Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Feeling a draft, Chapter Two

On January 27, 1973, I received a new draft classification card, making me 4-F. Curiously, that was the same day that then-Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announced an end to draft-related military inductions and the day the Vietnam ceasefire was to go into effect.

I sent the card back to the draft board the same day with the following letter:
The end of a given war does not mean the end of war. The end of the war against Indochina does not mean the end of militarism in America. Even as a “generation of peace” is trumpeted, the already-obese military budget swells still more in Fiscal 1974, draining like a blood-sucking leech the life from the long-since anemic ideas of cures for or even opposition to hunger, disease, ignorance, sexism, racism, rats, foul air and dangerous water,....

Perhaps the clearest expression of America’s still-convoluted sense of values is the continued increase in money spent on preparation for war (“There will be wars and rumors of wars” as long as there are Pentagons.) while money for pollution control is impounded and the OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity, part of Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" programs] is closed down to “economize.” As long as the president continues to treat us as the “children” he has called us - with the Pentagon playing the part of the pampered favorite getting any new toy he wants by threatening to hold his breath until he turns blue while the rest of us are cast as the scorned daughter sent to bed without dinner for daring to question Father’s decisions - there can be no letup in our resistance to the present destructive realities. As long as bombs are more important than bread, there can be no lessening of our work for future dreams. And as long as the state continues to claim that it owns our very lives, there can be no pause in our saying “no” to death and “yes” to life.

For that is what a military draft - what any draft - means: The state owns our lives and can use them as it sees fit, even to our deaths or our use as the instrument of others’ deaths. And an end to inductions is not an end to that idea. An end to inductions does not mean the end of the draft, does not mean the end of American militarism, does not mean the state has rejected the pattern of violent solutions to problems, does not mean America has turned from death toward life. It means only that the state feels it doesn’t need our bodies/lives - just now. As long as the idea that our lives belong to the state exists, the draft exists; as long as the draft exists, militarism exists; as long as militarism exists, the spur to war exists; as long as the spur to war exists, war exists.

The draft is linked to war. Ending the draft will not end war, but war will not end until the draft does. If we are to build a just, decent society, we must reject war, reject militarism, reject the idea that the state owns our lives - reject, therefore, the draft.

Life is the highest good, and anything that advances life is an expression of that special, crystal-glitter quality called “human,” that self-awareness, that capacity for love, that reach for hope that separates us from other animals. Anything that opposes life or advances death is a rejection of that quality, a rejection of our humanity. To be human is to reach for life, for love, for hope - to reach for our potential for positive values. To be human is to reject death and all that advances death. The draft - the very concept of the draft - advances, indeed inspires, death. I reject the draft. And I reject all the symbols of the draft, such as the classification card I received today. Do with it as you will, but I will not have it.

Peace be with you and peace be to you.
(The ellipsis at the end of the first paragraph was in the original.)

Actual inductions did not stop immediately as there were some who had already received induction notices but hadn't yet been placed in the military. The last draft-related inductions came at the end of June 1973 at which time the legal authority to induct draftees expired.

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