A Climate of Fear Permeates; Morton High School Students Protest

Climate of Fear

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

“The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live and fear breeds repression.
Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism
[terrorism, nationalism, or compassionate Conservatism.] 
It’s far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.”

~ Adlai Stevenson.  1952 [Governor of Illinois, Democratic presidential candidate]

It was a quiet day in America; yet, the feeling of fear was palpable.  Oceans away, in Baghdad, the air was filled with the smell of napalm.  Frightened, as the young contemplated their future, seventy some courageous and committed students filed into the Morton West High School cafeteria in Berwyn, Illinois.  Trepidation for their lives, and the lives of friends, family, and those innocent Iraqi citizens they never met prompted these pupils to take action.  The young and eligible enlistees protested the war in Iraq.

Years earlier, dissent against this unjust battle was unthinkable.  The Twin Towers fell.  The Pentagon was hit.  Other buildings were threatened and the nation panicked.  America could not comprehend there might be blood shed on the tranquil shores of their homeland.  Citizens were willing to do anything to ensure no more lives would be lost in the land of their birth.  If it meant countrymen must sacrifice their freedoms, so be it.  Immediately, Congress was called into session.  Bills were passed and liberties lost.  America was attacked; and thus, we were at war.

Theories were bantered about.  Osama Bin Laden, the enemy behind the assault, was in Afghanistan.  Terrorists were within our country.  Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.  The thousands killed on September 11, 2001 were just the beginning.  Certainly, we must know as a continent, North America is no longer safe.  Air travel has opened all borders.  Trains, boats, and planes were no longer means of transport.  These are potential missiles.

Acquiescent, the American public believed they were not safe.  Yet, fearful as the people were they knew this country must come together and show its strength.  At ground zero a crowd stood and chanted, “USA, USA!”  The Commander-In-Chief took the bull by the horn or the bullhorn and calmed the throng.  He said . . .

“I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you.  And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,”

It was then that the former friendly fellow, the man that had failed in most all of his business ventures, the son of a President whose success was said to be tied to his name, appeared decisive.  The President, placed into the Oval Office by the Supreme Court, not by the people, became the protector.  From the moment Bush stood on the mound of rumble and raised his voice, Americans followed his lead. 

George W. Bush led his Secretary of State astray.  Colin Powell addressed the United Nations with what Bush and Vice President Cheney knew was not “solid” intelligence.  The Commander prompted his Cabinet to lie to Congress.  The President’s pal and Attorney General told a nation the Rules of the Geneva Convention are quaint.  Our leader authorized torture.  He trolled telephones.  President Bush took us to the airport and asked us to take our shoes off.  He read our library records and convinced us there was reason to forfeit our rights.  The President of the United States played on our fears and we accepted his truths.  Americans became apathetic and perhaps pathetic.

However, just as in years past, when an unpopular war was sold to the American public, when a threat [then communism, now terrorism] loomed large in the minds of those told to fear the youth responded,  Morton High School’s young scholars decided they must speak out.  They entered the dining hall, a nook in the cranny of a huge building, a place where pupils often feel, or felt able to break from bureaucracy.  For students, the canteen is considered a safety zone.  Every high school has one, a place where pupils can relax, chat, gather, and forget the fears that flank them in the halls, and stalls of academia. 

Yet, on this day, November first, All Saints Day, and a national day of peace, the lunchroom furnished no refuge.  Apprehensive Administrators swooped down on the young scholars as they exercised their democratic right to free speech.  Frightened school officials did just as a petrified President had done.  Under the guise of informed authority, the Superintendent and Principal imposed retaliatory measures. 

As is often true in a climate of fear, the terrified meet the terrified, and the trouble begins.  When filled with fear a person in a powerful position does not wish to show his or her weakness.  Thus, they adopt a punitive posture to appear in control; George W. Bush, Superintendent  Ben Nowakowski , you decide.

