Should we give help to men who refuse to be killers?
We can’t end war by telling men that if they don’t fight, we won’t respect them in the morning. (Then we wonder why men fight to gain respect.) If women are eventually drafted, 1 predict women who resist will be acknowledged, and the resistance will be seen as evidence of women ’s more peace – loving nature. In contrast, when a friend of mine refused to go to Vietnam and claimed conscientious objector status but without a religion, he spent the next four years in court, fighting the FBI, losing his job… in living hell. Those of us who saw his life being ruined, his hair falling out, the anger in his eyes, and ulcers in his stomach knew there was no true escape from the combat zone. Or from the positraumatic stress.
There were no organizations to help my friend, nor the men who went to Canada rather than kill, nor the Bill Clintons – all tom between two definitions of conscience and courage. There are also no organizations that see the 18-year-old boy as a victim if he joins the army based on deceptive ads. By the time he sees reality’, his choice is the army or prison and a label of AWOL that will follow him for a lifetime. (Try getting a meaningful job with a dishonorable discharge.)
We gave presidential pardons to women who were traitors – such as Tokyo Rose – but not to these men, without whose draft resistance the Vietnam War might have expanded and consumed the conscience of yet another generation of men. Maybe the wisest of draft resisters should receive medals of wisdom for seeing a different way of saving others’ lives – and sacrificing career, health, and relationships to do it.