On Second Thought…A Case For Monuments To Draft Dodgers

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Randolph BOURNE on war

“War is the health of the State.”
— Randolph Bourne, The State (1918), available at http://www.slip.net/~knabb/CF/bourne.htm.

Richard CARTWRIGHT on the rights of individuals in Canada

“I think that every true reformer, every real friend of liberty, will agree with me in saying that if we must erect safeguards, they should be rather for the security of the individual than of the mass, and that our chiefest care must be to train the majority to respect the rights of the minority, to prevent the claims of the few from being trampled under foot by the caprice or passion of the many.”
— Richard Cartwright in the Legislative Assembly, Canada, March 9, 1865; reproduced in Janet Ajzenstat, Paul Romney, Ian
Gentles, and William D. Gairdner (Eds.), Canada�s Founding Debates (Toronto: Stoddart, 1999), p. 19.

Benjamin CONSTANT on obedience to unjust laws

“No duty, however, binds us to these so-called laws, whose corrupting influence menaces what is noblest in our being…”
— Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments (1810) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003), p. 401-402.

Frederick DOUGLASS, on mistrust for the state

“Let us render the tyrant no aid; let us not hold the light by which he can trace the footprints of our flying brother.”
— Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself [1845] (Toronto: New American Library, 1968), p. 106.
Buy Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave et Amazon.com.
Also available in English at Amazon.fr.

Thomas JEFFERSON on the spirit of resistance

“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then.”
— Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, February 22, 1787; reproduced in Thomas Jefferson, Writings (The Library of America, 1984), p. 889-890.

John Stuart MILL on individual sovereignty

“Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
— John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859) (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1978), p. 9.
Buy On Liberty at Amazon.com.
Traduction fran�aise en vente chez Amazon France.

Albert Jay NOCK, on blind allegiance to the State

“It is interesting to observe that in the year 1935 the average individual’s incurious attitude towards the phenomenon of the State is precisely what his attitude was toward the phenomenon of the Church in the year, say, 1500. … it does not appear to have occurred to the Church-citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State-citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance.”
— Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, the State, c. 1935 (Delavan: Hallberg, 1983), p. 34.

Henry David THOREAU on serving the state through resistance

“Others — as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders — serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few — as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men — serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part …”

Quotes taken from Subversive Liberty Quotes


Chicken Draft Dodgers

A Conversation With Kate


8 thoughts on “On Second Thought…A Case For Monuments To Draft Dodgers”

  1. If the draft dodgers wanted to register discontent with the draft or government policies, they had two methods of recourse. First, elect lawmakers that don’t support the draft. Second, go to jail if you’d rather not go into the military. You don’t show commitment and responsibility by running away from the just consequences of your resistance. That would be like the Founding Fathers running away to France in the middle of the Revolutionary War. We don’t want taxation without representation, and we don’t want to hang for having rebelled against King George III. History would have looked on them a lot differently, had they not fought.

  2. Chris, thank you once again for visiting and leaving your comments on this issue. While I agree with you that draft dodgers could have chosen to go to jail, I’m not so sure about your first choice regarding electing lawmakers. One never really knows what any elected official might do once they’ve been elected. I have still yet to see any well thought out reasonable argument for conscription. To send youth off to fight, and face death… to force them to do so. As well, the Founding Fathers voluntarily chose to take up arms in 1776. You may also recall that a number of people during that time did indeed flee – to what is now Canada, and today there are memorials in this country to what are called “United Empire Loyalists.” A large proportion of the population of Canada’s eastern provinces are descendants of these folk.

  3. Ian, respectfully, I’d suggest you make a better argument for a memorial to “Draft Resisters” than to “Draft Dodgers.” I’m with Chris here – if they disagreed with the draft, they were welcome to defy the law and pay the price. They didn’t do that. Ducking the consequences of one’s actions is in no way worth memorializing. And speaking of ‘ducking’ – I think Kate’s invocation of the ‘chicken’ image is wholly appropriate*. Not because these folks ‘chickened out’ of Vietnam, but because they didn’t have the courage of their convictions. *I know, you read that segue and cried ‘fowl’ – but I couldn’t resist.

  4. Damian, (and please accept my apologies for spelling your name wrong previously) – thanks for posting your thoughts. I know this is issue is one that can harbour a lot of emotion. And as I’ve said elsewhere, at one point in my life, I would have supported conscription and all sorts of wars. But, I have still yet to see a reasoned, thought out essay or article or any type of argument that can show me how conscription is in any way moral, or why those who disagree with it should be chastised for being “chickens.” I do see your point however, on the use of “resistor” vs. “dodger.” Even the great right wing Ronald Reagon did not support conscription and spoke against it quite eloquently in fact. So, it’s not just a one sided issue here – it really takes a lot of thought and not just emotional words that don’t really mean a whole lot like “duty.” What is that, exactly? I’d really look forward to a civil and reasoned debate on this – perhaps all of us could learn something!

  5. Ian, I think there’s a quantum difference between draft dodgers and the United Empire Loyalists. Loyalists left America because they wanted to remain citizens of the British crown, or perhaps because they feared physical harm from Revolutionary neighbours. They were at least attempting to maintain their British citizenship by moving to other areas of British sovereignty. Unlike the Loyalists, draft dodgers were not Britons that suddenly found themselves living inside a foreign country after a war. They were Americans who left American sovereignty behind completely. They didn’t want to fight, and didn’t want to face the consequences of failing to fight.

  6. Chris, I somewhat anticipated that you may suggest there was a difference between the UEL. However, your first comment, you did make reference to the Founding Fathers fleeing. Hence my thoughts on the UEL. So in respect to the Founding Fathers, we must not forget that this was something voluntary. Of course they did not flee; they themselves were the ones fighting for something THEY believed in. The UEL, not believing in the “cause,” fled. But this really has nothing to do with concscription, whether the Founding Fathers stayed behind or went off to France.

  7. The Founding Fathers was a poor analogy. =) The point I was driving at was that if they had made a big fuss about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but failed to fight for it or even to remain in the country, it would have rang hollow. To me, draft dodger sentiments ring hollow because their high-minded ideals and flight from military service achieve the opposite of what they desire. Under the guise of “live and let live” they in fact turn their back on the suffering of their fellow man, and let others shoulder the burden of liberating them.

  8. While I believe that a draft is immoral, I do not believe that there should be some memorial erected to draft dodgers. It is simply a choice that an individual made. A collective memorial to an individual choice is rather silly and is designed purely for anti-American reasons. With this said, freedom is something that usually is earned; it does not fall in your lap. Also, one of the few true duties of a government in a free society is to protect the society from those who would take away freedoms. Free societies do not have any reason to fight, in fact truly free societies would have the free mobility of pretty well everything. Running from one free society to another does little to advance individual freedom in that we must have a society based on individual rights to be free.

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