When April 15, 1993 came, I just couldn't sign my check and send in my 1040 any more. It wasn't just because it would have taken my entire year's hard-scraped savings to pay the government. It was that I just couldn't stand knowing that my money was going to pay for things like CIA drug smuggling, political assassinations, "art" that no person would ever buy with their own money, pork projects, dishonest cops and $600 toilet seats.
If it had just been a matter of handing over a few thousand dollars every year to keep the government from sending men with guns after me, I'd probably still be sending in the forms. But all of a sudden, I realized that if I wrote that check I'd be paying to send men with guns after other people.
If it was such a lousy thing to think about having happen to me, how could I sit down and write a check so they could do it to the man down the street?
I didn't write my check that year. But I was scared. I had just bought my first house. Even though it wasn't much of a house, it was mine. So was the Geo parked in the driveway. It wasn't much of a car, but it was paid for. At first, all I could think about was that the IRS would come and take my things away.
I didn't worry about going to prison because I never made that much money, so I didn't figure they'd want to spend a lot of money on my trial. Also, because I hadn't been political, I didn't figure they'd want to make an example of me. But I knew that they'd take things, because that way they can make money and scare other people. I once saw somebody's things being carried out of their house by guys in some kind of official-looking outfits and I thought how creepy to have that happen. What do you do when they take your house, or take your car so you can't get to work? What do you say to the neighbors?
I almost gave in a couple of days later, after not hardly sleeping because of worrying about what the IRS might do to me. But then I turned on the TV and I saw the Branch Davidian house burning down. Like a lot of people I'd been watching the standoff and thinking David Koresh and the Branch Davidians were crazy. But when the news said they'd burned up their own children, I didn't think they were that crazy. It just didn't make any sense. If they were that crazy, why didn't the FBI let them talk to reporters like they wanted, so the whole country could hear how crazy they were? A lot of things didn't make sense.
Later, the more I learned, the more the government's story didn't make sense. And sometime in there, I thought, "Whatever else happened, I didn't do that. I didn't burn up those people's children."
I was raised a Christian, though I never was all that religious. Once I figured out that the Branch Davidians didn't possibly kill themselves, though, I looked at the Commandments and wondered how many of them the government broke. The ones about killing and bearing false witness, for sure.
In court, if you hire somebody to kill your wife or boyfriend, you're as guilty as the person you hired to do it. Sometimes you're even more guilty because you're considered the mastermind. And even though I don't believe it's true anymore, the government is supposed to be under our orders. Whatever you think about that, it is true that people pay government agents to do what they do. If we stopped paying them, they'd stop doing it.
I can't murder people. It's wrong, and you know it as much as I know it. If I can't kill them myself, then how can I stand myself if I pay someone to do it for me? Every time I hear about somebody shot by police under fishy circumstances or tried for a crime that never hurt anybody, or bullied or tricked by political lawyers, I think, "I didn't pay them to do that."
So you see, I can't pay income taxes again, even if I wanted to, or even if I really chickened out. I could live without a house or a car. I could live with all my neighbors talking trash about me. I could even live in jail, if I had to. But I don't want to live with a guilty conscience.
It seems silly now that I worried so much about a house that mostly belongs to the bank and a car that wasn't worth as much as the parts to fix it. But even if they'd have been a mansion and a Mercedes, I'd feel the same. What's more important? What you have or what you are inside?
(c)Betsy Ross 1998