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Juanita Nelson died on March 9 in Greenfield, Massachusetts, following a period of declining health. Since 2012, she had lived with friends Eveline MacDougall, Ellie Kastanopolous and, during the last couple years, in the home of Betsy Corner, Randy Kehler, and Kip Moeller. She is survived by many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Juanita Morrow was born in Cleveland and graduated from Central High School in 1941. She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she became active with civil rights struggles. She shifted her studies to journalism at Western Reserve University. That decision led to her meeting with Wally Nelson when she interviewed him for a story about conditions in the jail where he was awaiting trial as a conscientious objector. Juanita authored many articles and poems (some linked at nwtrcc.org/Juanita_Nelson_remembered.php). She and Wally helped found the Valley Community Land Trust, Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters, and the Greenfield Farmers' Market. Juanita hatched the idea for the Free Harvest Supper, which has become a major community event in Greenfield each August.[ ]
"I became a dedicated war tax refuser in 1948, the year Wally Nelson and I became partners. I could not support the military when Wally had just spent over three years in prison for saying No to that form of organized crime. We joined the newly formed Peacemakers, which had as a major tenet nonpayment of federal taxes.
I found part-time jobs which paid the maximum nontaxable income. Wally did odd jobs with no withholding. I was therefore able to claim him as a dependent, permitting me to earn $50 a week at that time.
Because my employers reported my income, the IRS finally caught up with me after 11 years. I was arrested in only my terry cloth bathrobe for refusing to give information (IRS agents sometimes keep early hours).
On one of my odd jobs — artists' model at the Cincinnati Art Museum — four dollars were mistakenly turned over to the IRS. I rather regretted that, but decided not to worry about it. Makes a good story.
Wally and I left city living in 1970, part of an effort to lessen dependence on a violent society. We spent over three years in a village of 500 in northern New Mexico with electricity as our only modern convenience. In 1974, we moved to Woolman Hill, a Quaker Conference Center in Western Massachusetts, built a 900-square-foot home with most of the material coming from a small house we dismantled.
We grow most of our own food, cook and heat with wood, draw water hand over hand from a too deep well, have only two propane gas lights, and probably the only certified outhouse in Franklin County."
Wally died at age 93 in 2002, and Juanita continued in much the same way until 2012. "I manage with lots of help from friends much younger."
When I was 18 and first met Wally and Nita Nelson, I was impressed by their integration of lifestyle and politics. The personal is political. It's reflected through your relationships with your parents, children, cops, whatever. Since many of my activist friends from high school were already burnt out, these "old people" with their philosophical and personal consistency were a guiding light.[ ]
Nita was always thinking about economics on this personal level. She felt that the power dynamics that enabled a few people to have more than they needed, while most have not enough, creates much of the violence in the world. Typically she took this issue down to the personal. I remember her once commentating in a small group that most of us are more willing to disclose the details of our sexual lives than to talk frankly about our personal finances. Nita grew up in a poor family, led by her mother and aunts in Cleveland during the depression. She talked about how oblivious they were to the depression because they were always so poor. They simply shared whatever they had and relied on each other. That was her model of a just, nonviolent world.
—Bob Bady, Brattleboro, Vermont
I knew Juanita and Wally as highly valued friends and mentors since 1959, when I first met them at Peacemakers gatherings in Cincinnati. Among all the fine humans I have had the good fortune to know in a long life of social justice activism, they stood out among those of the very highest integrity and moral consistency in personal and public life. They had great influence on me at two important junctures in my life:
I was already committed to the idea of war tax refusal before I met them (under the influence of Milton Mayer and Ammon Hennacy), but it was not until 1960, inspired by the example of Eroseanna Robinson who had gotten her whole philosophy of war tax refusal and prison resistance from her friends Juanita and Wally, that I decisively acted to refuse payment of all federal income tax claims, to stop filing tax returns, and to effectively prevent collection of any claimed amounts, practices I have followed for the 55 years since then.
Again, in the early nineties, when I visited their simple homestead and market garden in Deerfield, Massachusetts, the example of their radically honest and simple way of life deeply influenced my decision to settle on unused land in inner-city Nashville in 1997, starting the Nashville Greenlands community devoted to urban agriculture, simple sustainable living, and radical action of peace and social justice.
So many of the nonviolent radicals of my generation learned so much from Juanita and Wally.