The Berwyn School District bureaucrats selectively singled two-dozen students for expulsion.  [Might these individuals be as those sent to Guantanamo Bay Prison, or off to Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries with poor human rights records, for interrogation.]  Morton West, Morton High School District 201 Superintendent Nowakowski told parents, pupils involved in the protest that are seventeen years or older would also face police charges.  [Ah, those of a certain age may be as the persons of Middle Eastern descent.  People in power think it just to profile agitators.]  High achievers, athletes, and those whose parent are well connected were exempt from the more severe penalties.  [Frequent fliers, white businessmen, and little old ladies . . .perhaps these persons are above reproach.]  Indeed, school officials telephoned many prominent Moms and Dads and warned them.  Take your child home.  Be sure your son or daughter returns to class.  Cease or dismiss.

The injustice was obvious; even mothers and fathers were distressed.  Parents questioned School Board members and Administrators.  They asked, what have we as a people become when we suppress speech, suspend dialogue, and arrest those that assemble, and petition the government for a redress of grievances.  Perhaps, after all these years of war and Weapons of Mass Destruction that never were, the adults realize they too must question authority.

Parents and students say that penalties were too harsh — and unfairly dispensed — for some of those involved in the protest.  More than a dozen parents at the meeting in the Morton East auditorium told the board that students who play varsity athletics or have a high grade point average were given less stringent penalties.

Maniotis said her daughter Barbara, a junior at the high school, participated in the protest but was given a 5-day suspension and does not face expulsion because she is an honor student with a 4.5 GPA.  Other students received 10-day suspensions with the possibility of expulsion.

“She did the same thing they did,” Maniotis said.  “This entire incident is outrageous.  The school missed out on a wonderful teachable moment.  Instead, they cracked down on them right away and turned it into a punitive situation.” 

Parents have said they want their children reinstated and the penalties removed from their records.

However, the Board and the Superintendent chose to exert its power.  The community gathered thousands of signatures in support of the students.  Parents, neighbors, concerned citizens met with authorities and stated, the punishment  for protestors is too harsh.  Those in power argued the point.  School authorities might have said, “We do not torture.”  Waterboarding, while repugnant, is just in “real life” situations.

School officials also sent a letter to the parents of all the school’s students calling the protest “gross disobedience” and reminding parents that any disruption to the educational process could lead to expulsion. 

Disobedience and dissention must be deterred.  There can be no distractions.  Our mission is clear.  If we are to accomplish our goal, all threats must be eliminated.  Presidents and Principals, Secretary’s of State and Defense and Superintendents remind us, we have reasons to fear.  This is the “age of terror.”

Americans know by now, as we accept our telephones are tapped, any time we question authority we are in insubordination.  Countrymen chuckle on reflection as they ponder, I almost got sent to Guantanamo. We are anxious regardless of what is real, for in truth, reality is perception.  As long as we perceive a threat, there is one, and those in power will act in accordance.  Innocents will be sent to [Guantanamo Bay] prison without due process.

Morton High school Principal, Mister Lucas was fretful despite of what occurred or did not.  The protesters, pupils were extremely peaceful.  They did as they were told to do.  Law enforcement officers observed all went well.  Nevertheless, fear flourished amongst Administrators.

[S]everal students said the protesters, whose numbers had dwindled to about 25, obeyed the administration’s request to move from a high-traffic area in the cafeteria to a less-crowded hall near the principal’s office.  There, they intertwined arms, sang along to an acoustic guitar and talked about how the war was affecting the world, said Matt Heffernan, a junior who took part.

“We agreed to move to another side of the building,” Matt said.  “We also made a deal that if we moved there, there would be no disciplinary action taken upon us.”

Matt said the group had been told that the most severe punishment would be a Saturday detention for cutting class that day.

Police officers were on the scene, and Berwyn’s police chief, William Kushner, said no arrests were made.  “It was all very peaceful and orderly,” he said.

But at the end of the school day, Matt said, Dr. Nowakowski gave the remaining protesters disciplinary notices stating that they had engaged in mob action, that they were suspended for 10 days and that they faced expulsion.

The sense of being actively involved in the community and in the civic process is weighty and can be woeful.  As a Morton High School student stated; upon reflection he had “feelings of confidence – of a job well done.”  However, faced with expulsion he also embraced anxiety “and fright, because my whole educational future is at risk.”

