April 15: War Tax Day
Tax Day in a square in ancient Rome
April 15th is the day Lincoln died, the Titanic sunk and Americans pay their taxes. While the third event may not be as tragic as the first two, the 15th – Tax Payment Day in most of the States of the Union – has begun to make an increasing number of Americans get that sinking feeling. Or even feel shot in the back. At least, when they see where their hard-earned money is going.
For under the Bush administration, half (that's right, half) of everything they cough up nowadays goes to the military. For senseless wars of mass destruction. What's left has to cover the expenses of running the entire government -- from foreign affairs to all the domestic agencies -- plus all funding for education, Medicare and other social services as well as for homeland security and public works (just think of all that was NOT spent on hurricane protection in the South).
So what better occasion than April 15th to stand in a square in the ancient Trastevere district of Rome handing out leaflets to the visiting American tourists to make sure they realize just what they have financed for another fiscal year?
The idea was thrown out on short notice, got only a couple of definite responses, but we decided to make a go at it anyway, and ended up with a dozen of us, between hawkers and standers-by, members of our group and Italian friends, stopping the tourists and explaining why funding war does not increase our security – indeed, it increases our vulnerability since it sparks off retaliation in the peoples we bomb and occupy.
Not everyone wanted to listen to this point of view – one person returned our leaflet and presumably it was not to save the paper – but a lot did and a few signed up for our newsletter and the Eyes Wide Open film series. The most successful hawkers of all of us were Chiara and Aidan, the two pre-teen children that an American mother visiting Rome had brought with her to the square. With disarming charm and resoluteness, they managed to stuff leaflets into the hands of the grumpiest looking passers-by. In the end, over 500 flyers in English and Italian were handed out.
At times there were more U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice in the square (right off Piazza Sonnino where via della Lungaretta begins) than there were American tourists. Although Easter has drawn immense crowds – the Italian Tourist Association claims a whopping 20% increase over last year –most were from the large, nearby Catholic countries – Spain, France and Austria – anxious to see the new Pope in his first major liturgical role. Not all spoke English but most took a leaflet anyway and encouraged us to continue. “Our only safety is in peace” they said in Spanish, French and German while waving goodbye – and it didn't take an interpreter to get the message.
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Copyright © 2006 Patrick Boylan All rights reserved
U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy