When last we checked in on Marion Stuenkel (Watchdog, 5/16/03), the Madison grandma was buying reams of yellow caution tape to send to Iraq, where the U.S. military was blaming a lack of tape for its failure to protect Iraqi children from abandoned munitions. Now Stuenkel, who turns 60 this Sunday, is taking an equally iconoclastic and principled stance with regard to her own life: She's quitting her job so that she can be poor.
"This allows me to fulfill my dream of being a Simple Living War Tax Resister," writes Stuenkel in her letter of resignation from the state Department of Health and Human Services, where she's worked for 13 years. She figures her $734 per month retirement income will put her below the federal poverty line, meaning she'll no longer be paying taxes that go to support war.
In addition to war's other downsides, some of which Stuenkel highlights in a quote she reads from a dusty book that belonged to her great-great-great-great-grandfather, she notes its contribution to environmental degradation and global warming. By living poor, using almost no electricity, having no car, avoiding recreational travel, and buying locally produced food, she hopes to minimize her impact on the planet. (She even apologizes for carrying her dusty book in a Ziploc bag, an oil-derivative product: "They're just so handy.")
Stuenkel says that on important issues like the future health of the planet, it's wrong for people "to keep looking for someone to lead us." Instead, "We all have to take personal responsibility." So that's what's she's doing. "I want people to know this is an alternative."
You go, Grandma.