— Karl Meyer, Nashville, Tennessee
...Once a week, I came to Deerfield and weeded, planted, hauled manure and pruned mostly with Juanita. While working and talking with her for eight or more hours each week, I discovered we shared many views: no god, no war, simplify, simplify, simplify. Her strategy was to tackle one act of increased simplicity every year, a practice I try to follow as well.
Juanita also shared her reading list with me. Two books included: Interest and Inflation Free Money by Margrit Kennedy and Representative John Lewis' book Walking with the Wind...
Juanita was an organizer and public speaker. She took every opportunity to talk with people who travelled from near and far to The Bean Patch. She spoke at universities, high schools and other venues. Her voice was strong, sure and elegant (a word she would probably dispute). She also brought together war tax resisters and those thinking about war tax resistance at monthly potlucks for years. When she found out I was moving to New Hampshire, she instructed me to do the same...
— Ginny S., Henniker, New Hampshire (click here for her full remembrance)
"Why do you need all this?!" Juanita asked me. She was referring to the high-end camera equipment that I was using to photograph her and others more than 30 years ago at a NWTRCC conference in Boston. She was, of course, being true to her simple-living philosophy. Years later when figuring out one's carbon footprint was all the rage, not surprisingly Juanita's turned out to be dramatically lower than that of her nearest "competitor" (though not zero, as one might think).
It was such that many friends used to kid her and Wally about their disdain for modern technology. As a prank, long-time friend Chuck Matthei (I think it was he) surreptitiously left a cellphone (though a non-working one) in their decidedly no frills cabin as a response to withering remarks she had made about never owning such a thing. Juanita with her life and with her resistance set a standard that showed what was possible. And, perhaps as importantly, she did it with humor.
— Ed Hedemann, Brooklyn, New York
I will always remember their garlic, Juanita and Wally dancing around the cabin-to Sweet Honey in the Rock on a Sunday morning, ginger ice-cream, cornbread, pie. They both exemplified what it means to be a human being and to live true to your values. Taken from the Legacy Guestbook.
— Lori Barg, Plainfield, Vermont
I met Wally and Juanita way back in the days when the propagation of war tax refusal and rational lifestyles was by way of the hard-copy Peacemaker. Wally could be, well, doctrinaire; whenever we met I looked forward to a vigorous debate. With Juanita, each conversation began and ended with hugs and smiles. I learned a lot from both of them, and miss them both.
— Ed Agro
The date for a memorial has not been set at the time of this writing. Watch our website or call the office for the time and place.
War tax resisters head out once again, on or before Wednesday, April 15, to call for a cut off of taxes for war. A growing list is at nwtrcc.org/TaxDayOrganizing.php. We'll keep adding to the website list through April 14, and then we'll post your photos and reports. Tax day is also the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS), and you can find an action list and resources at demilitarize.org. Email your info and reports to email@example.com or call (800) 269-7464.
A longtime war tax resister is trying to calm her publisher because they have received IRS levies for her royalty income on books she has written. It's not a lot of money annually, and the IRS has collected from bank accounts and other places in the past. The resister was hoping she could "redirect" the IRS elsewhere and remove the pressure that her publisher is feeling. It could be a random levy from the IRS, but it feels more like another angle for them to pressure her to pay up.
In NWTRCC's Practical #4, Self-Employment, there is a section for artists, musicians, craftspeople and creative writers that notes the vulnerability of royalty payments, which are reported on 1099s at the low threshold of $10. Like a standing salary levy, once the IRS has found that source of income they are unlikely to let go until they get what they want. Selling art directly to consumers or selling the rights to one buyer would be one way to avoid royalties. If readers have similar experience or ideas on dealing with publishers, please contact the NWTRCC office.
People considering WTR worry about property seizures. This chart created by David Gross from figures in the IRS's 2014 Data Book shows the trend for all federal tax debts. A war tax resistance version would go to zero. The last property seizure in our network was in 1999. See Practical #4.
After a battle of a few years, one tenacious telephone excise tax resister finally got his phone company, Frontier, to credit him for resisted federal tax and clear the past due on his account. He sent a long letter to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company about his resistance from 2008 on, detailing the inconsistent responses from company employees, general frustration at having the federal tax added as past due with fees accruing — and a general rant at the company's poor service in other ways! This finally led to an agreeable solution after a brief cut-off of his phone service. Frontier is the only choice for local, landline service in this area. Oddly, during his years of sending a "why I'm not paying the excise tax" card to the company with each payment, occasionally someone at the company would send his cards to NWTRCC. We collected quite a pile, which he then used to show CEO that he had been reporting his refusal with each bill's payment.
