First, I’d like to offer my respects to Kate of Small Dead Animals. I visit her blog daily, and sometimes several times a day. On most points we agree. Not only does she offer witty and intelligent commentary (something we don’t see to often from the Province of Saskatchewan ;} ), I really enjoy her artwork and photography.
But it seems we differ on something and to be quite truthful, some years ago, I would have agreed with Kate on this issue. And even further, I admit to still having some opposing opinions within myself that I have not quite worked out. More research is needed, more thought and discussion is required.
Some background is in order. Kate recently suggested a Photoshop contest to “help the good people of Nelson in their quest to make absolute asses of themselves.”
Now, let me make sure everyone knows that on this point, I agree with Kate. The good people of Nelson are making asses of themselves. On the other hand, if a group of people want to get together, obtain a plot of land, and using their own resources, build a monument that makes asses out of themselves, by all means – make an ass of yourself. I’m pretty sure Kate would agree with me on this point as well – we can’t nor should we try, to stop folks from making asses of themselves.
But then Kate posts an image, which I deduce is her witty attempt to suggest to the asses of Nelson as to what this memorial should look like. You can take a look at it yourself, but what its an image of a chicken running, with it’s head looking over it’s shoulder.
In the context, it’s pretty obvious the suggestion being made. That draft dodgers were chickens. And that prompted my response found here.
It was a rushed response and probably could have been better written. Nevertheless, I did point out “I think a memorial to draft dodgers is ludicrous.”
Kate was kind enough to visit the article, and posted her comment which you can read and follow my response to it. She suggested I “lighten up” regarding the chicken image. I have to admit the image IS humorous in some ways. I certainly see the funny side of it – and can see how those who hold strong views about military drafts and so called “duty to country” would laugh at it. Years ago, I would have laughed at it myself without any further thought.
Heck, I can admit I’ve changed my mind on some things over the past 40 years of my life.
Kate and I continued some “conversation” with each other over at The Western Standard where Kate posted about the Nelson memorial plans.
“I think those that want to build a monument to draft dodgers are not much different than those that want to criticize draft dodgers. Both groups value a “system” more than they do individualism and personal consience.”
to which Kate responded:
“”I think those that want to build a monument to draft dodgers are not much different than those that want to criticize draft dodgers.”
I’m not sure I follow you here. There is a vast difference between defending the choice of a draft dodger, and celebrating and congratulating it.
War monuments honour sacrifice, courage and dedication to duty. They are erected by the recipients of that sacrifice – the surviving comrades, civilian populations and grateful nations. And usually, they are dedicated to those who did not return.
Draft dodgers who fled to Canada to avoid service in Vietnam may have thought they made a hard decision, but one can safely argue that their “sacrifice” was of a significantly lesser order than those who fulfilled their duty, or those who chose to accept the legal consequences for conscientious objection at home.
This proposal meets none of the standards associated with such monuments, and the self-congratulatory fools who are erecting it to themselves deserve to be ridiculed.”
Kate makes a great point about arguing that those who did not dodge the draft made more of a “sacrifice” than those that did dodge the draft. But I’m not talking about “sacrifice.” I’m talking about labelling those who valued something other than fighting a foreign war, and fleeing from the possibility of death in hot jungles because they preferred to live, as “chickens.”
Not once am I trying to take anything away from those who fought and died. And most certainly, the good folks of Nelson seem to be self-congratulating fools. But I also thought Kate took my first sentence out of context, and replied thusly:
“Kate, I’m not sure I am following you now 🙂 You quoted one part of my paragraph, and left the other part out about “Both groups value a “system” more than they do individualism and personal consience.”
That last sentence (at least in my rushed writing) was an attempt to explain where I was coming from. How that first sentence that you quoted has anything to do with “defending the choice of a draft dodger, and celebrating and congratulating it,” I’m not really sure.
Here’s where I’m coming from: All drafts are wrong. And having said that, in NO way am I taking away from those who fought, died, were wounded, or suffered through the experience of war.
I especially do not understand a draft that was instituted in order to fight a war thousands of miles away from “home.” Again, not taking away anything from those who fought in Nam. I’ve known some Canadian VN vets whom I admired very much, and respected that it was their choice to volunteer. As far as choice goes, they had far more choice than those who were unable to flee the draft.”
Kate responds once again to my comments. I’ve decided to respond to them here rather than mess up The Western Standard’s blog with a lengthy discussion.
Before I respond to Kate’s comments however, I certainly want to make some things quite clear:
1. I think the good folks of Nelson that are planning for their monument are asses.
2. I honour the dead who have fought in wars. Not only those who fought on “our side,” but on “their side” as well.
3. I am still undecided as to when I believe war should be necessary. This comes from a different paradigm in looking at the world now, then how I looked at the world 20 years ago. I do not hold to the same “patriotism” that I had years ago. I do not fly flags. I do not really know what “duty to country” is, exactly. I’ll get more into this later.
4. I am not desiring to get into a pissing match with Kate. I would prefer, if she wishes, to have some good dialogue on this, and anyone else that wants to participate. This is a sensitive subject – and one in which I’m still forming beliefs about. Perhaps if anyone can show me where and how I am wrong, as well as trying to understand my premises for the conclusions I have, would be most welcome!
So with long preface in mind, and in the tradition of good “fisking,” here is Kate’s response on The Western Standard with my own questions and responses in context:
“I focused on that sentence because you attempted to portray the two groups as having an equal moral standing on the issue. I thought it was absurd – these people are basically building a monument to themselves.”
