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Gathering Courage

By Mair Honan

Last year I took precepts with Thay and slowly the understanding of the Five Precepts is unfolding as I journey along. I'd like to share a little about this process in relation to paying taxes.

For some time I have had strong feelings regarding the choices our government has made, specifically around the disrespect of life. The practice of the precepts moves me to a deepening awareness of my role in these choices. When I send off my dollars to the Internal Revenue Service, I know I am indirectly assisting in killing others. It is such a sanitized operation—a pen, a check, an envelope—no blood involved. Yet now at times, I smell the blood and hear the cries. The children involved seem to be my children.

My awareness brings to light some difficult realizations. As much as I would like to be courageous, I lack courage. So I focus on my breath and keep mindful as the fear ebbs and flows. My husband and I have struggled to attain some material stability. We earn around $50,000 doing work we love. We have a mortgage on our home, ten-and-a-half acres of land, and a car loan. Our two children are young, and the oldest is very frightened every time he hears us mention war tax resistance, knowing that this would be breaking the law. So we do the best we can to reassure him we are not going to jail, and that he is safe. Losing our home to the Internal Revenue Service from penalties and back taxes does not seem a loving experience for our family, so we have taken little action. "But," I ask myself, "can the security of a house and possessions be balanced against the experience of dropping missiles on people, animals, and plants?" I know I am in the missile factory as I was in the stealth bombers over Iraq. I know it clearly and then a sort of haze takes over and I go on answering the phone or taking my sons to the store.

We withhold our Federal telephone taxes and a symbolic $100, for which we have received penalties. As a family we are moving in the direction of withholding 50% of our taxes (the approximate amount that pays for past, present, and future military actions). We hope to redirect this amount to community needs. We know our money is still making weapons. We have formed a war tax resisters support group in our area. Maybe as the circle becomes larger, the courage and clarity will increase. For now, I sit and feel the pain in relation to the inadvertent destruction of my actions, and I try to remain open to this awareness.

Keeping close to my breath, the guiding stars, and hopefully a growing sangha that can be supportive in this process, I practice in the face of fear, confusion, and denial. I welcome any responses or thoughts people would like to share.

Mair Honan is a nurse therapist and an artist in Lincolnville, Maine.

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Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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