Peter Reilly blogs on tax issues for Forbes Magazine, not usually a place one expects to read about war tax resistance. In recent years he has written sympathetically on the topic after finding court documents that relate to conscientious objection cases online. On March 23, Reilly posted his second piece on Elizabeth Boardman's case in California, "Ninth Circuit Rules Against War Tax Resister." Use that title and "Forbes" in a search, and you'll find it online. Our next issue will include Elizabeth's own story of her effort to gain allowance from the government for war tax resisters. Full Article
We are very grateful for the generous grant from craigslist Charitable Fund, which allows us to produce more outreach materials, continue our social media consultant position, offer more free literature to activists to use locally, and just generally helps us stay alive. Thank you!
Affiliate fees are a fundamental part of NWTRCC's durability. We are grateful for recent dues payments from:
War Resisters League National Office
War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund
and to all of the individuals who have donated in the last couple months!
The Network List of Affiliates, Area Contacts, Counselors, and Alternative Funds is updated and online at nwtrcc.org/contacts_counselors.php, or contact the NWTRCC office, firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free: (800) 269‒7464, if you would like a printed list by mail.
Advertising rates for this newsletter can be found at nwtrcc.org/ads.php or contact the editor at (800) 269‒7464.
Dirk Panhuis, 73, died near his home in Belgium in February after a battle with leukemia. He served as Secretary of Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI) from 1996–2013, and his volunteer work ensured the group's survival. NWTRCC activists who attended any of the international conferences on WTR and peace tax campaigns met Dirk. Larry Rosenwald is one. He says: "Dirk was such an impressive man, effortlessly polyglot, moving easily from fluent English to fluent Spanish, though neither was his native language; he was erudite, earnest, gracious, humble, and tenacious. He knew what his goals were and worked towards them tirelessly, and I admired and admire that even if, as sometimes happened, they were different from mine." See "Latest News" at nwtrcc.org/latest.php for a longer notice.
"i am going on 10 years of active redirection. It has been a challenging path to walk, but one that is so very worth it! For every new news article that comes out about our taxes in the US going towards violence against the Earth and all her beings, i know that my resistance and the resulting challenges have totally been worth it. i know i am far from perfect and far from culpability in the violence perpetuated, but i do all i can to lessen my negative impact and to strengthen my positive impact. i am humbled and blessed to be part of such a big and long movement of change makers, resisters, and tax-redirectors." — by email, January 28, 2015
Out of England comes some surprising news. In February, Greg Wise, the actor married to Emma Thompson, announced that he and his wife will refuse to pay tax until those involved in the HSBC tax avoidance scandal go to prison. Wise spoke of his anger at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the bank after details of how HSBC's Swiss bank had helped some customers dodge taxes. HMRC found more than 1,000 tax avoiders among almost 7,000 UK clients. Only one individual has been prosecuted. Wise said, "We're going to get a load of us together. A movement. They can't send everyone to prison. But we'll go to prison if necessary.
Peacemakers in the U.S. seeking to channel their income tax money away from expressions of war can support peacemakers in Israel – young adults whose consciences prohibit them from taking part in military activity. This year, participants in the Mennonite Central Committee's "Turning toward peace" program can redirect to New Profile. Based in Israel, New Profile provides educational materials and counseling to young people seeking to avoid military service, among them conscientious objectors, and supports those who go to prison because of their choice. For more information see mcc.org/learn/more/war-taxes.
Enclosed in this newsletter is the latest "Where Your Income Taxes Really Go" flyer, produced by War Resisters League (WRL) each year and based on the budget proposed by the President. Congress wrangles over the numbers and priorities and is supposed to pass a budget for the start of the October 1 federal fiscal year. NWTRCC stocks some flyers and can fill small orders, but it is best to order quantities from WRL's online store at warresisters.org or contact them for prices, email@example.com or (212) 228-0450.
NWTRCC's Social Media Consultant, Erica Weiland, interviewed author and founder of the Simple Way community in Philadelphia, Shane Claiborne, for NWTRCC's Podcast #4. Find the link to it on our blog, nwtrcc.org/blog/2015/03/podcast-4-talking-with-shane-claiborne, or through the audio-visual links on our website.
