I originally titled this entry “Why the peace movement is doomed,” but maybe that’s too strong a charge. Still, it’s hard to see how the coterie of small mainstream groups (and the older activists in charge) expect to attract new people when they keep recycling old campaigns that are ridiculous and borderline-irrelevant. A small coalition is calling for a new campaign of anti-war phone tax resistance.
A lot of U.S. war tax resisters have loved protesting the “phone war tax” over the years. Some history, from the new site: a tax on phone use was first used to fund the Spanish-American war back in 1898 and special war-related phone taxes came and went for forty years. The only problem is that it was a good funding stream, a tax the U.S. Congress didn’t want to give up. So the phone tax has been authorized and reauthorized the Second World War.
If I’m reading the site’s history right, there’s been a continuous phone tax since 1932(!) and it’s all gone into the general budget. Like all taxes, a good chunk of it has funded military action, but it’s no different percentage than any other tax. Like all taxes, we’ve needed this many taxes because the U.S. is a very militarized country and it has gone up and down in relation to military spending. But even Congress hasn’t bothered to think of it as war-related for many years now.
I’d be embarrased to try to tell some eighteen year old born in 1985 that this tax has some special war significance just because did during the Vietnam War. Back in the sixties, a bunch of radical pacifists jumped on the phone tax resistance and haven’t been able to let go in all this time. So why this clinging to phone taxes as a way of protesting war? I assume everyone likes it is because it’s safe. For those reasons it’s also entirely symbolic and almost completely meaningless.
Can’t we come up with new tactics? When will we be able to leave the Vietnam War to the historians and just move on? Many people think the old-line peace movement is a bunch of aging hippies; with campaigns like this, we kinda prove them right. Let’s brainstorm some new actions!