Education for American students is at risk whether they protest the war or not.  As the battles in the Middle East intensify, our youngest citizens watch expectantly.  Currently, they are not forced to take up arms; yet, the cost of an advanced degree, the expense of living on your own, salaries, or more accurately, practically speaking, minimum wages threaten the security of a young mind.  Military recruiters know this, as does the Administration, local and Federal.  Armed Forces representatives maximize on the fear and the White House blesses such actions.

The practice began just after America surrendered itself to permanent apprehension.  The Twin Towers fell and so too did the Bill of Rights.  The Constitution was set aside in favor of the Patriot Act.  The Commander-In-Chief of the United States, George W. Bush proposed we leave no child behind.  In the spirit of bipartisanship, Mister Bush garnered support for a initiative that would change the lives of young Americans forever.  The “Education” President signed the measure and a new military force was born.

Sharon Shea-Keneally, principal of Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, Vermont, was shocked when she received a letter in May from military recruiters demanding a list of all her students, including names, addresses, and phone numbers.  The school invites recruiters to participate in career days and job fairs, but like most school districts, it keeps student information strictly confidential.  “We don’t give out a list of names of our kids to anybody,” says Shea-Keneally, “not to colleges, churches, employers — nobody.”

But when Shea-Keneally insisted on an explanation, she was in for an even bigger surprise: The recruiters cited the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s sweeping new education law passed earlier this year.  There, buried deep within the law’s 670 pages, is a provision requiring public secondary schools to provide military recruiters not only with access to facilities, but also with contact information for every student — or face a cutoff of all federal aid.

“I was very surprised the requirement was attached to an education law,” says Shea-Keneally.  “I did not see the link.”

The military complained this year that up to 15 percent of the nation’s high schools are “problem schools” for recruiters.  In 1999, the Pentagon says, recruiters were denied access to schools on 19,228 occasions.  Rep. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana who sponsored the new recruitment requirement, says such schools “demonstrated an anti-military attitude that I thought was offensive.”

Slights or the restricted right of entry seemed odious to pro-war Congressman Vitter, a man too young to have fought in a foreign battle.  Attitudes such as his may helped build a system of recruitment that expanded our military defense.  Prior to the initiative that allowed military representatives to sell their schpeel to High School students interest and investment in America’s youth was not equally distributed.  Nor is it now.  The difference is, under current law, military recruiters can more easily find men and women willing to enlist.  With thanks to No Child Left Behind the armed forces can focus on those most in need.  That is best.  After all, the affluent have opportunities that ensure economic and academic success.  The rich are less likely to enlist.

[I]t appears that the affluent are not encouraging their children and peers to join the war effort on the battlefield.

The writer of the Post-Gazette article, Jack Kelly, explored this question in his story that ran on Aug. 11. Kelly wrote of a Marine recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, who went to an affluent suburb outside of Pittsburgh to follow up with a young man who had expressed interest in enlisting. He pulled up to a house with American flags displayed in the yard.  The mother came to the door in an American flag T-shirt and openly declared her support for the troops.

But she made it clear that her support only went so far.

“Military service isn’t for our son,” she told Rivera.  “It isn’t for our kind of people.”

The kinds of people that are targeted are poor or lower Middle Class.  Plebeian families will sacrifice their progeny disproportionately.  Morton West High School in Berwyn, is nestled in a working-class suburb just west of Chicago.  Soldiers dressed in uniform, don sparkly metals, and wear shined shoes as they stroll the halls of this blue-collar neighborhood school campus.  They smile and sweet-talk eager teens.  Recruiters befriend students and promise them a bright future if they enlist.  In part, this helped to provide perspective for the pupils and prompted the protest.

Disabled Gulf War veteran Cesar Ruvalcaba, dressed in his military uniform, chose to lash out at military recruiters allowed to roam the halls of the school.

“Shame on the administrators who think receiving military money from recruiters is more important than the education of their students,” he told the board. “I am 100 percent disabled, and I learned the hard way that education, not carrying a machine gun, is the key to success. It’s those people who are pro-war who would never drop everything and go fight for the red, white, and blue. These kids should receive extra credit for speaking up, not expulsion.”

