Although a life long pacifist, I respect the service of those who believe a military response is sometimes called for. It is a great sacrifice to give years of your life to military service, time away from family and friends. To be willing to risk one’s life or the possibility of long term disability, physical or psychological.
The role of the military in the United States has changed significantly in my lifetime. We’ve had an all volunteer army for so long that many of the younger generation have no experience with the Selective Service System (other than maybe registering at the age of 18). Have you thought about what you would do if people were being drafted today?
I recently wrote about the reaction of the Quaker community I was raised in to the peacetime draft. About a dozen Quaker men refused to register for the draft, and were sent to Federal prison. A group of other Quakers left the country, establishing a Quaker community in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Costa Rica does not have a standing army. I made sure to get a photo of my cousin’s shirt when we visited Monteverde in 2010.
Thinking through my own draft decision was a significant process for me when I turned 18 while attending Scattergood School. I decided I could not cooperate with the draft, and turned in my draft cards. A related Supreme Court case meant I did not have to serve prison time.
Moving away from the draft was necessary if the United States wanted to continue its military aggression in the future. The massive student uprisings against the Vietnam War in the 1960s were as much, or more, against the draft as they were about believing the war to be wrong. Witness the lack of protests on college campuses these past years with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I believe one of the most effective things the peace movement can do is push to end the volunteer army and return to a universal draft. But rather than being specific to military service, that draft should be for service to the country, and each person should have the choice of non-military service.
This photo is from our weekly peace vigil (rain or shine as you can see), in front of the Federal Building in downtown Indianapolis. This reminds me of the weekly peace vigil I attended in Iowa City the summer of 1969. I was working in Don Laughlin’s lab at the University of Iowa hospitals, and went to the vigil with him. I really appreciate Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)’s War is Not the Answer sign campaign for so many years.
One sometimes wonders if these vigils have any impact. And then a young man will stop by and give us all high-fives, remarking ‘you guys are always out here–awesome’. People riding past on their bicycles are a pretty consistent source of flashing peace signs. Or walking through the Central Library on the way to the vigil, holding a ‘War is Not the Answer’ sign, a librarian asks me if I’m going to the peace vigil, and says she notices us every week.
The sign above, Honor Our Dead With Peace reminds us of the reason why soldiers fought–in order to protect peace and freedom. By far the most frequent visitors to our vigil are veterans who tell us they agree that war is not the answer.
As you can see, our group is, as usual, very small, but persistent. Debby is blind but still brings the bus to the vigil weekly. Gilbert and I attend North Meadow Circle of Friends, and he has recently transitioned to living without a car. For those that don’t know, I refuse to own a car, and during the Keystone pipeline review process, my sign read STOP Keystone Pipeline, which I considered a peace message.
Christian is one of a number of people who don’t have a home who have helped us out for a session. Be sure to be aware of and welcome everyone if you do participate in a vigil. If you aren’t participating in a peace vigil, you might consider finding or starting one.