Slowly but surely we are updating all of our "Practical War Tax Resistance" booklets. Newly printed versions of #1 – #4 are available now, and #5 and #6 should be back from the printer shortly after you read this. #7 will be ready soon. If you have old copies of these booklets, please call the office for the updated versions. There are a significant number of changes, especially because of the Affordable Care Act. The Practicals are free to read or download on our website, or, #1–3, 75 cents each; #4–7, $1 each
#1: Controlling Withholding · #2: To File Or Not To File
#3: How To Resist Collection · #4: Self-Employment
#5: Low Income/Simple Living · #6: Organizational Resistance
#7: Aging and War Tax Resistance
Free outreach cards — as long as you promise to hand them out! Mini pie chart with text on back, 3" x 4". "We only have one earth" graphic and short text about war and environment, 4" x 6" with a blank back.
Death and Taxes DVD, 30 minutes. Sliding scale, $10–$20 each postpaid.
Teaching Kit: "Thoreau and his Heirs: The History and Legacy of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience." $30 postpaid or free online. Includes DVD, Thoreau's essay, questions for students, and select list of historic civil disobedience actions.
Brochures: "Why and How to Refuse to Pay for War"; "Why Isn't Everyone Who's For Peace A War Tax Resister?"; "Refusing the Federal Telephone Tax"; "Are You Praying for Peace But Still Paying for War?" 20 cents each
Book: War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, 144 page book with annual update. $10 each plus $5.50 first class postage
To order, send a check made out to NWTRCC to PO Box 150553, Brooklyn, NY 11215, or pay online through Paypal (use the comment section to list your order or send an email). Call (800) 269-7464 with questions or for a resource list by mail.
I'm gearing up for the busiest Tax Day season I've had on social media yet. You can support these efforts by sharing the messages I'm creating, and by creating your own text, videos, photos, and images, and sharing them. If you're on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, go to the NWTRCC website and click the social media icons (or the blog link) in the left-side navigation. Retweet, share, pin, link to, and reblog whatever you like! In addition, on Facebook, you can send a friend request to War Tax Resister and search for the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee page to find even more posts, videos, and photos.
I've also created a short video, "Letters from War Tax Resisters," with the help of several folks in our network. Click on the YouTube icon to go to our YouTube channel and watch the video, then share it with folks on social media or email or snail mail or however you want. Help make Tax Day successful this year - use your social media accounts to spread our message! Contact me with questions or contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Erica Weiland, Social Media Consultant
Father John Dear engages in conversation with Chelsea Risser, Eliana Neufeld Basinger and Naomi Gross, Goshen College members of the Intercollegiate Peace Fellowship (IPF). Dear spoke at Hesston College's conference, "Overcoming Evil: Ordinary People Making a Difference," and challenged participants to reclaim nonviolent action as a peacemaking tool, saying, "Noncooperation with evil is as important as doing good." Attendees included IPF students from Mennonite colleges and universities in Bluffton, Ohio, Goshen, Indiana, Hesston and North Newton, Kansas.
He called each person to be a prophet for peace; to work to close the CIA and SOA, house the homeless, grant reparations to Iraq and Afghanistan, work for peace for Palestinians and Israelis, end the death penalty, stop fracking, abolish nuclear weapons and redirect the trillions of dollars spent on war to feed and educate everyone. Heartland Peace Tax group tabled with NWTRCC newsletters and palm cards. Responses included, "This is what we need to do."
— Photo and text by Susan Miller
May 1-3, 2015 Casa Maria House, 1131 N. 21st St, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
We'll start May Day evening with a rousing chorus of labor songs, followed on Saturday by workshops on war tax resistance for beginners and current resisters, a tour of an urban garden, social media skill-sharing, learning about the Afghan Peace Volunteers, a panel on types of resistance — plus good food, socializing, and general fun. Join us for one session or the whole weekend. If you cannot be in Milwaukee, watch our website for "virtual" connections to some sessions.
For registration form and more information see nwtrcc.org/meetings.php, or contact NWTRCC for a brochure, (800) 269-7464.