Morton High School students are not alone.  After years of subjection, some schools are fighting back.  Administrators have decisively stood up for their students.  Principals refuse to be part of the Bush regime or relegate academics to expulsion.  Principals ask whether funds from No Child Left Behind provisions are worth the cost, the lost of freedom.

Rift over recruiting at public high schools
A Seattle high school bars military solicitation, touching off debate over Iraq war and free speech.
By Dean Paton
The Christian Science Monitor
May 18, 2005

Seattle – While most Parent Teacher Student Association meetings might center on finding funding for better math books or the best way to chaperon a school dance, a recent meeting here at Garfield High School grappled with something much larger – the war in Iraq.

The school is perhaps one of the first in the nation to debate and vote against military recruiting on high school campuses – a topic already simmering at the college level . . .

High schools are struggling with a similar issue as the No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools receiving federal funding must release the names of its students to recruiters. Some feel that’s an invasion of privacy prompted by a war effort that has largely divided the American public. Others say barring recruiters is an infringement of free speech – and a snub to the military, particularly in a time of war.

Garfield High School took a decisive step last week with a vote of 25 to 5 to adopt a resolution that says “public schools are not a place for military recruiters.”

All this comes as recruiters struggle to meet enlistment goals.

Perchance, Americans no longer wish to live a life in fear.  Our countrymen finally decided to vote for change.  However, it did not come.  Now the children take up the cause.  Perhaps they will be more successful.  With the support of their parents, the impossible may be probable.  Indeed, it is, slightly.

Last evening, the Superintendent of Berwyn Schools released a statement.  [On the same day some troops are slated to return home to American shores, not because the President heard the people say exit Iraq, but because, physically, they could no longer remain in battle] suspended students could and would return to class.  School records will not reflect, peaceful rebellions as a dishonorable reason for discharge.  Although Administrative faces are saved, it is important to consider that this is a step.  We may move closer to educational experiences and further from a culture of fear.  One can hope.

I offer the link for your perusal.  Please read the Superintendent’s proclamation.  Please share your thoughts, quietly.  Remember class is in session.  Recruiters may still be listening and the Bush regime remains in office.

  • Administration Rules on Students Suspended Following Nov. 1 Disruption of School Day.

    As you, dear reader, breathe deeply and ponder the protestors’ plight, might I submit, alls is not well; nor did this situation truly end well.  Granted, the students will be reinstated.  Those that wish to pursue a military career will, and those that do not, will not.  However, there is more to this story.  Power plays; those that instill fear, fear not.  Even when we think the Authorities care; they are concerned, and will no longer abuse, use or manipulate, we discover they continue to do as they have done.

    Eight million veterans got their education thanks to the World War II GI Bill, which covered tuition, fees, and books, and gave veterans a living stipend while they were in school.  A 1988 Congressional study proved that every dollar spent on educational benefits under the original GI Bill added seven dollars to the national economy in terms of productivity, consumer spending and tax revenue.

    Unfortunately, the current educational benefits offered to veterans are far lower than the original GI Bill.  In fact, they cover only 60-70% of the average cost of four years at a public college or university, or less than two years at a typical private college.  Our veterans deserve better.

    A new GI [Government Issue] Bill is being crafted in Congress.  However, Americans have reason to think this too shall not pass.  If we the voters learn from the Morton High School students and state what we think, perhaps, veterans will have the chance they were promised . . . that is if they live to return home.

    Let s fear no more.  Americans cannot sit silent.  If you wish to communicate to your Congress Person, please do.  The time is now.
    Help Veterans Continue their Education.

    Sources of Fear; Culture of Care. . .

