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Readers' experiences


Diary of a census resister

Senior editor, The Last Ditch


May 19, 2000 — morning

I am a census resister. I received my form in early April, and I have not filled it out or returned it. I believe the form I received (D-1) was the short form.

Since that time the census enumerator has been to my home three times and left a "Notice of Visit." Apparently I was not home on any of those occasions.

The last two were on consecutive days.

The Notice informs me that the enumerator stopped by and that I can provide the information over the phone. It also assures me that my privacy is protected by law and reminds me that it is important that everyone be counted.

The enumerator leaves a name and a telephone number as well as times when it is convenient for him (or her — I can't tell from the name) to take calls. Once it was 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.; another time it was 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

I will update my account as events occur.

May 19, 2000 — evening

The enumerator was around again — the third day in a row.

This time she — for so I now imagine her, all frizzy-haired and bespectacled — came in the evening. And as it happened I was not home.

The note she left this time said that the best time to call was between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. Whereas previously she has asked that I call and set up an appointment, now she just writes the terse "Please call."

Tomorrow is Saturday. I expect her to try at least once over the weekend, perhaps twice.

May 21, 2000

I got a telephone call at about 6:15 this evening from the census enumerator. Someone's been doing her homework, digging out phone numbers and all that. As I thought, she is female and she is white.

She said she had been trying to reach us folks for a while. Would this be a good time?

Once I determined that she was indeed the same person who has been leaving the notices at our door — I didn't quite catch the name the first time she said it — I said, "Oh, yes. We're not participating in this year's survey. Goodbye."

Then I hung up.

I think she started to say something.

May 29, 2000

This afternoon — Memorial Day, the day we honor the men who helped build the might of the U.S. Empire and defended its depredations against their own children — there came a knock at my door.

An older, spry-looking gent with a clipboard in his hand held open my storm door. "My name's T.J. O'Brien. I'm from the Census Bureau," he said, holding up some kind of card. I wasn't wearing my glasses, so I don't know what it said. Notice, by the way, that this was not the name or the sex of the person who had been leaving notices at my door or who had called me.

"I just want to ask you a few questions," he said. By this time he had his pen to the ready on some kind of form on his clipboard.

"I'm not participating in this survey," I said.

"Everything is confidential," he said at once. I guess the bureau teaches them that the only reason anyone would be reluctant to reply is a fear that the information about him would be published in the local newspapers or given to the FBI.

"I've given you my answer," I said. As I was closing the door, he asked me, "Are you Ronald Neff?"

I did not stop, but completed the closing of the door.

His last question, though, shows that the Census Bureau already has all the information it needs about me.

June 2, 2000

I've heard nothing from the census people since the visit the other day.

Today I am moved to report that I have talked to a number of libertarians and constitutionalists who have responded to the census. I am not saying that they should have been resisters. And I am not calling for others to resist, even though the danger in resistance is so minimal as to be laughable, almost unworthy of the noble term "resistance."

What disturbs me about the reports I have heard is that so few, so very few, of them even delayed  returning the forms.

There were no penalties whatever for making the enumerators come to your home and leave messages — as I have described in the early days of my resistance. I can understand why one would file his income tax on time — the IRS plays very rough. They don't go for these namby-pamby Census Bureau tactics. I don't know how many extra hours of trouble I have caused the census enumerators so far, but I do know that a person who returned his form without much of a delay caused them none. And I could return my form today and suffer no penalty for whatever trouble I have caused.

It's astonishing. The most trivial of protests had no penalties attached to it, no danger. And yet, faced with the commands of a bureau with well-known namby-pamby penalties that don't even go into effect until after they've said, "Please?" a few times, many libertarians and constitutionalists have complied meekly. I don't get it. In the 1970s, libertarians used to sign off with "FIOT" — Freedom in Our Time.

I hope none of those who sent in the returns right away are still using it.

Readers' experiences

What experiences have you had with the Census Bureau this time? How did you respond to their impertinence?

All comments will be subject to the usual editing, and we will be looking for those that are the most thought-provoking, pro or con.

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