By Ruth Benn from an interview on March 9, 2015
They met when Peter was in graduate school at a Mennonite Seminary in Indiana, and Mary was working with a county home for indigent people. They married, lived in Canada near Peter's family for six months, then set about looking for a community that combined their desire to work with poor people and with peacemaking. "We see those as so connected. War impoverishes the earth and impoverishes people. It's just so antithetical to what makes for peace." They found a small group of kindred spirits in Colorado Springs and have been there since 1979.
War tax resistance came straight out of the Bible for Peter. At age 18 while in theology school in Canada, he attended a conference on the military-industrial-complex. "I learned about the number of people in the military, but even more, about the commitment in terms of capital, guns, war machinery, and all the bucks that are made from war both in Canada and the U.S." When it came to what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God, as an anarchist he felt Caesar was causing the problems. "My work against this had to include tax dollars — more than just physically refusing to give my body to war."
After college, Mary was living with a couple of friends, and one of them suggested resisting the phone tax, a new concept for Mary. Their refusal led to a meeting with the IRS, during which the agents noted that the women were not alone. "They were kind of admitting that it was maybe a movement, so my roommate was really excited after that meeting."
Members of the Bijou Community were already involved in war tax resistance when Peter and Mary arrived. Early on, money was held in common, but that evolved over the years to each doing their own thing. One year the community did a tax protest and filed a 1040 saying they didn't want to pay anything "because we don't want to support the war." That seemed to trigger an audit, which took an exhausting six months of collecting receipts to convince the IRS that members were not living off donations that came in for the soup kitchen and houses of hospitality. "The IRS said don't file like that anymore because it messes up our system, and we said don't audit us anymore because it messes up ours!"
Living on a low income is challenging, but community makes it possible. "We share cars, laundry, food, gardening, clothing," says Peter. "I have a bike with a trailer and arranged with a health food store to pick up food once or twice a week that they would otherwise discard. The good food we share with community members, and some goes to compost. I also pick up wood pallets (untreated) that we can use as firewood from a business that would put them in the trash."
While they don't live in communal housing now, one thing that came out of the community work over the years is a land trust with housing for low income rentals. Peter and Mary live in this housing, which is open to anyone in need as vacancies arise.
Peter says, "The lifestyle matter is really paramount, to try to learn what our needs are and where they are being distorted by the fatal consumerist conditioning. We have always tried to discern carefully and lovingly so that together we can hopefully live on a more globally sustainable standard of income."
Mary adds, "It's that Quaker thing about live simply so that others can simply live. In that sense low income war tax resistance is part of the bigger philosophy. We already have such huge footprints on the planet that we should make them a little smaller."
It's not without its complications though. In looking for ways to earn money, Mary has had a variety of traditional jobs that involve tax reporting. "I was just not skilled at painting or landscaping or the things that people could do under the table. Sometimes employers want to give you more or less hours, so it affects your choices. You always need to see how much you are going to make and not make too much."
Also community members are aging and dealing with further limitations in ability to work or lack of qualifications for Social Security. "When you're 30 years old you don't think about aging issues, but now we do!" says Mary. "It may be one discussion our community didn't have in very much depth when we were all younger and that could have been helpful. I don't know that it would change things a lot as far as how it ended up anyway, but maybe I would have felt less ignorant or less surprised when I started looking into how to apply for Social Security and Medicare." Peter added, "We may need a more careful discernment of how we are doing as a community sparked by the different needs of an aging people, as we continue to care deeply for each other."
Bijou Community is in a military town. Colorado Springs is home to (or near) the U.S. Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Fort Carson, and Schriever Air Force Base. Bijou Community members have done hundreds of actions over the years at the bases, and they "banner" every week at busy downtown intersections. "We get a lot of chances to talk to soldiers and military supporters about why we are out there," says Peter. "At least they hear about another way of thinking."
Despite all her activism, Mary says she sometimes feels guilty about not broadcasting her war tax resistance. Hearing a discussion at a NWTRCC gathering about "how public are you" made her wonder about this. "It's not like I don't talk about it if it comes up, but I haven't been advertising it. Would I get into trouble if I was more public? I think the emphasis on redirection is good. The naysayers see that you are putting the money somewhere — not wanting to be an anti-tax person."
"We don't have much to be proud of as long as we still have war. We sure wish we could light fires more successfully under individual's bellies, but we persevere and try to find more creative ways of doing this," says Peter. "Living with kindred spirits — there's a lot of strength. It's battery charging for one's own life and vision verification. We have no excuse to be burned out!"