Recycling Dead Horses

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!