  • US admits it used napalm bombs in Iraq. By Andrew Buncombe.  Independent Digital. August 10, 2003
  • President tours New York devastation, Bush promises terrorists will get message soon.  Cable News Network. September 14, 2001 Posted: 11:21 p.m.
  • Bush’s Lap Dogs: What Happened to DC’s Watchdogs? By Tom Dickinson.  Rolling Stone. October 31, 2007
  • George W. Bush. The Nation.
  • Terror Suspect Alleges Torture, Detainee Says U.S. Sent Him to Egypt Before Guantanamo.  By Dana Priest and Dan Eggen.  Washington Post.
    Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page A01

  • pdf Terror Suspect Alleges Torture, Detainee Says U.S. Sent Him to Egypt Before Guantanamo.  By Dana Priest and Dan Eggen.  Washington Post. Thursday, January 6, 2005; Page A01
  • Support Morton West HS Anti-War Students. Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice.
  • Bush defends interrogation practices: ‘We do not torture’. By Richard Benedetto.  USA today. November 7, 2005
  • Waterboarding Mukasey. By Sidney Blumenthal.  The Guardian. November 2, 2007
  • Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People . The White House. September 20, 2001
  • Reasons to Fear U.S. By Noam Chomsky.  The Toronto Star.  September 7, 2003
  • I almost got sent to Guantanamo, By Steven D. Levitt. Freakenomics.  The New York Times. July 14, 2005
  • U.S. to Send 5 Detainees Home From Guantanamo, Australian, Four Britons Allege Abuse.  By Carol D. Leonnig and Glenn Frankel.  Washington Post. Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf U.S. to Send 5 Detainees Home From Guantanamo, Australian, Four Britons Allege Abuse.  By Carol D. Leonnig and Glenn Frankel.  Washington Post. Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page A01
  • Remarks to the United Nations Security Council. Secretary Colin L. Powell.  February 5, 2003
  • Powell: Some Iraq testimony not ‘solid’. Cable News Network. Saturday, April 3, 2004
  • Students Call Protest Punishment Too Harsh, By Crystal Yednak.  The New York Times. November 7, 2007
  • pdf Students Call Protest Punishment Too Harsh, By Crystal Yednak.  The New York Times. November 7, 2007
  • The Bill of Rights. Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution
  • Rift over recruiting at public high schools A Seattle high school bars military solicitation, touching off debate over Iraq war and free speech.  By Dean Paton .  The Christian Science Monitor May 18, 2005
  • Parents, activists rip school board, Officials overreacted to protest, they say.  By Joseph Ruzich.  Chicago Tribune. November 9, 2007
  • No Child Unrecruited.  By David Goodman.  Mother Jones. November/December 2002
  • Nowakowski Statement on the Student Protest Disruption at Morton West.  Morton High School District 201.
  • Military’s Recruiting Troubles Extend to Affluent War Supporters By Terry M. Neal.  Washington Post.  Monday, August 22, 2005; 8:00 AM
  • Parent-trap snares recruiters,  The tune changes at some homes when they hear ‘sign here.’  By Jack Kelly.  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Thursday, August 11, 2005
  • “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address.  History Matters.
  • Civil Disobedience, Thoreau, Anti-Iraq War Tax Resisters, Mary McCarthy ©

    On income tax day, I was wandering about and discovered a post that brought me joy.  Steven Josselson, of Troubled Times: An Online Journal of Policy and Politics, offered a commentary that I found invigorating.  It stimulated my mind.

    The topic was, “Refusing to Pay Taxes: Civil Disobedience and the Iraq war.”  I read. Then I began pondering the actions of these “defiant” peace protesters.  Many of the persons discussed in this essay were not willing to contribute their tax obligation to a country engaged in war; yet, they were willing to give their funds to charities.  These individuals consciously choose to donate their tax duties to organizations that embody a civic-minded philosophy.  However, society labels them civilly disobedient.  I wonder.

    Since that day, my mind has been absorbed in the idea of Civil Disobedience.  Today, I think of the dismissed Central Intelligence agent, Mary McCarthy.  I read the papers, listen to the news, and I ponder.  Is the phrase a misnomer?  When we peacefully act in accordance with the founding principles of our forefathers, are we civilly disobedient or caring and concerned citizens?  I believe we are the latter.

    Currently Mary McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer once assigned to the White House, is in the battle of a lifetime.

    This Central Intelligence agent, and analyst, was recently released from her post and accused of leaking classified information on the rumored CIA prisons.  Mrs. McCarthy was given a lie detector test, failed, and then confessed.  On Thursday, April 21, 2006, McCarthy was escorted by agents from her CIA offices, This woman was publicly humiliated, while only a week earlier, Washington Post reporter, Dana Priest was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her reports on the prisons.

