities acting alone.
I am willing to go to jail rather than pay for weapons and
wars. But I don't try to call attention to myself in ways
which would greatly increase my chances of going to jail.
I've decided that my time and my money is better spent working
actively for a more livable and just world. The IRS would
probably not get much from me even if they were to "catch"
me: I try to keep my income and savings in balance with
the real needs of my health, enjoyment of life and pursuit
of fulfilling work.
I decided to tell you about this for the reason that I can
no longer quietly accept decisions—undemocratically and
often covertly made by experts and generals—to spend precious
resources and billions of dollars inflicting fear and death
in the name of "security interests." We must break through
the gimmicks and secrecy in this public relations era to
face the fact that we are together responsible for the genocidal
pursuits of the policymakers.
I realize that, in writing this, I may have raised more
questions than I have answered, and it may be that some
of you don't agree with my interpretations of the government.
We each have our own ways of deciding our actions and I
hope I have managed to explain something about mine.
[Read the transcript
of my talks with the IRS the year after the above letter