Apr 11, 2022 Art

War Tax Opponents George and Lillian Willoughby

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Chapter 36 Elizabeth McGuinness: “People Living in Peace”: Stories that Americans seeking peace and justice in the modern world refer to Judges of War Duty George and Lillian Willoughby. Here are some excerpts from this chapter:

In the mid-60s, when all four of their children were headed off to college, the couple got serious about money and began to feel the sticky fingers of the government were on their payroll. That’s when Lillian stopped: “I evade paying taxes, and I mean all taxes, because I’m not going to support the dreams of old people.” The old men, she said, were the ones who imposed such things as military accumulations, electoral services, and state secrets on the nation. Lillian Willoughby had nothing.

George was right. It’s a “myth,” he said, remembering those days, “that you can’t do anything, that it’s impossible, and you’re trapped. This is slavery, what kind of slavery you get. We consider ourselves enslaved by these boots, these rules lie with us. You don’t need bars and whips to keep people in line; you just need ideas!” Willoughby does not readily accept such regimentation.

While the tax resistance was just part of Willoughby’s personal protest against the nation’s military involvement, they did make some fundamental life changes that helped avoid the tax man. Lillian, who worked as a dietitian in the mid-60s, changed her job status from employee to consultant, avoiding automatic deductions. In later years, when the children finished school, the couple reduced their income so there were no taxes; now they are retired, they live on social security. They recently gave their house and land in nearby Deptford, New Jersey to a landholding so they no longer own the property. And they “rent” a car from a friend for $1 a year, remembering an earlier time when the IRS “collected” their VW bug,

McGuinness describes some facts from the other couple’s history of anti-war activism, including George’s conscientious objector status during World War II and
subsequent work with the Committee of American Friends of the Service, Lillian’s work with refugees during the war, and her civil defiance at Nevada in 1957. year, George’s participation in the Golden Rule voyage in the nuclear test area in the South Pacific, Lillian’s participation in many days of work in the Atomic Energy Commission, George’s participation in a peace march in San Francisco and Moscow, then in another from New Delhi, which was stopped before he could continue Beijing, and the couple’s participation in the “Movement for a New Society” network. They are briefly described in several other examples of specific direct actions.

At the time the book was published, George was secretary of the International Peace Brigade and Lillian “helped plan a conference on nonviolence and feminist issues.” The chapter opens with the couple going to the tax day protest, which is later replayed in the chapter:

George and Lillian Willoughby proceeded to meet other tax protesters at City Hall. The group includes TV presenters, radio and journalists; photographers and cameramen shoot Halloween-themed Ronald Reagan paintings and grey, khaki-clad contras participating in a small street theatre. The audience is led through parodies of famous songs.

Lillian is among the speakers, recounting how, back in the 40s, she refused to buy War Bonds even though her employer put pressure on 100% employee participation; how she stopped paying taxes in the 1960s; how she and George turned their property into landed property. She invites anyone interested in details to see her. But Lillian said privately that she would never tell anyone about going completely tax-free like she did: “We think we’re just raising people’s consciousness; they have to figure out what they are going to do themselves.”