    The dichotomy is fascinating. Mrs. Mary McCarthy is also accused of civil disobedience. Dana Priest is praised for disclosing the same information.  Some think McCarthy and her disclosures are treasonous.  Yet, they think the public has a right to know and they applaud Ms. Priest.  I question these cross-judgments.  Why would one woman be scorned as “civilly disobedient,” and the other praised as socially dutiful?  How do we define the term “civil disobedience?”

    I feel certain some would consider both women wrong; others might think them each saintly.  Even the phrase civil disobedience can be defined as a good or bad. I think this needs to be discussed.  I am asking for discourse.  I pose my belief. When acted upon peacefully, with intentions to better the system, not abolish it, I consider the phrase my definition of “principled lessons in civics.” I think the apathetic disobedient

    I believe if we truly care about our country, we participate, peacefully.  We communicate and ask for a dialogue, or present circumstances that create one.  I think citizens have a right and duty to improve our nation. We must commit to excellence.  We must work towards a peaceful union.  I think if we follow our “leaders” blindly, then we are not acting as responsible, concerned citizens.  We are merely compliant and not publicly minded.

    Our government is meant to be a body that represents us, not decides for us.  Sadly, in recent decades the “government” is seen as a separate entity.  People in today’s world often consider themselves pawns, not powerful or vital.  They no longer see themselves as the solution; they think of themselves as helpless.  I struggle with this reality.

    I believe that as individuals, and as part of a greater group we need to reflect, to act with intent, so that we might grow greater.  To this vision, I am inviting you dear reader to join me in a discussion of Civil disobedience.  To facilitate this dialogue, I am offering some thoughts of my own.  Please feel free to comment.

    In reference to Central Intelligence agent Mary McCarthy, what were her motivations and might they possibly have been more honorable than those of the President?  Does this woman not have a history of caring?  Does she contemplate the causes and effects of American actions, specifically aggressive assaults?  It seems from her co-workers, she does.

    In a New York Times article, “Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by the Rules,” By David S. Cloud, Mrs. McCarthy is said to be quite a cordial worker.  She is comprehensive in her investigations and states her concerns openly.  She is known to be thorough and appreciates the same.  Her posture favors humanitarian efforts and not those that are hasty, unthinking, or knee-jerk.

    “We’re talking about a person with great integrity, who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules,” said Steven Simon.  Mr. Simon was a Security Council aide in the Clinton administration.  He worked closely with Mary McCarthy while serving the former President and he trusts that Mrs. McCarthy is honorable.

    According to former government officials, in 1998, Mrs. McCarhty warned former President Bill Clinton that the plan to militarily strike a suspected chemical weapons factory in Sudan relied on inconclusive intelligence. Mary O. McCarthy, a senior intelligence officer has long stood for informed decisions.  She frowned upon aggressive attacks that she believed did not promote a civil stance.  One former co-worker attributes this to her disdain for clandestine agenda.

    “She was always of the view that she would rather not get her hands dirty with covert action” says Michael Scheuer, a former C.I.A. official. Scheuer also served during the Clinton years.  He claims to have been in meetings with Ms. McCarthy when she voiced her misgivings.  Mr. Scheuer recalls that McCarthy had strong suspicions about the intelligence on Al Qaeda.  She expressed her doubts to Mr. Clinton; she wondered whether chemical weapons were being produced in these Sudanese factories and thought it better to be certain before attacking.

    However, the strike took place just as they were planned.  Ms. McCarthy’s qualms did not stop the retaliatory aggression against Al Qaeda.  After all, Americans want revenge and two American embassies were bombed in East Africa. Nevertheless, this earlier incident, and the current discussion of McCarthy leaks as they pertain to what some consider American abuse, do demonstrate that this woman is willing to dispute intelligence data and the methods sanctioned by her “superiors.”  She can and does question authority.  Is this wrong?

