Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cement floors, Radicals and Vice Presidents

Dad's letter has a lot in it. He describes a cement floor they put in. Talks about his future plans. I like the part about continuing to think and change and then he talks about radicals including Jesus. Last he speaks about the change in the democratic ticket from Wallace to Truman. I am interested in history and in these kind of small events that maybe ended up being large ones. How different would our world be if FDR had stuck with Wallace in '44? We also recently on the trip to Austin listened to The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, I found Trotsky's story fascinating. Why did we end up with Stalin and Truman instead of Trotsky and Wallace? What forces took us that way. I do think that the US lost a lot in WWII.

August 27, 1944


Dear Family,

            First off the bat I’m thanking you for the two bucks. Then I’ll explain how come You havn’t heard from me sooner.

            I am back at the main camp now to stay I think. This is Sunday and I came in last night. We finally got the wash house comleyed. It didn’t take so long to actually build the thing. But it took a lot of time to get the thing finished up. Like doors and windows and spteps and benches and shelves. We put a lousey cement floor in on top of a wood floor. One and one half inches thick. I guess it will work tho. I had never had much to do with cement before. I did remember some about making the hoghouse floor. But they wanted to use a lot of gravel and it didn’t trowel very good and I had never done any troweling before so it isn’t the smoothest floor in the west. It is as good as any other floor in camp tho and a lot better than the old one out there was.

            Well this is the story on answering your letter late. I got your letter on the supply truckout there at supper on thur. evening and there was a speaker with them that was going to speak that night and they had some lousey educational movies. So thurs. evening was filled jam full. And there wasn’t any chance to get a letter mailed till Monday. So I never wrote it. I thought that since it wouldn’t go out till Monday I’d just as well wait and make it more up to date.

            I don’t of much to tell this time. I had a pretty nice time out at the Big Creek side camp. It was something of a vacation. I had been putting in quite of bit of time in the shop here in Elkton. I think I will try and find some good guy to give my job to and get out of the woodshop some time this fall. I don’t suppose that I’ll ever find work that I will like as well as the work I have been doing in the shop but the shop demands more of my spare time than I like to spend all of my CPS life. I don’t have to put so much tme in if I don’t want to but if I do the kind of jobs or running it I have to be around quite a bit when the fellows are working in there as they don’t all know their way around and they will mess things up too. I think I have been doing some good there but I’m sort of tired of it and I’m sure that I could benefit by a change.

            In regard to my Co-op paper that I sent to you. I don’t expect to be thinking the same when we get started. In fact I’ll be disappointed If I don’t have some more and better ideas on what I want out of life and how to get it. We are doing a lot of planning mostly because we don’t have much else we can do right now to prepare for our post-war life. I think that we will be able to keep our thinking together better and to find more of the bugs in our ideas if we keep evaluating our selves and our desires. I don’t know whether the others expect to or not but I intend to go over the things I want to do and accomplish from time to time, possibly every six months and sort of compare and see if I have added anything or lost anything.

            I used to be a little warey of radicals but I have noticed that any more a fellow has to be awfully radical to seem radical to me. I guess it is because I am sort of in the radical class myself. There is still a question in my mind as to who is a radical that will do the world some good and which ones are just screwballs. The thing that I wonder is if we don’t treat as screwballs some of the fellows that will do the world some good. Then too, if we could slow up some of the screwballs and they would get on the right track maybe they would turn out to be good radical. Christ was a radical wasn’t he and they killed him.

            The other night they had a discussion out a Big Creek on why Wallace lost out in being Vice Presidential candidate. I don’t remember all that was said but it was really good. A lot of the fellows had been reading up on it in the papers and magazines. As I understand it. The convention was pretty much in favor of Wallace but FDR failed to give him the support he should have. I think that he did say that if he were to vote he would vote for Wallace. But as I understand it some of the boys that plan things were told by FDR that Wallace wasn’t the man because he wasn’t enough of a politician. The Southern states didn’t want him and the big City bosses were against him. So he was licked. I wouldn’t be supprised if he would do a lot more good now that he is out the mess. I don’t suppose I like everything Wallace will do I seem to have the idea that he is more interested in the capatolist angle than I think is good but I’m pretty much the other way.

            Say Mom, Am I to get the impression that the recovery of your eyes is going pretty slow? I had hoped they would be working as good as usual some of these days. There is a guy helping me in the woodshop that has something wrong with one of his eyes and he can hardly see at all. I don’t know exactly what it is but the Dr. he went to see in Eugene told him not to worry about it that it would probably get better afterwhile. His other eye is good and it don’t bother him if he doesn’t strain it. He can’t read either. The woodshop don’t seem to bother him and he likes it and is good at it. He would much rather be doing that than sitting around.

