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Honor [Nov. 11th, 2007|09:39 am]
Wizard of Changes -- ©cdozo 2004 to 2015
This week George told me that if he was ever drafted, he thought he might just run away to Canada and never come back. This threw me for a loop because my feelings on this subject are so murky. On the one hand, I am a fierce patriot, and the descendant of quite a few military veterans. I know way deep down in my soul that this country is worth fighting, and if necessary, dieing for. On the other hand I grew up protesting the Vietnam war and knowing that the men who chose not to fight were making a hard and  patriotic choice. So this is what I told him.

The way I see it is once you are in the military, you do as they say. You don't refuse, resist or leave unless a psycho president is clearly trying to overthrow Democracy and become the Absolute Ruler of the United States of America and/or the World. But barring that situation, once you're in, you're in, and you follow all legal orders. It's an amazing thing to commit to, and all members of the armed services have my respect and my thanks.

And, in general, if you are drafted, you should suck it up and go. Fighting in a war is a terrible thing. Being there is awful, killing people is awful and having people trying to kill you is awful. The whole thing is just wrong. But sometimes it has to be done. Bullies hate freedom and free people. And every now and then, one of them will get to where he or she wants to take everyone's freedom away. If that happens, and too many people refuse to fight against the bullies, freedom may just become a faded memory. To get enough people to fight, a draft may be necessary. In that case the right thing to do when the draft notice arrives is to sign on the dotted line and do your best.

But if you have not enlisted, and there is a draft designed to get enough manpower for some ill-conceived, possibly illegal, baseless war, serving some business or political sector's private purposes, then perhaps making a public protest by not going is the patriotic thing to do. In making this decision, some people might choose to leave the country, heading off to other countries that have, perhaps, more rational leadership. While that is not a choice I would make, I can understand why they would make that choice.

Others may choose to serve time in prison in exchange for the right to remain in this country. I told Georgie about the fighter who, when he was drafted, felt obligated not to serve. So he, very publicly, accepted a prison sentence instead. He went into prison as Cassius Clay and came out as Muhammad Ali. I've always stood in awe of this man for making the choice he did. I see him as a great patriot. And I hope that if I was in his situation, I would have the courage to do what he did.

Generally (I told Georgie) if there is a draft, it's best to go serve. It may not be the most pleasant choice, and it may get you killed, but what we have in the US is worth fighting for. So, if (as happened to my grandfather and to my father) you are unlucky enough to be the right age when a draft comes up, you should just suck it up and go. I have nothing against trying to pick where you go and what you do. Stateside supply officer sounds fine to me. But in general, though it may seem at the time that the best thing to do is to disappear, you should override that instinct and sign on the dotted line.

If there is a really good reason not to go, don't go. But please consider staying and fighting for our country some other way. This country is amazing. In spite of its faults, it has something wonderful that few other countries have. In fact many of our so-called "faults" stem from our freedoms. Here in the US, the majority has the right to vote idiots into office and the minority then has a right to point out the idiot's flaws without fear of going to prison. That's what makes America great. So, if and when the time comes to make a choice, weigh your options carefully. Hopefully it won't happen. But if it does, remember that our country is a precious gift that's worth fighting for, sticking with and taking care of.

Regardless of your choice, don't ever fall for the line that this war is different, better, cleaner, we have surgical strike capability so only those directly involved will be affected... It's always a lie. There are no good wars. Only in peace will the world be won.

Dulce Et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! --- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime ---
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: brashley46
2007-11-11 05:10 pm (UTC)
I can respect that, Carol; but please also let him know that once made the decision is not lightly unmade. I am a Canadian now, and have been a citizen here for 31 years; but all my relatives are American still. My decision split my family for years. There are still cousins who will not talk to me.

The best thing would be to help organise your country's political life so that it cannot be led into unjust wars. (If you figure out how to do that, let me know.)

Edited at 2007-11-11 05:11 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: cdozo
2007-11-11 05:20 pm (UTC)
I specifically mentioned you, Ross, and the choice you made to G during the discussion. The Vietnam Era was a rough time, you made a hard choice, and I respect what you did. All the men who chose to leave the US rather than get drafted made a strong political statement that helped to end the war.

I told Georgie to think about rift and the distance that would be between him and his former home, and to consider what he'd be giving up. But I also said that sometimes there is no good choice, only the lesser of two (or maybe three) evils.

I guess it's good that Georgie is starting to think about this. But I hope he never has to choose.
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[User Picture]From: ndozo
2007-11-12 05:55 am (UTC)

That poem destroys me every time I read it.

Your father enlisted after Pearl Harbor and although I think he hated pretty much every minute of it, at least when he was on land, I always got the feeling that he was not sorry he'd done it. As for our sons, and daughters I guess, I hope they will do what is right. It's seldom easy to know. And I think it's harder now that there is so little honor in government. Maybe people will become more high-minded again, and start caring about people they don't know, who aren't famous. Just regular people. Maybe. Conscientious objector status seems like a possibility, if there is true conviction, but I think if someone gets drafted, they should probably go. And in the meantime, they and we and everyone else should be working non-stop to created the nation and the world we want.
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[User Picture]From: viverra2
2007-11-13 06:04 pm (UTC)

There are options.

Ndozo mentioned conscientious objector status. That's one. In WW I and II CO's constituted much of the Medical Corps. That's one reason why the Medical Corps treats soldiers from both sides.

I was once approached by recruiters to do analysis work (peacetime, no soldiering) - and I really thought about what the military was. Especially the obey orders part. Was I willing to abrogate my moral judgment? Was I willing to do anything -- even kill someone -- just because someone higher on the chain of command wanted me to? Could I follow orders which went against my conscience?

This is the core of what it means to be a conscientious objector. It does not necessarily mean that you are a pacifist; it means that you are not willing to silence your conscience. And I wasn't.

Despite Nuremburg, soldiers have very little right to question orders or disobey. A fire department or rescue has the same need for immediate obedience to a chain of command, but in that culture you can discuss the objection after the action is over. In the military there is no discussion.

But there are other ways to serve your country than to join the military. The problem is that most of these, even those sponsored by the government (Peace Corps, Vista, etc) do not "count" in the same way as military service.

Some jobs count, insofar as they get you military deferments - defense workers, teachers, firemen, police, etc. Also politicians. Education counts because having an educated populace also serves the country. National guard service counts; theoretically that puts you in a different chain of command, not the federal military, but that seems to have gone by the wayside.

I think everyone should serve the country for a couple of years. I think most should serve with an organizations like Habitat for Humanity or the Red Cross. Or by teaching where good teachers are needed, or staffing a medical clinic in under-served areas. Such service should be recognized by the government as serving the country. That is where I would like to make change.

I, personally, am proud of Georgie for examining his conscience and considering what he might do. If he decides he cannot in good conscience go into the military, even if drafted, I applaud and completely support him.

So we need to establish good, recognized, reputable alternatives to military service. I hope that leaving the country is not the only option left for kids who have a conscience.
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