Ok. I’m not really sure what your premises on “morality” are. I really don’t know how any belief structures can be considered “equally moral” or “inequally moral.” I also don’t understand why one group of folks shouldn’t have just as much right to give support to that which they think is “right” as an opposing point of view has the “right” to present their point.
You know, and perhaps you can show me where I’m wrong, but forcing youth into service that they have no personal desire to do, giving them a cheap wage, demanding 3 or 5 years of their time, to me seems not much different than slavery. Demanding that a youth report “for duty” with the consequences of harsh punishment should they refuse, and then shipping them off to another country where they will risk death is exactly the same as what happened to slaves.
Yes.. I realize all analogies are false – but how is the draft that much different? Slaves were supposed to fulfill their “duty” as well… yet some fled. And we’ve got monuments here in Canada that have been erected to those who assisted slaves in fleeing. Shall we call those slaves chickens for not staying at home and helping out with the cotton crops?
Before you think my notion of slavery is similar to the draft is silly or funny, please show me how my notion is wrong before you laugh at the notion.
“You also said “All drafts are wrong.” and “I especially do not understand a draft that was instituted in order to fight a war thousands of miles away from “home.”
You say this as though national defense is no more significant than going on a fishing expedition.”
That’s not exactly true, Kate. Especially in the context of what we are discussing here. Viet Nam. There was absolutely no threat to American National security. If there was, what were the results of the war? The Americans pulled out without finishing the job. In the past 20 years, has there been a threat to America because North Viet Nam remains communist?
National defence has nothing to do with drafts. Canada, even it’s “glory” years during WW1 and WW2 relied far more on volunteers that joined the services by choice, than by drafts. Drafts in both wars were not instituted until late in both wars, and neither draft had much significance in the outcome of the war.
“All our major wars to date (thank goodness) have been on foreign soil, and if we’re smart, we’ll make sure it stays that way. Waiting until the enemy is on your shores is not only suicidal, but it tends to alienate your allies.”
Ok. Two points I’d like to make on this. You seem to be coming from the premise that war is inevietable. I don’t believe that. And perhaps this is where most of my thoughts to this point of my life, about war, stem from. And I’ll admit that in our world today, it’s not exactly obvious.
I could probably write copious amounts on this, and I’ll try not to, as I’m not really developed my argument thoroughly here. Maybe someday… but let’s face it: Individuals do not go to war. States go to war. Individuals interested in commerce do not go to war. I believe that the more free trade throughout the world, the less war would ever be a factor in anything.
Second point: Allies. Why should I care if the Queen of England is pissed off with me? State allies are created for political reasons. I have no say in who or what is an ally of the Government that is “ruling” over me. What duty do I have to respect those whom a Government chooses for allies, when I my own cares and values and allies are close to my home – my family, friends, neighbours, business associates, lovers, etc?
“Vietnam was not the first time a draft has been used – indeed, it was the norm at the time. Most countries invoked conscription in WWII and many countries require military service of their young citizens to this day.”
Indeed. In the modern history of this world, slavery has been the norm for most of that time as well. For most of the modern history of this world, women have not had the right to vote. I’m sorry, but I don’t see your point here.
“As I become more concerned about Canad’a’s inability to even patrol our own borders, (a question of population and geographic area as much as a funding issue), I’m beginning to think that the solution may be to invoke a term of mandatory military service here. A nation of trained citizen soldiers is far more secure, especially when there are huge territories to defend.”
Canada’s inability to patrol borders has nothing to do with a draft or no draft. There are enough youth today that would volunteer for the military without ever having to invoke a draft.
“And, there is a dangerous ignorance and naivette in this country about the military history of Canada and the value of a well-equipped, well trained professional military. Mandatory service could go a long way in balancing the left-wing indoctrination of young people by the media and education system.”
I agree with you on the first point. But I fail to see how forced slavery of a draft would guarantee knowledge about the history of Canada’s military, unless you can guarantee that during the course of draft service, history classes are taught. And even then, how do you know those courses won’t be also equally biassed as our left wing media?
Update – 10:10 PM
I decided to google – slavery military draft – and found some interesting quotes from Daniel Webster during the War of 1812 and Ronald Reagan in 1979 regarding conscription:
“During the War of 1812, Daniel Webster eloquently made the case that a military draft was unconstitutional:
“Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war, in which the folly or the wickedness of Government may engage it? Under what concealment has this power lain hidden, which now for the first time comes forth, with a tremendous and baleful aspect, to trample down and destroy the dearest rights of personal liberty? Sir, I almost disdain to go to quotations and references to prove that such an abominable doctrine had no foundation in the Constitution of the country. It is enough to know that the instrument was intended as the basis of a free government, and that the power contended for is incompatible with any notion of personal liberty. An attempt to maintain this doctrine upon the provisions of the Constitution is an exercise of perverse ingenuity to extract slavery from the substance of a free government. It is an attempt to show, by proof and argument, that we ourselves are subjects of despotism, and that we have a right to chains and bondage, firmly secured to us and our children, by the provisions of our government.”
Another eloquent opponent of the draft was former President Ronald Reagan who in a 1979 column on conscription said:
“…it rests on the assumption that your kids belong to the state. If we buy that assumption then it is for the state – not for parents, the community, the religious institutions or teachers – to decide who shall have what values and who shall do what work, when, where and how in our society. That assumption isn’t a new one. The Nazis thought it was a great idea.””
Both of these men said much much better than I could ever have, regarding the idea of a draft.