            I got a letter from Evelyn when I got in last night. If you see her tell I was glad to hear from her and will answer soon.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Taxing My Conscience

 I have reached an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service regarding the frivolous filing penalty that I received a year ago relating to my war tax resistance. It has been quite a journey. I have learned many things. One of them is about conscience and acts of conscience. I have come up with more questions concerning how we individually and as a society deal with acts of conscience.  I will say a little about what my statement of conscience was, then raise the following questions: what is an act of conscience? is a statement of conscience an argument?  what is the impact to us as a society if we limit or discourage acts of conscience by our citizens?
In each of my tax returns during the Iraq war, I withheld the percentage of my income taxes that would have gone toward paying for war, in with the 1040 form I would include a statement of conscience. My letter would say something like “Once again I find that I cannot willingly pay all of my taxes. As a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), I oppose war and the support of war. “
In my view a statement of conscience is not an argument, but the IRS, the TAS (tax advocacy service), and the UNM law school all saw it as an argument. I think, if it is possible, the IRS had an argument with me, but I was not arguing with them I was simply not cooperating. I see my letters as a statement of conscience. It is a form of protest, but not an argument, as I am not trying to convince anyone of my position but rather making a statement of my beliefs.
A common misunderstanding people have regards the purpose of such actions by individuals. People will ask me if I felt satisfied or if I had achieved something by this action. I have come up with the following analogy, since it is summer and the temperature is very high outside, I often turn on the swamp cooler. The effect of turning on the swamp cooler does not change the outside environment but it does impact the inside environment of our home. I feel the same way about my small act of war tax resistance. I did not stop the US invasion or the killing of people in Iraq. I did not stop that action but I did change my own inside environment, that of living with myself and being able to say that I resisted as best I could the militaristic actions of the US.
As part of my agreement with the IRS I signed a letter promising to not send them frivolous arguments. This statement is restated three times, to cover enclosing, arguing and just sending them a frivolous argument (of course as defined by the IRS). What is interesting and of concern about this is that I was not asked to agree to pay the taxes, nor to promise to pay for war.  The promise exacted was to not send words that explain or argue or support an act of conscience. I often wondered about countries, whose governments were afraid of words, would censor or ban books or freedom of speech. Are we moving in this direction? What happens when we discourage conscience, discourage free speech by individuals but allow for nonpayment, allow for avoidance and corruption of our tax system by the rich and by corporations?
My favorite quote about conscience is Lillian Helman’s;
“I can not and will not cut my conscience to fit this years fashions”
I believe in both taxes and acts of conscience. I think that both are necessary in a vibrant democracy. Those who take a stand, as a minority, are willing to stand out or up, not based on winning or being part of the majority, or doing what they have been told but acting based on some inner guide that we call conscience, lend a service to the larger society. I agree with Thoreau that those acting and living lives based on conscience or goodness, act as a leven on the whole of society.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Making plans and settling with the IRS

So after the last post, which was on a Monday. When the law school called to say we would go on to tax court, the IRS changed their story and said that they would lower the penalty and also ask for a letter saying I would not send in frivolous arguments anymore. We agreed to the settlement. There were a number of factors involved including time, energy, money and the unpredictable nature of the IRS. What a very frustrating way to run things. I am struck continually by this phrase from an HBO movie on Temple Grandin, she said 'nature is cruel, but we don't have to be'. I think about that. In creating systems to collect taxes, or taking tax money from war tax resisters it is possible to act in a respectful manner. I believe that we can have a country and a tax system that meets both the needs of government and of those with a conscience.So I may write more in a future post. Just to follow up from the last one, I wanted to be clear that we are not going on to tax court.
In Dad's letter he shares some of his plans for the future and a bit of self analysis. I was glad to see that 'children' were included in his future plans. It is kind of fun as I did a similar thing while helping my sister Carol after her surgery. I worked through a book called Rewirement to help plan and get ideas about how and what I want to do now. I came up with a number of possibilities. Now that we are settled with the IRS I am ready to work on some of these.

August 17, 1944


Dear folks

            Well, what-do-you-know, I’m out at Big Creek this week. The wash and shower room out here burned down last Sunday and I am more or less building a new one. There are about 5 or 6 guys helping me. I’m having a good time out here. I had never stayed here before. I have worked out here some but have commuted from Elkton. There are a swell bunch of fellows here and the food is good. I don’t know whether I would like to stay out here all the time or not. I suspect I could manage pretty well tho. I am using a borrowed typewriter. I didn’t bring much of my junk out as I won’y stay long. I’ll probably get done sometime next week and be back at Elkton again.

            Getting part of the land all paid for sounds good. I reckon you are sort of happy about it. Changing your loan over sounds good to me too.

            How’s the farm work doing? Are you having a slight lul since the oats are all harvested anf thrested at the same time?

I can’t seem to think of much to write. I have been doing a little reading. Another guy and I got a great big book out of the library in Eugene. THE INTALECTUAL AND CULURUAL HISTORY OF THE WESTERN WORLD It os about 2 ½ inches think and has about 1200 pages. I don’t know if we will ever get it read or not. It isn’t a regualr history. It deals with trends of thought rather than dates and wars and the like. It is very interesting, especially for a history book.