    Is it not the manner in which we, as a people, as part of a republic choose to defy, challenge, or confront the circumstances that matters.  Can we register our complaints with compassion?  Can we communicate carefully in our attempt to reconcile our conscious and still be civilly obedient?  I think so.  I offer this component to the dialogue.

    In the Christian Science Monitor article, “When the Tax Man cometh, they don’t answer the bell,” many tax resisters were interviewed.  Some, I think were merely manipulating a system that they disdained.  Others, such as Mrs. Ruth Benn of Brooklyn, New York are my heroes.  Mrs. Benn did not hide her actions or beliefs; she stated these proudly.  In a letter to the Internal Revenue Services, submitted with her 1040 form, she explained why she was not enclosing a check and where her funds were sent.

    This lovely and thoughtful woman filed her 1040 on time.  She communicated her concerns stating, “I do not want my tax dollars to be used for killing and war.”  That sentiment for me is truly civil.  Apparently, an approximate 10,000 other Americans did the same; they too withheld their tax payments.  They also object to this less than sanctioned war.

    There were those persons that did not pay their taxes for religious reasons, others because they conscientiously object to war.  Numerous individual were motivated by “personal politics.”  However, these individuals chose, in good conscious to donate the duty-bound capital to charities.  They wished to commit to causes that were indeed working towards a greater good.

    Philosophically, this practice works well for me.  I do not understand those that think killing, maiming, and aggressively attacking those that disagree with them promotes a sense of community.  Nor do I comprehend how reactive behaviors such as these can be considered egalitarian or democratic.  For me, when the government dictates deeds that are counter to the common good, then it is not being civil, polite, or acting for the common good.

    I do struggle however, with the reactive stance of those that hide and purposely avoid paying their taxes. Those that do not communicate their reasoning and rationalize that they need not, I consider less than ethical and aware.  I believe, as John Donne did, that “No man [woman, child, or being] is an island.” if we are to exist well together, we must work collectively and support each other.

    When our countrymen in Congress do not represent us, we must stand and be counted. After all, this government was founded on the principles of civil consciousness.  We are a government “of, by, and for” the people.  If we are to truly be the United States of America, we must work as “us.”

    Is a signature on a social security card similar to that on a professional contract? When we sign either, do we lose our right to question indignities imposed by a warring government?

    When we know of activities that go against the grain of what is commonly considered for the common good and civilized, then, I believe we must speak. We need to take a stand respectfully.  Participating in practices that promote man’s inhumanity to man for me is not glorious; speaking against them is.  If questioning behaviors that glorify killing and maiming is considered legally disobedient, then I am willing to advocate defiance.

    I strongly suspect Mary McCarthy and Ruth Benn felt they were obeying a higher authority than that of the Bush Band, one that is benevolent and not hiding behind the phrase “compassionate conservative.”  They did not think themselves disobedient.  I believe they thought they had an obligation to goodness, grace, and to their community.  If this is true, then I support them.  I even think them courageous.  And you, what do you think?

    The following references may help you to decide . . .
    Troubled Times: An online journal of policy and politics
    When the Tax Man cometh, they don’t answer the bell By Chris Gaylord. The Christian Science Monitor. April 14, 2006
    Henry David Thoreau: Civil Disobedience
    C.I.A. Employee Fired for Alleged Leak, By David Johnston and Scott Shane, New York Times. April 21, 2006
    CIA Fires Employee for Alleged Leak By Katherine Shrader, Associated Press
    Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by the Rules By David S. Cloud. New York Times. April 23, 2006
    CIA Officer Is Fired for Media Leaks By Dafna Linzer. Washington Post Saturday, April 22, 2006
    CIA Leaker Shown Door
    NBC: CIA officer fired after admitting leak By Robert Windrem and Andrea Mitchell, NBC News. April 21, 2006
    Dana Priest: 2006 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Category of Beat Reporting
    Peace.protest.net: An eye for an eye will only leave the world blind. – Mahatma Gandhi
    Please listen to this eloquent link . . . Altruism may be alive and well, even within the CIA.
    All Things Considered, April 24, 2006 · NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that most government officials who leak confidential information think of themselves as true whistle-blowers. They are motivated by a desire to serve the public interest.