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If You Want Peace, Stop Paying For War

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Last week, I became a war tax resister. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and finally this spring my actions aligned with my intentions and I sent the following letter to the Internal Revenue Service:

April 17, 2012

Dear friends at the IRS,

For the past 20 years, I have been a Buddhist. This year I was ordained as a Buddhist chaplain. My religious beliefs include a commitment to follow the precepts as originally taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, the first of which is to not kill and not take life.

I have faithfully paid my federal income taxes for all of my working life.  But this year my conscience will no longer allow me to continue to fund a war machine that is, to my mind, unethical in almost every way.

While I do understand the need for some kind of defense system, what I have seen, particularly over the last decade, is that the use of our military forces and budget goes far beyond any sane definition of “defense.” The money that I have paid in taxes has been used to invade countries that posed no imminent threat to us (case in point: Iraq), to build predatory drones and other weapons that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, to support soldiers who impose illegal torture tactics on those in their custody; I can no longer condone these nor other deadly and aggressive military activities through my tax money.

If there were an option to designate that these funds could go toward other much areas of the U.S. budget that invest in the health and wellbeing of our citizens, such as health care or infrastructure development, I would gladly choose that option (which is why I support HR 1191, the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill). Given that is not the case, I am withholding $108 from the money that is due for my 2011 tax and am diverting that money to an organization that helps to cultivate peace rather than war.

My sincere wish is that one day we can all work together to lessen the suffering impacted on both our own citizens and soldiers as well as the people of other countries who have been targets of our military actions.

In kindness,

Maia Duerr

cc: President Barack Obama
Senator Jeff Bingaman
Senator Tom Udall
Representative Ben Lujan
National War Tax Resistance Committee

The amount that I withheld does not come close to the amount allocated toward defense spending (take a look at this calculator to see how your taxes get divvied up to the military), but I wanted to start somewhere and $108 felt like an auspicious number.

I don’t know where this path will lead, but I am hoping that my meditation practice will help with readiness for whatever arises.

I have been inspired by a number of people who have gone down this road before me, and in the past week found this article from Jesse Jiryu Davis, member of the Village Zendo in New York City and  a war tax resister since 2006, particularly helpful. These words from Jesse especially moved me:

I think the greatest danger to me is not that I’ll be punished by the government, but that I’ll forget my intention… I have to keep in mind that the reason I decided not to pay my federal taxes in the first place was because I refuse, as a Buddhist, to use violence to achieve my goals. As soon as I make enemies of those with whom I disagree, as soon as I take pleasure in winning a conflict, I’ve already lost. As Zen Master Seng T’san said, “A hair’s breadth difference, and heaven and earth are set apart.”

I’ll keep you posted on how this goes, dear readers.

___________

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be interested in this one on my Liberated Life Project blog: My Most Beautiful Thing: Taking a Stand for What You Believe

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About Maia

I've been practicing and studying the Buddha way since 1994, and exploring the question "What is engaged Buddhism?" since the late 90s. As former executive director of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and editor of its journal, Turning Wheel, I had the honor of meeting and working with many practitioners of engaged dharma, including Roshi Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, Alan Senauke, and Robert Aitken Roshi. Currently, I write about socially engaged Buddhism on my blog, "The Jizo Chronicles," as well as on the theme of personal and collective freedom on my website, "The Liberated Life Project." Through my Five Directions Consulting, I offer support to individuals and organizations who aspire to integrate awareness into their work. I also direct the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at Upaya Zen Center along with Roshi Joan Halifax, where we forge new pathways of everyday engagement and servant leadership.

14 responses »

  1. Excellent! Please keep us informed.

    Gassho,

    William

    Reply
  2. Reblogged this on FierceBuddhist and commented:
    A very brave statement. Let us all be so compassionate.

    Reply
  3. Your courage and integrity are so illuminating. Many blessings to you.

    Reply
  4. I commend you on your action! Please keep us up-to-date as to whatever the IRS’s response will be.

    Reply
  5. Bravo to you! I am proud of you. I support you. Yes, please keep us informed. We all need to do this, as far as I’m concerned.

    Reply
  6. Malcolm McLaren

    I am giving this approach a lot of thought.

    Reply
  7. I am challenged beyond all reason by this… no less than my whole life is at stake. Metta!

    Reply
  8. Very courageous, well done! Please keep us informed with future developments :)
    with Aloha

    Reply
  9. Pingback: If You Want Peace, Stop Paying For War | Zen Peacemakers

  10. Hi Maia,
    I am so encouraged by what you have done. Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to hearing more.
    Gassho, Myoki

    Reply

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