            I suspect that that story in the Young People’s Weekly is by the same Lillian Smith. She has grown up in the south in a rather well-to-do family and has come to see the injustices that go on there between whites and negros. She publishes a paper called SOUTH TODAY. I havn’t seen any coppys of it but I understand that it is good. I guess she can get by with saying quit a bit down there because they think she is one of them and not an outsider like so many of the people have been that started a reform. I don’t have a copy of the book that I read. The camp bought two coppys and they were keet busy all the time for several months. I think there were two other bookmarks in it when I read it. I would urge you to get a copy of STRANGE FRUIT, it will give you a different idea of the negro proplem in the south. We now have three negro fellows in camp. The last one was studying law when he was drafted I understand.

            It is funny the Evelyn hasn’t gotten a school yet. I thought that teachers were rather scarace, That agency sure gets a good rake off. Does that happen every year she gets a job or is it just a [typed over] That will take a [typed over] one year proposition? 20% is a lot of dough to pay to have job. But I suppose it is no use to have money tied up in an education if you can’t get it out. I reckon that is what they figure when they make a charge like that. That will take a lot of here first year’s profits. I’ll bet she will make more money than any of us.

            That camp is good for Eileen I imagine. It sort of amuses me to think of them trying to get a little Farmer’s Union propagands down them, I understand that the Farmer’s union is really going goos in around the Trenton N. Dak. Camp. That is where I am think of transferring to.

            This will amuse Harry. There was a new guy just came into camp a couple of days ago. He had been in the camp in Big Flats New York and had taken some furlo before coming west and visited several of the friend’s work camp. At the on in Idanapolis Ind. he met a girl named Caroline Zelliot. Imagine that. He was somewhat sold on her. She sent a helo with him to me. The guy’s name is Bob Wilson and he is from Ill.

            Well I can’t think of anything else so will sign off.

                                    With love and stuff

Enclosing a copy of my Co-op write up on what I want out of life. What do you think of it?


Outline For Community Cooperators

                                                                                                Bernard LeRoy Aldrich

I. What am I seeking from life?

            A. Vocationally
I am not certain that I could mark out a very narrow field. I would want something that would come under the general head of Creative. I am pretty well convinced that cooperation can help solve a lot of out problems. Great deal can be done to propogate it be speaking and writing but it seems to me that my field is simply living it.

1. As far as actual work goes I think that carpentry and cabinetmaking interests me more than anything else.

2. My next interest would be in farming.

            B. Avocationally

1. I get a great deal of satisfaction from helping people. I would like to incorporate this disire with my vocation. However helping people isn’t always materially productive. I would like to spend quite a bit of my leisure time doing things for people and helping them do things themselves.

2. I derive a lot of enjoyment from stimulating discussions and simple ‘bull sessions’.

3. I enjoy reading and hope to continue my education in this way also.

4. I like outdoor sports and hope to be active in at least one the year around. Especially if my work keeps me inside.

            C. Personally

1. Marriage---I am planning to get married some day, but at present I don’t know who it will be.

2. Children---Certainly.

II. How do I plan to achieve these things?

            A. Short term plans

                        1. Immediate post-CPS plans
I plan to get into some community co-operative. If this one doesn’t materialize I will look for one that suites my general requirements and will take me in.

                        2. As far as this co-op is concerned
a. Under the proposed plan of settling in a rural community near some large city. I could assume the responsibility for the farm work if the group so desired I would also hope to spend considerable time, perhaps in slack farming season, in a community wood-shop and machine shop.

b. Under the proposed plane of seeking employment in some city were certain members could continue formal education. I would seek employment along carpentry and cabinet-making lines. Plumbing and metal work also interest me. I have also enough printing experience to get a job in some small job-printing shop.
B. Long term plan.
These are pretty tentative. Even my day dreams are a little vague. Here’s what they look like.
1. If our co-op should take up its existence in a rural community either immediately post-CPS or a few years afterward:

a. The wood-shop and machine-shop might evolve into a community shop where the local people would come to make repairs and gagets and I could help them. In so doing I could get better aquainted with them and perhaps be able to stimulate their thinking.

b. I might take further training along shop lines and become qualified to teach in a progressive school which the other members might set up in the community.

            2. If this Co-op fails to materialize I would probably seek another one.

III. Personality traits
These are some things that I have noticed about myself that might hinder harmonious living in a co-op group. Most of you have probably noticed them too, and more. My purpose in expressing them is to aquaint someone who doesn’t know me with my peculiarities and to let you know that I am aware of them and trying to overcome them.

A. I become irked with people and tend to become rather bitingly sarcastic.

B. I am not particularly witty but attempt to be funny all too often to attract attention. My attempts usually fall flat. My jokes tend to be at other people’s expense.

C. I am likely to be critical of other people. Consiquently few people make a good ‘first impression’ on me. However, given a little time there are few people I don’t learn to appreciate a great deal.

D. I am slow to meet people and feel a little ill at ease with strangers.