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Sunday, April 14, 2019

If there were a draft, would you serve this country?

I was drafted and served two years of military active duty and four in the reserves.  It never occurred to me at the time to refuse.  Nor did it to most of my contemporaries who were also drafted.

When the draft was ended and all military service became voluntary at the end of the Vietnam War, part of the reason for ending it was that a significant number of men were refusing to serve.  Many fled to Canada and later returned to the U.S. when President Carter gave them amnesty.  Others found ways to avoid the draft, such as acquiring bone spurs by bribing doctors.  However, men who were in the service were showing dangerous signs of mutiny.  The incidents of "fragging"--the killing of officers and noncommissioned officers with hand grenades by American troops-- alarmed military commanders and government officials.  The prospect of an insurrection within the military sent shock waves through the nation.  When the military is undisciplined, the nation as a whole is threatened.

The avoidance of service and the rebellions within the military were motivated by the realization that the 
Vietnam  War was a vicious and lethal absurdity.  It wasted 50,000 American lives, killed about a million Vietnamese, and caused turmoil in the streets of the United States.  People also came to realize that the draft was unfair, with the wealthy finding ways to avoid it, leaving the poor to bear the brunt of it.  Some leaders were in a panic that a class war would devastate the nation.  They sought to remove the causes of discontent that were moving the nation toward violence, so they ended the war and the draft.

One of my contemporaries, who was drafted about the same time I was, recently raised the question about how he would feel about military service during the Vietnam War or our current time.  Like me, he was given an honorable discharge from the service.  He had been active in the anti-war movement but also in supporting veterans of the Vietnam era.  He said veterans had to deal with PTSD and the disturbing irony of receiving honorable discharges from a war that was a dishonorable atrocity.  They felt that they were complicit with the dishonor.

American citizens today are faced with a comparable dilemma.  How can one be proud of citizenship in a nation which elects the epitome of depravity as its leader?  How can any person with respect for decency support a man who brazenly flaunts corruption as a badge of success, whose words cannot be believed or trusted, whose behavior constantly displays a puerile malice?

The dislike of Trump is not a political issue.  It is a moral matter.  When the nation is compared with the moral collapse of Germany as it embraced the Nazi regime, some glibly cite Godwin's Law, which says that as soon as some makes a comparison to Hitler and his deeds in a discussion thread, the discussion is ended.  It is true that mere name-calling using Nazi associations is unproductive and pointless.  But the Holocaust is the moral touchstone of modern history in which an entire continent submitted to and often participated in the commission of atrocities in the name of attaining a superior society.  Nazi Germany defined the intellectual and moral degradation to which humans can fall.  Since World War II, the factors which contributed to humanity's  greatest organized atrocity have been studied and analyzed so that we have an understanding of the motives and moral circumstances that made it happen.  When people who have worked to understand those circumstances compare the age of Trump to the age of Hitler, they are not dealing in cheap political invective.  They are defining malignant social trends that run counter to what this country was designed to be and fought for in World War II.  They are warning that America is adopting the very trends against which members of the Greatest Generation once defended it.

It is not merely a political matter that Americans chose a person of the values of Donald Trump, although politics is the social vehicle that made Trump possible.  But the politics reflect a  shift in American values away from an affirmation of human decency to an embrace of fraud, greed, mendacity, and malice toward many.  Forty-six percent of the voters chose Trump.  They knew precisely what they were voting for because Trump stridently announced and displayed his values during the primary and general election campaigns.  Forty-six percent of the voters chose to make the U.S. a nation of discrimination against and oppression of minorities, a nation that desires and supports malicious lies, a nation that encourages and celebrates corruption.

Supporters and defenders of Trump answer the questioning of his demented tweets and oval office pronouncements by saying he will never be criticized without fighting back, and when he fights back, he fights for all those beleaguered people who have also been criticized.  What informed analysts of Trump's speech acts note is that Trump fights for no one but himself.  He serves only his own depraved purposes.  His tweets and comments are almost always intended to accomplish harm or to encourage others to do harm.  His speech acts comprise a constant stream of malice.  Those who claim that Trump represents them are those who choose to participate in malicious purpose.  And that purpose is based upon racial, ethnic, religious, and social enmity they hold toward other people.  If they feel criticized and demeaned, they might wish to consider how contrary they are to the American premise of decency.

The divide in America is not merely a clash between the self-righteous and ordinary citizens.  It is a moral abyss of the same kind that divided believers of humane values and Hitler's collaborators.  The current collaborators are not generally engaged in a holocaust at this point, but they fully endorse the fraud, the corporate dictatorship, the pervasive dishonesty, and the malice.  And those who do want a holocaust have shown they feel encouraged by the trend Trump is leading.

Those who are advocating for conciliation between Americans just are not paying attention to the moral and intellectual opposites at issue.  The fight is between the benign and the malicious.  

The divide became an issue when the first black president was elected.  Dormant racism was agitated into a political force.  The civil rights movement had advanced the cause of equality to the point where a strained coexistence was possible.  But when a person who many thought should be  a house boy was elected to be master of the White House, resentment exploded into open hostility.  And when Trump began his racist tirades against Latino immigrants, the seething racial bigots found a leader to their liking--someone who would wage a pogrom of hate and oppression against minorities and "libbies," and make manifest the gospel of Rush Limbaugh.  There is no possible way that an American liberal can give in to the hatred, the dishonesty, the malice of Trump without realizing that they would be abandoning the essential purpose of the nation's creation.

The problem for Americans is that defending the country would be defending fraud, hatred, and malicious aggression. The resurgence of social democrats is a response to the realization that capitalism has assumed the aspect of plantation politics, led by a totally corrupt master.  Trump has abolished the efforts at nuclear disarmament, diplomatic restraint of Iran, agreements to address the destruction of climate change, and efforts to promote fair and effective health care.  How can one take up arms against outside aggressors when the most lethal efforts against the American people are coming from inside the country?  And when our allies view America as a danger to them?

The 48 percent who voted against Trump (46 percent of the voters voted for him) are in a dilemma.  If they were asked to defend the country, would they be defending the quest for liberty, equality, and justice?  Or would they be defending the descent into corruption, mendacity, and oppression?  Or would they choose to join the military in an insurrection?

It really is not something I would have to think about.  I'd fight for the country I once served, not the country Trump has made of it.

1 comment:

mike from iowa said...

Serve at the whim of this moron in the kremlin annex? One wonders where his loyalties lie and they would lie because he lies. Neville Chamberlain never got as cozy with the enemies of Britain as Drumpf does with America's enemies today. I am going to have to say I wouldn't and would advise others not to.

I was of draft age in the early 70's and was skipped over because of hearing problems. I would not have served had I been drafted.

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